Friday, March 03, 2006

Give Me A Salary Cap And Floor - And Shut Up Already

I'll be honest, I've only been casually paying attention to the ongoing debacle between NFL players and owners. This stuff bores me. Dull details. I don't want to hear billionaire owners and millionaire players whining about who gets what when there is so much to be had by all, so I block it out.

You know when I'll care? I'll care when a Sunday comes when there is supposed to be NFL action, but isn't. Then I'll care. Then I might just do some damage to myself or someone else. It could get ugly.

Until then, just add a few zeroes, give all the players a small country each, assure the owners that their money will be buried with them when they die, whatever. Just work it out and stop making me feel like the future of mankind depends on this hassle over money. It doesn't.

That said, I am worried about one thing: the salary cap. I've been hearing the possibilty that the salary cap may be removed in the future, perhaps permanently. Like I said, I can't be bored with the details, so I don't know how likely this is, but the thought of the NFL without a salary cap disturbs me. And for that matter, so too does the thought of the NFL without a salary floor.

The beauty of the NFL's current system is that it rewards franchises, above all else, for being smart. The franchises that show a little wisdom and foresight are the franchises that consistently contend. The Patriots. The Steelers. The Broncos. The Eagles. The Bucs. Sure, everybody will occasionaly suffer a down year or two, but more often than not, the franchises that combine wisdom with passion both in the front office as well as on the coaching staff are the franchises that inevitably rise to the top. And that's the way it should be.

The last thing we need is another MLB-like system where money can be casually tossed around to fix all that ails a team - at least if the money is there, and for only a few it is. The Yankees aren't the smartest or best-run franchise in baseball. Hell, no. They simply have the most cash to throw at every big name free agent that hits the market. Sheffield. Giambi. Johnson. A-Fraud. Damon. Whoever. Where were the Yankees in the 1980's and early 1990's before salaries skyrocketed and they were forced to play the game, essentially, just as everyone else did? Where were they then?

Nowhere. That's where. The Yankees had no playoff appearances between 1981 and 1996. Why? Because they aren't any smarter than anyone else. They aren't any better than anyone else. They don't play the game more efficiently than anyone else. But then, as salaries reached insane levels in the '90s, they were able to play a game that nobody else could, a game involving the backing up of Brinks trucks and little else. And thus the Yankees were able to pry their fingers around just about any big time free agent they wanted.

Fuck that. That's boring, cheap and unfair. Don't reward the richest franchises. Reward the best, the smartest, the franchises with the clearest vision.

It's like poker. Everyone sits at the table and opens with the same number of chips. Game on. Last man standing wins. In baseball, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox open with massive piles of chips, while teams like the Royals or Rockies are already struggling merely to stay in the game from the get go.

Fuck that. With a salary cap and and floor in place, all 32 NFL teams are sitting at the table and starting from scratch with an equal amount of chips. If teams like the Lions or Cardinals are too dumb and cheap to be competitive, so be it. Too bad. It's their own fault. But at least they were given a fair chance.

What chance do the Pirates or Devil Rays have? Sure, with revenue sharing they are given X amount of dollars and if they don't spend it all then that's their own fault and their fans should raise bloody hell. However, even if they spend all of the shared revenue that comes their way, it's still dwarfed by the $200 million salaries of the Yankees and Red Sox.

In the NFL, the game involves being shrewd and crafty. Who do you draft? How do you develop those draft picks? Which free agents should you splurge on? When should a veteran be released? How do work around the slary cap?

It's a tricky, delicate game and it quickly differentiates the smart from the dumb.

MLB would be wise to go the same route.

Bottom line? I don't want to be bothered by all of this NFL ranting and raving about nothing. Sure, there are players - big time players - being cut at the moment as teams fear the worst, but I prefer to stand aside and see how it all shakes out. If there are players out there to be had, and the landscape of the league could shift like few offseasons before, I just hope the Bears make some smart moves while the moves are there to be made.

Hell, I'm perfectly willing to admit that if the salary cap were removed, the Bears would be in a great position simply by being in a major market, but I'm thinking about the good of the league here, not just my own desires. See? I'm not always self-serving - just most of the time. Besides, the Bears would probably still be cheap curmudgeons even with as much money as anyone else and no limit on spending it. Let's not kid ourselves.

Please, just assure me that the salary cap and floor will remain in place, and wake me when training camp opens.


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