It’s a measure of just how indefensible the NFL lockout is that even Unfrozen Caveman Sportswriter Bill Plaschke won’t defend the owners. Still, to show you what the players normally have to deal with he makes sure to make up for his heresy by kissing some plutocratic ass:
Incidentally, I’ve never been a players’ union guy. I’ve always believed the owners are the ones taking the biggest risk, and therefore should be entitled to the greatest rewards.
The are many words that can describe people worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars buying into (or inheriting into) a lavishly taxpayer-subsidized cartel whose franchises almost always appreciate in value, but “risk” doesn’t leap immediately to mind. And the idea that this involves more risk than athletes risking their bodies for big payoffs that only a minority will receive is beyond absurd. (And, yes, there are some ownership “opportunities” — the NHL in the Sun Belt, whatever sucker wants to bring professional basketball to Charlotte — that involve some risk, but I don’t really see how owners making incredibly dumb decisions should mean that players shouldn’t receive fair compensation.) You can probably predict the next point in advance:
I believe the baseball union has been the single biggest factor in the erosion of the game’s popularity, from the protection of steroid cheats to the joke that has become arbitration and free agency.
The first problem here is with the normative arguments. I’ll take Plaschke’s horror at the idea of players having basic bargaining rights seriously as soon as he agrees to write for whatever provincial paper wants to hire him for whatever salary they see fit and be subjected to continual drug testing. But the bigger problem here is the empirical claim about free agency causing baseball’s “eroding popularity.” Hmm. Let’s compare the attendance per game in the last year before the Messersmith arbitration gave the players some measure of the rights than Plaschke takes for granted with last year:
1975: 15, 403
2010: 30, 116
Mind you, this makes no adjustment for ticket price increases or the expansion to a dozen or so more markets. If Plaschke finds that Jersey Shore is more suitable to his attention span than baseball that’s his privilege, but he shouldn’t assume this is universal, let alone make stuff up in order to act as an apologist for rapacious owners.