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Wolf: Players turning fans against them

I am a former player. My perception of sport will always be seen through the invisible crossbar that still covers my views and opinions. Players deserve everything they get. I begrudge them nothing and will never turn my back on my brothers that play this game.

I was a good soldier. I would not cross the picket-line in 1987 and my resolution (and many others) has helped today’s players reap the benefits of our collective labor. I had no business towing the line as a wedge-busting, second-year, unproven player but there I stood outside of Busch Stadium, holding my sign high.

I watched Pro Bowlers, great football players, leaders of our team cross the line and get paid while I held my sign high, standing firm so those Pro Bowlers would one day have the right to become free-agents and get paid…again.

So you’ll have to pardon my disdain for what is going on in the NFL.

The scorched-earth policy being deployed by both sides of the labor dispute between the NFL and the NFLTA (National Football Trade Association) is nauseating.

I understand negotiations and the pomp, circumstance and subterfuge that accompanies it but in the name of inevitable civility, why act like enemies instead of partners?

The new CBA needs to be a win-win situation for the NFL and the NFLTA. Their productive partnership will go on after all is said-and-done. It is this reality and the relative labor peace they have enjoyed for years that has made this league a juggernaut.

There must be a win-win situation in this for both sides when you’re dividing up 9-billion dollars, right? The union/trade association needs to be strong and so does ownership.

So get it right.

We don’t need the NFL’s lead negotiator, Jeff Pasch, saying the union “walked away from negotiations” when the owners were prepared to lock the players out if a deal was not struck. And we don’t need the NFLPA advising potential first-round draft picks not to go to Radio City Music Hall in New York on draft day and be “seen with executives from the NFL.”

This is not only counter-productive, myopic and wrong-headed but counter-intuitive.

Counter-intuitive because there will be a league, there will be an NFL, there will be a union with players and there will be football. Why are both sides acting like their will be blood?

They need each other and know it; but how will the fans react to battering the other, prolonging the inevitable and burning games when so many people are hurting in this country? Many people in this country – football fans – have lost their jobs, lost their homes and lost their way of life.

How do they feel about this bellicose tone and warlike posture? How do fans feel about one side getting over on the other, holding them down under a white-knuckled thumb?

Maya Angelo, 20th century poet and performer, said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I cannot empathize with ownership. I have no idea what it’s like to own a professional football team but something tells me it doesn’t suck buttermilk.

But I can expect more from my former union/trade association.

DeMaurice Smith made a bad decision when he told the players to walk onto the field before preseason games and hoist the index-finger into the air in a sign of solidarity as if the players were honoring Lech Wałęsa (google it, my Young Crunks!) or working in a southeast Asian sweatshop.

He also made a bad decision when he used the word “war” to describe the battle between both parties.

Now he wants prospects to miss the NFL draft and have them and their families attend their make-shift draft party – a draft party the “trade association” is throwing together as I write this!

Is there any wonder that a poll came out in support of ownership?

USA TODAY: Whom do you blame for the NFL lockout?

DeMaurice Smith and the players – 37%

Roger Goodell and the owners – 29%

Both sides – 34%

Why are these numbers skewed toward ownership?

Most fans understand that people watch the game because of the players. Most fans understand these players are going to pay the price with their health down the road. Most fans don’t usually rally around the flag of billionaires. Most fans love their heroes.

But, in a very unscientific way, people are siding with owners? Since when?

Since the NFLTA made bad decisions: like advising players to skip their moment in the sun on draft day.