Who Won? Who Cares? Just Kick Off
Frank: So after more than 4½ months of shutdown the NFL season is scheduled to begin at Lambeau Field on Sept. 8—just as it always was. I'm glad I didn't waste my time paying attention to all the wrangling.
Artie: It was all so unnecessary. The most successful business in the country was gonna shoot itself in both feet? Even NFL owners aren't that dumb... I'm guessing.
Frank: This was all about the owners wanting a bigger slice of a $9 billion pie, right?
Artie: Seems that way.
Frank: Did they get it? The players will be getting a little under 50% of total revenue, lower than before.
Artie: That sounds accurate. But a lot of the decrease will come from the new salary scale for rookies, which will end the ungodly—no, godly—contracts a few guys were getting before ever playing a snap.
Frank: Contracts that were the owners' doing in the first place. But a lot of veteran players apparently supported the rookie limits. I guess it works out that the vets won't lose that much.
Artie: Plus all players will get more benefits as retirees, and more financial compensation for severe injuries. I guess the money all goes somewhere.
Frank: One place it ain't going is back to the fans in terms of lower prices for tickets, parking, concessions, replica jerseys...
Artie: Maybe it's time for fans to lock out the NFL until we get some consideration. On second thought, nah. As the fat cats know so well, we are ready for some football!
Frank: The players also won some breaks on the intensity of their work. No more “two-a-day” practices in camp and fewer OTAs—organized team activities, in other words off-season workouts.
Artie: The coaches will hate that, but I'm sure they'll just watch even more game film.
Frank: All of this couldn't have happened without 4½ months of bickering? I'd say it was the height of idiocy, but what's happening in Washington has that title locked up.
Artie: Can't go without all the preening and posturing of the public relations battle. It's not just about getting a “good” deal; it's about who looks like a winner.
Frank: I never pay much attention to off-season stuff anyway, so I didn't really miss anything. But now a lot of activity will be crammed into a short time.
Artie: It'll be a madhouse! Signing all the free agents and rookies, making trades, getting camps opened...
Frank: The good news for Packer fans is that if ever a team was equipped to handle a long layoff, it's the Super Bowl champs.
Artie: Just about everyone on the team is still in place—certainly all the key spots—and Ted Thompson doesn't usually play the free-agent market anyway. But think of teams that have new coaches and/or coordinators, maybe whole new systems, and are counting on lots of new faces. Those teams will be up against the wall big time!
Frank: We'll have more to say about this in the Sept. 1 issue when we preview the Packers' season.
Artie: But speaking of a madhouse, I was listening to a local radio show with Mark Chmura and he said one big rumor involves the almost certain trading of Kevin Kolb by the Eagles.
Frank: Leaving Michael Vick as the primo QB in Philly.
Artie: But here's the horror story: Apparently there's talk of bringing in a gray-bearded Mississippian to back up Vick.
Frank: You don't mean... You can't mean...
Artie: None other than Mr. Favre. Think about it: He's got old pals in the coach, Andy Reid, and offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg. As long as Vick stays healthy he could come and go as he pleased.
Frank: Sounds like the kind of gravy train Brett likes.
Artie: The lockout is done but our long national nightmare might not be over yet.
Frank: The Brewers came home Sunday night with a 5-6 record from their longest, toughest trip of the year.
Artie: Against Colorado, Arizona and the Giants, I'll take it. The way they've played away from Miller Park, I was terrified they'd go 2-9 and fall four or five games behind. And they were 5-6 with Prince Fielder looking more like Marv Throneberry.
Frank: A continuing problem was that when they lost they almost completely failed to score.
Artie: For a team like this to be shut out 10 times already on the road is just mind-boggling.
Frank: There were some signs of Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee coming out of their offensive funks. But there's talk about trading for another left-side infielder. One name is the Dodgers' Jamey Carroll, but he ain't exactly Cal Ripken.
Artie: More like a younger Craig Counsell, but not much younger at 37. If they added him I guess either Counsell or Josh "No Shades" Wilson would go; I don't think they'd dump Betancourt after less than a season.
Frank: And I don't think they would or should trade McGehee, who drove in 104 runs last year.
Artie: On top of a solid 2009. If Casey doesn't get hot there's a major decision to be made next winter. But here's another, more immediate problem: No left-hander in the bullpen now that Zach Braddock's been sent down again. I think that might be Priority 1. Hey, is Ray King around?
Frank: Now the Brewers have what should be an easy stretch—six games at home against the Cubs and Astros. Even going 4-2 against them would be disappointing.
Artie: Especially since the Cardinals come in after this weekend. As usual, I've got my worries. It's what fans do.
Frank: Last week a second Marquette official involved with overseeing the athletic department resigned. Some senior vice president, in addition to Steve Cottingham, the athletic director who quit in the aftermath of two sexual-assault allegations against athletes.
Artie: Not just the allegations, but the fact that MU violated the law in not reporting them to police.
Frank: MU had been leaving it up to students who made such allegations to decide whether the police should be notified. In June the university said it would inform police of any future allegations.
Artie: Eight days after that, Cottingham stepped down. "Taking one for the team," ain'a?
Frank: MU continues to be tight-lipped about the allegations, which is proper to protect identities when no charges have been filed.
Artie: But MU also made Buzz Williams, the men's basketball coach, available to the press after Cottingham's departure—although no one has publicly said his players were involved.
Frank: Williams' appearance was a clear sign of the way things are at MU. Basketball is king, which makes Williams the most important man on campus.
Artie: And why? Because of the money and national publicity basketball brings in.
Frank: Which means the institution has a lot to lose if the program is tainted.
Artie: Which also means the institution is sorely tempted to keep a lid on things.
Frank: One of my first thoughts was, “Sounds a lot like what the Catholic Church did for years regarding allegations of sexual abuse by priests.” But this isn't just a Catholic thing; the same mentality prevailed at Ohio State and USC regarding NCAA rule violations.
Artie: Ask Jim Tressel how his containment policy worked. Or ask any politician who's tried to hide some philandering. The only goal is to keep things "in house."
Frank: Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel got to the heart of things when he wrote, “Money causes power to be misplaced. The tail wags the dog.” In other words, MU is like any university with a big-time athletic asset. The priorities get skewed.
Artie: So circle the wagons and protect the investment.