As the 2010 preseason comes to an end and millions of fantasy football fans bask in the glory of their drafts, a looming storm on the horizon clouds the upcoming season. The NFL Owners and Players Union are miles apart on their collective bargaining agreement putting the 2011 season in serious doubt. Of the many contentions between the two parties, the “Enhanced Season” proposed by the owners and commissioner is one that has been met with vociferous objections from the players. With billions of dollars and the health of the most powerful sports brand at stake, it make come as a surprise to many fantasy owners that the game we love to play might be the solution to the problem.
On one side of the argument, the owners feel that the current 17 week (16 game) schedule along with 4 preseason games does not meet the desires of NFL fans. Although the preseason games are a great source of revenue for the owners due to the fact that they pay players a fraction of their typical game check while charging fans the same astronomical ticket price, owners realize that quality of the games are inadequate and not meeting the needs of their fans. The players argue that extending the season by making two of the preseason games part of the regular season is not in their best interests due to injury concerns. This issue, along with revenue sharing and the players’ retirement concerns will most likely lead to a lockout by the owners unless a new CBA can be signed before next season.
As I was doing a fantasy football segment for a local sports talk station, I stumbled upon an idea that might solve the “Enhanced Season” dilemma. Instead of changing the structure of the NFL, why not incorporate fantasy football into the existing preseason structure? The reason why most people love fantasy football is that it provides excitement and “action” on games that would otherwise be boring to most fans. Preseason games certainly fall into that category, as most of the games are meaningless to the average football fan. I purpose shortening the preseason from its current form of 4 games down to 3 and including those three games into the standard fantasy football season. Fans would then be given three extra weeks of fantasy football, owners would keep their three lucrative games to gouge the players and fans, and the players would have one less game for a career ending injury. To make this work, a concession must be made by the owners and the NFL. The NFL would need to include all preseason games in the Sunday Ticket or make them available online without an extra fee, as fantasy football fans crave live coverage and would demand access to their players and teams.
One might argue that some stud players who would typically be taken high in drafts will play sparingly in the preseason if at all, while other lower tier players like rookie QBs might take the majority of the snaps in the three preseason games. This might be true, but over the course of the season stud players would more than make up for their preseason absence. Not to mention, a quarter of Peyton Manning in the preseason is usually more valuable that a whole game from Sam Bradford.
The beauty of this solution is that all three stakeholders win. Owners get to keep their lucrative preseason games and the league improves the fans’ experience, players play one less game reducing the chance of injury, and football fans will be able to enjoy a longer fantasy football season without having to sit through meaningless exhibition games.
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