The NFL lockout is on. Whatever kind of season we have in 2011, it isn't going to be pretty.
I spent 11 years as a newspaper sports reporter, and since then I've found myself watching more NFL football and NHL hockey. I loved baseball the most as a kid, but I can't remember the last time I watched more than a few minutes on TV.
One reason is my team - Baltimore - has stunk since the year my oldest was born. He's now already as tall as me and getting ready for high school.
But baseball has such roster turnover nowadays. Each year, it seems Baltimore has 15 new players on the 25-man roster. Players stay on a team five years at the most, and then they're gone. It's hard for the casual fan to develop rooting interest in a constantly shifting roster.
Football and ice hockey are different. The players are basically interchangeable. They wear helmets and their individual skills are less important than their teamwork on the field. You know a few stars on the field, but mostly it's guys you only see in the intros at the start of the game.
I watch football for the action. I watch ice hockey for the action.
The NFL is a mult-billion dollar business because of the players. But it doesn't matter which players.
Thus, the problem of the NFL lockout. The players don't want to reduce their slice of the piece, since only a few earn the super big bucks.
But it won't be too long until they are on the sidelines. Will all the players give up a year of their careers - for many 25% of their NFL time - for possible future money down the road?
Now we face weeks and possibly months of learning a whole new roster - lawyers and spokesmen and hangers-on on the labor battle.
At least we've got ice hockey and college basketball (another sport where the team surpasses the individual) to keep us busy for the next few months.