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NFL Labor of Love?

Is it possible for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (l) and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to love the game of football as much as those who play it? (AP)
Is it possible for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (l) and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to love the game of football as much as those who play it? (AP)

The phrase that leaps out of Judge Susan Richard Nelson's ruling that the NFL lockout could not continue is "irreparable damage."

In her ruling, Judge Nelson agreed with the attorneys for the players, who had argued that their clients' careers are so short under normal circumstances that preventing them from working for any length of time constitutes "irreparable damage."

The sentence that leaps out of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith's reaction to Judge Nelson's decision is: "My hope is that there's somebody on the other side who loves football as much as our players and fans do."

Mr. Smith's feels that if the owners did love football as much as the players do, those owners would be more eager to negotiate an agreement and resume the business of professional football.

Love is irrational. Running a profitable business is not.

Though some, if not all, of the owners no doubt love football in their fashion, can they love it as much as many of the players must?

Both sides make money from the game, but what other than a powerful lust for competition and the rush of testing themselves against others who are the best at what they do can explain why the players take the risks they take to play in the NFL? Most of them suffer significant damage, some of it "reparable," some of it not, as a result of engaging in their professions. Certainly love of the game, with the attendant relatively slim chance at glory and riches the game can provide, motivates many of them to accept that circumstance.

The history of our games has demonstrated that the damage owners suffer is always reparable. When their profits slip, and even when they don't, they raise ticket prices. They threaten to move their franchises. Whether or not they win, their teams share in the extraordinary television spoils. If all else fails, the owners sell the teams for a lot more than they paid for them.

Though it's impossible to know what will next transpire regarding the lockout in particular and the dispute between the owners and players in general, it's easy to side with Judge Nelson in the matter of "irreparable damage," and hard to imagine that as a group the owners can match the players in terms of love of football.

This program aired on April 27, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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