Elton Hayes - Special to WI | 7/28/2011, 1 a.m.
Local Fans Share Mixed Emotions about NFL Lockout
National Football League (NFL) owners and players reached a ten-year deal this week ending months of negotiations and worry of a shortened or canceled season. Redskins fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they won't have to find a new way to spend their Sundays, but a feeling of disillusionment still lingers.
"The bottom line is that it should have never taken 135 days," said James Williams, Jr., 49, a District resident. "I understand that it's a business, but at the same time, you have to use common sense when you're doing business. I'm a sports fan and I love football, but when you have things like this, it makes you wonder what these guys are thinking."
Fortunately, the players and owners hashed out their differences in just enough time to ensure that no contest besides the meaningless Hall of Fame Game (scheduled for August 7) was canceled. The bell cow of the disagreement, the revenue sharing between the players and the owners, was renegotiated to give players at least 47 percent of revenue until 2020 and the league minimum salary for players was increased by $50,000 a year. And, oh yes, the idea of extending the NFL season from 16 to 18 games was tabled until 2013 and organized off-season team activities have been lowered from 14 to 10.
"I'm glad they settled everything," said Peggy Ford, 53, of Landover. "I live by [FedEx Field] so the games are exciting to me. I'm glad that football is back and the lockout is over. With everything going on these days, people need something to boost the morale and the Redskins playing will do it. It does for me."
While fans like Ford eagerly await the start of the 2011 season, others share contrasting views. The commercialism of professional sports has shifted the focus to players and teams, rather than their cities and fans.
"I think the lockout was silly," said Jacq Johnson, 34, of Northern Virginia. "The players are overpaid as it is. With the Redskins, last season was definitely disappointing. As far as professional lockouts go, I think they are forgetting that entertainment for the fans is what is important. The fans are definitely being neglected in this."
The Redskins know that fans will be approaching this season with kid gloves. Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, and general manager Bruce Allen, sent fans a message via email, and on the team's webpage Monday evening, thanking them for their continued support and loyalty throughout the five-month ordeal.
While a step in the right direction, it's going to take much more than a two paragraph script to lift the cloud of negativity from the heads of already disgruntled fans. Since acquiring the Redskins in 1999, Dan Snyder has done nearly everything imaginable to alienate even the most ardent fan. "We appreciate everyone's patience and support. We had an exciting draft with 12 players...we are confident that we are creating a team that fans can be proud of for years to come," said Washington Redskins senior vice president, Tony Wyllie, via phone Monday. "We have a lot of work to do with free agency and training camp. But fans can rest assured; we will be ready for the 2011 season."
Some players wasted no time getting started, and gathered at Redskins' Park on Tuesday for voluntary workouts, but most will arrive on Thursday for the official start of training camp. The free agency market opens Friday, and all eyes will be focused on seeing what the Redskins decide to do with quarterback Donovan McNabb and defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. This promises to bring Redskins fans more angst and uncertainty, but after all they have seen in the past five months, Friday's free agent frenzy should be a walk in the park.