With the lockout seemingly at its apparent end, we can almost finally breathe a collective sigh of "it's about friggin' time". And while the majority of fans will probably let bygones be bygones, personally I'm hesitant to be so quick to forgive. I don't like to give too much thought to who is to 'blame' for the delays in settling the lockout, mostly because I believe both sides are at fault and I have no sympathy for millionaires and billionaires arguing over a money pie that puts even the largest Powerball jackpot to shame. Like anyone else, I just want football -- but part of me also wants to know which villain in this battle should be painted in the worst light. It's hard to believe anyone in a 'he-said-she-said' debate told from the perspective of a media that values instant reporting over story verification -- but as the details leak over time, we get a better idea of the degree of sincerity the central players had throughout this saga.
Thankfully, all of the individual concessions several of the antitrust lawsuit plaintiffs requested have been dropped with the recent news that Vincent Jackson will not seek $10mil in compensation -- something which he firmly denied. Jackson would like us to believe that these rumors are false, but with so many outlets reporting that he and Logan Mankins (who also sought financial compensation in the same amount) each dropped their demands, I would say there is validity to the claims. Sadly, it seems these particular players named themselves plaintiffs in the lawsuit not because they wanted to be representatives of their peers, but rather it would offer better leverage for their own personal gain.
Other players rumored to have requested special treatment -- namely exemption from the franchise tag -- are Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. The word is that there was an attempt to include specific stipulations in the new CBA that a player can only be franchise tagged once. Since Manning and Brees have already been tagged earlier in their careers, this would leave them exempt from any future tags (thus negating Manning's current tag, and the likely possibility of Brees being tagged next year). On the surface, it's in their best interest to be UFAs, as it drives up their potential salaries for down the road and, in turn, increases the value for other players. I can't fault that based on principle, but my issue with this (aside from the fact they already make absurd amounts of money for doing what they supposedly love to do) is that they would feel they deserve some sort of preferential treatment because they are in the top echelon of players.
I'll admit it's possible someone else brought this proposal to the table without Manning's or Brees's knowledge, and by coincidence it would happen to benefit them both; but several things stand out to me that make me think twice. For starters, this was reported nearly a month ago and seemingly flew under the radar to most, until it garnered national attention thanks to our very own Chris Kluwe's infamous tweet. I also find it convenient that they share the same agent (Tom Condon) and Brees seemed overly defensive on his own Twitter account the day of Kluwe's tweet, posting three messages that basically all say the same exact thing.
What really strikes me, though, isn't whether or not Brees had knowledge of this 'franchise tag exemption' deal, but rather that he said his "job is to get a fair deal for all players". That sentiment was also reflected in the statement that he, Manning and Brady released last week. But even if we assume Brees didn't pursue anything for himself individually, he most certainly would have had knowledge of Mankins and Jackson each attempting to seek $10mil in compensation.
And that is where I have a real problem -- 'fair' would be to ensure that all players receive an equal agreement and that not even one player is granted special concessions. Nobody forced Mankins or Jackson to sit out most of last season -- it was of their own accord, and any compensation they would have received would most certainly not have fallen under the category of 'fair'. Appropriately, and justly, neither will receive anything.
So that leaves me asking myself, who is putting on a front?? Brees has always appeared to be so completely genuine, yet he apparently will turn a blind eye to preferential treatment and may have even gone after it himself. Jackson flat out lied to his fans. How many of our other stars have done (or are doing) the same?? Are we supposed to be rooting for these guys?? More and more I'm starting to believe that our once hometown heroes and franchise favorites have been replaced by entitled entertainers with self-indulgent agents. Nowadays if a player spills the proverbial coffee on their lap they file a lawsuit instead of just grabbing the metaphorical napkin. Somehow it feels like the inmates are trying to run the asylum, and I honestly can't even wrap my head around whether or not they actually are.
Maybe I'm trying to connect dots that don't exist. I suppose it's entirely possible that all of these reports were completely manufactured by the media, or at least overhyped as rumors typically are -- but somehow I just can't buy into that. I hate to use the old smoke and fire cliche, but I can't say it's not applicable when the players in question are either giving the silent treatment or half-hearted denials via Twitter.
I guess the underlying point is that there used to be a time when players of any sport just played the game and their love for it showed. Their authenticity was never questioned. Those days are long gone -- and while it's easy to shrug it off in favor of letting more important things bother me, it's still upsetting when I actually take the time to think about it.