How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lockout

By Todd L. Frank  |   Friday, April 29, 2011  |  Comments( 0 )

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A tree fell in the woods.

I know this, because a little while after the Super Bowl, the NFL shut their doors and went away somewhere. To boardrooms to scheme ways to protect and grow their billions, and to courtrooms to argue their rights to execute those schemes.

Lock out, work stoppage, I don't care about the lingo, they just went away. At the beginning I cared about the result (“no football”) even though I knew they'd never cancel games or delay the start of the season. I wrote what I thought was gonna be a spot-on prescient column about how they would avoid the lockout and pat themselves on the back for saving the day. Well, saving our Sundays and their profit margin.

Despite deadline extensions and reports of late-hour “progress,” they didn't come to an agreement and then, poof! Football went away. And you know what? Life without (off-season) football has been fine. The sky hasn't fallen. We had an NCAA tournament, a best-in-a-while NBA regular season with playoffs just heating up, and the start of baseball season. Charlie Sheen played the role of this year's celebrity flip-out/flame-out in epic fashion, there was disaster in Japan, the U.S. Government put on their theatrical presentation of avoiding a similar lockout, and tornadoes ripped through the south. Life continues on, for better or worse.

The best thing the lockout has given us is a fresh-air break from the NFL.

For too long we convinced ourselves that we loved the year-round no-off-season nature of modern professional football. Free agency! Trades! Last year saw Donovan McNabb traded inside his division, and this off-season was supposed to feature him (or Vince Young) heading to Minnesota, Arizona, or even San Francisco. Hot stove? The NFL used to set our house on fire in the off-season!

Randy Moss, Chad Ocho Johnson, Braylon Edwards, T.O... any or all of these guys shoulda-coulda been traded for draft picks this weekend (or cut/signed in March) if the NFL hadn't disappeared for a couple months. Dan Snyder could have traded Albert Haynesworth for a partially eaten sandwich, and then traded away a 1st, a 2nd, and two future 1st-round picks for Carson Palmer.

But no. The NFL closed it's doors for a while, and I enjoyed the silence.

They came back last night, and, as their breathless analysts say, they looked a little rusty. The aging Chris Berman, now the drunk-uncle babbling himself to sleep while still trying to direct on-air traffic looked in over his head and sounded like he just doesn't say much any more. Ironically, he's become ESPN's own Brett Favre, a once-great icon who's way back-back-back beyond his prime and comes up short in the spotlight. The maniacal and annoyingly positive Jon Gruden (and his strangely awful hair) detracted from the former poster boy for NFL draft annoyance, Mel Kiper, Jr.

I found the NFL Network to be a little more tolerable, but you can already see Rich Eisen heading down the shell-of-himself path to Bermanville. And the presence of Michael Irvin always limits the enjoyability of anything.

But finally, we were back watching the NFL on TV again this weekend. THE NFL ON TV: this is the trillion dollar golden goose they're having this custody battle over. And now it was back, even if it was just the draft, pomp & circumstance not unlike the foolishness paraded across our TV's as The Royal Wedding. Real Reality TV: the Carolina Panthers handing the rose to Cam Newton, WR A.J. Green looking like he was handed a wet bag of dogshit when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Some trades happened, the Saints made a couple of solid picks, and all of a sudden we started thinking about who would be good this year. On the field. Who would be playing where. On the field.

And just like that, football was back. And it feels better, not cuz it “felt like it never left,” but for the first time in almost a generation, it did leave. Something they might want to keep in mind when they finish dividing up all that money, perhaps any new schedule changes should include a longer, really off off-season.
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