Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Green Bay Packers

Everything appears right in the world of football now that a collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the NFL owners and players. Nothing like waiting until the last moment.
The final weeks and days were unbearable for most fans. They would hear: The two sides are close to an agreement — and then they weren’t. A deal will be worked out in a couple of days — and then nothing would happen. It was like Lucy coaxing Charlie Brown repeatedly into believing she would hold the football for him, only to yank it away when he was about to kick it.
“The Packers are excited for the opening of training camp and to be preparing for the season,” Green Bay Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey said after the team held a news conference Monday.

With training camp set to begin Friday, all seems to be forgiven as life in Titletown returns to normal. Fans aren’t alone in getting pumped up about the new season. The arrival of Packers football also will give a big boost to the local economy.

Each home game generates about $8 million in direct impact to the Green Bay area, according to an economic impact study released last year by the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium. When indirect spending is added, that per-game estimate at home is more than $12 million.

Some area merchants who depend on the NFL season for their business would struggle to stay afloat without it. Had a deal not been reached, those businesses would have been forced to try to make up the potential losses elsewhere.

The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce a year ago had been making plans for the possibility of a fall without Packers football. Last September, the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau said it planned to promote heavily other events in the area. That was a wise move, given how close the NFL owners and players came to stalemating on an agreement and wiping out the 2011 game calendar. But still, those local events would not draw nearly the visitors and tourism dollars generated by a Packers home game.
The term "lockout" used in this labor dispute was fitting. When the old agreement expired in March and federally mediated talks broke down, it created a work stoppage unseen in the league since 1987. Teams were not allowed to communicate with current players, practices weren’t held and players literally were locked out.

At issue was how to split the estimated $9 billion in profits the game of football generates each year. The final agreement included a revenue split, a revised rookie wage system, strict limits on training camps and upgraded benefits for retired players.

It would have been better if a deal had been brokered sooner. As it is, the annual Hall of Fame exhibition opener was canceled in Ohio, and there were questions about whether there would be time to get in all the four preseason and 16 regular-season games. Closer to home, die-hard Packers fans just wanted the football cycle to return to normal.

Another downside of the lockout was that it dimmed a bit of the afterglow of the Packers Super Bowl XLV win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It would have been great if the home team had more time in the national limelight, but their world-championship victory was overshadowed by the ongoing labor dispute. Fans here and across the state kept the spirit alive, though, as always.

We’re glad the lockout has ended. It’s time to play some football.

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