Green Bay Packers & Chicago Bears
I enjoy the banter every week amongst my fellow football fans whenever the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears play one another. When I grew up in Northeastern Illinois, the biggest rivalry was the Bears versus the Packers. But since I've lived in West Central Wisconsin, most of the nasty discussions revolve around the Packers and Minnesota Vikings. In fact, most Packers' fans in the Chippewa Valley seem to have a certain respect for the long-time rivalry against the Chicago Bears.
I've mentioned that I root for the Packers except for when they play my hometown team. But I know that these next few weekends of watching professional football is soon coming to an end - not just for the spring and summer months - but likely until Labor Day at the earliest. Because, if there is no new collective bargaining agreement in place prior to March 1st, the National Football League, a $9 billion annual industry, will shut down for the foreseeable future.
At issue is whether the National Football League Players' Union will agree to accept a pay cut and be asked to play two more games in the regular season. Despite record-high television ratings and advertising revenues, the NFL owners claim they are not making the money necessary to make ends meet into the future. On the other hand, players are concerned about their health and safety (especially if they are to play two more regular season games) and have a difficult time believing that their bosses are not able to pay their bills.
I won't take sides in the debate, but I have a gut feeling that the owners will lock out the players to make sure their employees do not receive any paychecks, cannot participate in any organized workouts and will be required to pay for their own health insurance. The players will call the owners' bluff and there will not be any meaningful professional football games played until early September at best.
The losers in all of this are the fans and the cities that host National Football League games. For instance, it is estimated that the City of Green Bay alone will lose at least $200 million if the Packers do not play in Lambeau Field in 2011. Imagine what will happen to the rest of the state's economy.
So enjoy the next few weeks of the playoffs. And, if the owners and players can't play nice, then I hope my two favorite teams play in this year's NFC Championship game to decide who gets to play for the Super Bowl title. At least then I can enjoy one more week of professional football as we know it.