mind the cap

by by Simon van Zuylen-Wood

That life-affirming, cathartic New Orleans Super Bowl victory you watched (or may have heard about) might be the last until 2012. The National Football League Players Union and the team owners are in gridlock over—what else?—money. If the two sides don’t come to a revenue-sharing agreement by September, the 2010 season will be effectively “locked out.”

The long and the short of the dispute is this: the current labor agreement deems that players must receive 60 percent of the team’s revenue in salary. The billionaire owners, of course, think this number is too high. Especially since, starting in 2010, the NFL will eliminate its salary cap, meaning its players too will now enjoy the egregious and undeserved contracts professional baseball and basketball players have been handed for years. Immobile stiff Erick “With a K” Dampier is in the sixth magical year of a seven-year, $73 million contract; this summer both Dallas and Orlando tried to hook a Munster up, each offering Marcin Gortat $34 million over five years. In baseball, Gary Coleman Matthews, Jr. makes ten million dollars a year to pinch hit, strike out, look at his shrunken testes and ask himself why he bothered taking steroids.

The owners have some serious, bulging nerve. Football players get paid much less than athletes in other sports while putting themselves at serious risk for brain damage every game. The average yearly NFL salary punches in at about $800K. NBA: five million; MLB: three and a half. But wait, there’s more. The average NFL career is three years long (take into account QBs who play 15 years into account, and the median is even less), so owners aren’t committed to many players in the long term. And contracts aren’t guaranteed either, so while MLB’s foremost dude Barry Zito gets a fresh $20 million each year to spend on incense and chill beanies, regardless of games pitched, his gridiron equivalent would have been cut a couple years ago.

If the two sides don’t come to an agreement by September, America will have two Anna Paquin—sized gaps to fill. First, what to watch between noon and midnight on Sundays. Second, what to do on the computer at work without fantasy football, which is played by about 30 million vicarious thrill seekers each fall.

Well it’s pretty obvious. What else happens in venues all over the country, morning, afternoon and night on Sundays? Hint: everyone has a favorite team, usually inherited from their parents, and believes unwaveringly in its goodness. A lot of these teams have singing cheerleaders, and some even serve food and drink to their fans. Others still display statues and pictures of their players in the arena. They all charge money one way or another.

Once the lockout becomes official, look for Sunday Night Mass on NBC and a Fox Pre-game show featuring former pulpit greats Ted Haggert, Bernard Law and Jimmy Swaggart.

Fantasy Christianity Leagues are already up and running. Players are drafted on Good Friday, then on Easter a Jesus lottery takes places, assuming he’ll un-retire again this year. Season ends on December 25. Good luck and take it from me: don’t make that perennial fantasy mistake of drafting Aaron before Moses.