I'm guessing that about 99.9% of NFL fans could care less about the details of the Labor arguments. They don't care who's in the right and who's in the wrong, they want football. They want to see their favorite teams / players and they want year-round action. Many fans are upset that they were cheated out of "midnight madness" last week, the day when the free agents can sign with new teams. Until there is a new CBA, there won't be free agent signings, draft day trades of players, or anything of interest other than the draft.
So what will happen to the appetite of these diehard fans if there’s no NFL? People on a diet don't quit eating, they figure out another way to satisfy their appetite. The food might not be as good and you usually are feening for your regular food, but with each passing day it becomes more of the norm.
So, for these fatties of football knowledge that will be craving any real live, professional game action come August, what will they turn to? If a lockout happens, I believe the United Football League (UFL) will be these fans' food of choice. The UFL will become turkey bacon. You know you want bacon, but it's too unhealthy for you and for whatever reason, you're not allowed to have it at this point in your life. Maybe next year you can go back to eating BLTs but for now, you have to suffice with TBLT.
NFL fans are conditioned to survive without live game action for six months. Any longer, they become unbearable to live with. When August rolls around, they'll be ready for their fix. With no NFL in place, the UFL will be ready to step up. For those of you not familiar with the UFL, they are an organization that started in 2009. The foundation of this league is built to mirror that of the NFL, so you can consider it like the minor leagues. They started with four teams in 2009 and added another team for the 2010 season. Their long term goal is to have the personnel, funding, and following for an eight team league. I didn't believe that they would make it, but if there is a lockout that carries into the 2011 NFL season, it could provide the kick start that the UFL needs.
The UFL has to secretly be praying every night for the NFL and NFLPA to do exactly what they're doing now. Fight on every single subject matter. The UFL's commissioner, Michael Huyghue, has already put a plan into place to coincide the NFL fans' viewing habits. If there is a lockout, the UFL will move their games to Sundays in September through November. The league, which starts their season in August, already plays their games on Sunday in August, but move them to other days when the NFL season launches their regular season. Those NFL fans that have so loyally built a tradition of setting Sunday aside for viewing their favorite team will be intrigued to watch the UFL's product.
The UFL has already started building fan bases in the home cities of their five teams. This should help the growth, along with the fact that they employ a lot of former NFLers, superstar college athletes that barely missed NFL rosters, and undiscovered talented players, that could easily work back into the NFL. In regards to the latter, the UFL sent twenty-four players to NFL rosters after the completion of their 2009 inaugural season. That number almost doubled in their second season in 2010 to forty-three players. The league only employs two hundred and sixty players on their rosters, so sending forty-three to the NFL is a pretty remarkable number; It’s almost 20% of the players. The league also sends coaches to the NFL. Jay Gruden, a former head coach in the UFL, has now been hired to be the Offensive Coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
While this situation is completely different to the NFL/AFL merger, and I don't see anything like that happening, I could see the UFL becoming a long term stalwart in the fixture of professional football. If they embrace their spot as a minor league organization and work with the NFL as opposed to against them, they'll be able to do something that the USFL and XFL never could...stick around. They started off on the wrong foot last year, when they came out with the ludicrous request for NFL teams to pay a $150,000 transfer fee for any player that the NFL wants to sign, who's still under contract with the UFL. They later came to an agreement of a more reasonable $25,000. The UFL is still considering moving that number again.
The main trouble with getting any of these leagues off the ground is that fans usually build relationships with their teams or players or even cities. Fans have been pulling for their favorite teams for decades in most cases. In many instances fans have been pulling for their home teams since they were born. With this league going into their 3rd year and the teams being located in smaller markets like Sacramento, Hartford, Las Vegas, Omaha and Virginia, two of the three things that bring ratings are out of the equation. That leaves the players as their only marketing niche and plan for success.
In Hank Koebler’s piece earlier today, “Can Tiki Barber Be a Team Player?”, Hank closes out his post mentioning that that Tiki Barber now has the option of playing in the UFL.
If no NFL team offers Barber a contract, he has the option of playing in the United Football League instead. Former Giants coach Jim Fassell, currently coach of the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives, told the New York Daily News that Barber is welcome to play for the Locomotives.
"He says he wants to play in the NFL," Fassel said. "If he wants to come play in our league, I would be happy to have him."
The UFL employs former Pro Bowlers and big name NFLers like Daunte Culpepper, Jeff Garcia, Ahmad Greeen, and Simeon Rice. They also have other names that NFL fans will remember like, Dominic Rhodes, Josh McCown, Odell Thurman, Marcel Shipp, and Cato June. The most intriguing part of the league though, comes from the thought of NFL fringe players, trying to stay in shape. Could some players find it worth making a little extra money and play in this league while the lockout goes on. I'm not saying you're going to see Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson, but what about the players making league minimum who don’t have reserves and will basically be unemployed, with no money coming in until a new CBA is agreed upon? These players could certainly find it worth the risk to sign a contract with this league. The NFL can't say anything about it and their team can't say anything about it either because they'll have been locked out by the league and their team. The UFL would be more than happy to see these players come over and whet your appetite.
Jayson Braddock appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ JaysonBraddock
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