I am probably the last person to be called a sports fanatic -- but I do consider myself a fan. I grew up outside Boston and still consider myself a member of the "Red Sox nation." As a child I regularly traveled to Fenway Park to root for the "Sox". Subsequently I have spent many years cheering in vain, while waiting for the pennant to come to Boston. When the team finally won the World Series, I was thrilled. Did I follow every game and the weekly standings? Did I know the batting average of each hitter or the ERA of the starting pitchers? Nope! But were they still "my team" -- you bet!
This year has seen another Boston team end a long drought at the playoff and Stanley cup stakes as the Bruins beat Vancouver for their first win in a long time. Did I cheer for the former home team guys? Of course! Especially since our Capitals got knocked out in the second round!
Those who know me in my current Maryland neighborhood, know that I have cheered for many years for the Washington Redskins and have pennants from their now remote Super Bowl wins hanging in my family room. I have been embarrassed over the recent antics of some team members and the current owner as the team passed season after season with a losing record, even rarely beating the most disliked opponent of all -- the Dallas Cowboys. So when we did not make the playoffs and Dallas did not either. That was fine with me!
In basketball our Washington Wizards were again hopeless and hapless. No gazillionaires dominated their full court press. They have only once won the NBA championship and that was more than 30 years ago when they were known as the Bullets! But again this year the team press releases promised new heights for their draft picks and the roster of little known players. Their road record this year was among the worst in the league. Oh well, guess this helps their ranking for the draft, somehow. Have you heard? Pro basketball players and owners are also involved in salary disputes this year?
Against this back drop we have a lockout for the scheduled Fall Football Season of 2011. The billionaire owners and the millionaire players are fighting about who gets which amount of the revenues from the proceeds of the game, licensed sales and Media revenues. The fans who may usually look forward to a Sunday afternoon or Monday night battle among NFL teams might have to point their remote controls in a different direction this year. This fight between those who do not have to worry about a weekly paycheck might just find there is little empathy for their disagreement among Americans who have been struggling to keep their home values above water or hold onto their jobs. The median salary for a player on a team such as the Washington Redskins was almost a million dollars. Many players far exceeded that amount. The Social Security Administration currently lists the annual salary for the average US worker to be approximately $40,000 -- about two weeks pay for the median Redskin player. (I do know that the average player plays for a limited number of years and needs to get paid well for their prime years ... but they still do have earning power after they leave the game and can invest for their future years.) The 'Skins and others just might find their fan base disappearing when they finally get around to settling these petty disputes which have little value in the lives of most Americans. Maybe families will find a reason to play together rather than watch TV passively; they might investigate local cultural opportunities or even have conversations with each other. Maybe when the teams do start playing again not many fans will care about supporting overpaid “superstars” or pandering to the whims of rich bullies. Perhaps they will find that the vast revenues they are squabbling about are no longer options.