Everybody in Pittsburgh knows that all-world safety Troy Polamalu is a soft-spoken, thoughtful and entirely uncontroversial figure off the football field. He'll be candid at times in interviews and he's certainly shared interesting facets of his life and belief system with the public, but it's still not all that often that you hear Polamalu quoted on a random Thursday afternoon in late June.
While down at a week long visit at William & Mary's football camp, No. 43 had this to say about the possibility of a lockout in 2011:
"America needs football," Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers' five-time Pro Bowl safety, contended this week on a visit to William and Mary's football camp. As in woe to the NFL owners who, should it come to pass, lock out the players before the start of the 2011 season as part of contract negotiations.
"It's a real blue-collar sport; it's played with a blue-collar mentality, a mentality that's the backbone of this country. And America needs that, especially in this time of crisis," Polamalu said.
"It would be really selfish of any of the team owners, or anybody that has control in this situation, to take that away from the American public."
Amen. Blue-collar, white-collar, young, old, male, female -- America loves NFL football. We love the gladiatorial aspects of the game; we love how competitive the games are each week; we love the rituals and traditions that go along with Sundays and Monday evenings in the fall and winter months, both online and in person; it's America's new national pastime. Enough said.
No sense in speculating here in what might transpire, but I will say this -- don't fret. Even if there is a lockout in 2011, there could be some upside to it for us fans. That's assuming that the lockout only lasted weeks, not months. Anyway, if that were to happen, and fans could somehow pretend like we were furious and never going to come back to the game, then the NFL might overplay its hand and really start... well... treating its fans like they ought to. We're an amazingly loyal customer base, yet we continue to concede more of our money in tougher economic times. And though things like NFL.com and NFL Films are awesome properties, don't we fans deserve a bit more innovative and engaging access to our favorite teams and players?
Leagues like the NBA, MLS, and NHL all do a much better job of finding creative ways to engage and incentivize fans to be loyal, but that's just a simple supply and demand issue. The NFL is king. They don't need to go out of their way to appease anybody when money continues to pour in faster than they or the players can count. (Though from the sound of it, players aren't doing such a hot job holding onto their coin.) If both parties find a way to screw up the good thing they have going, well, like Polamalu said, that'd be for no reason other than greed, plain and simple.
Stay tuned but hopefully more guys like Polamalu step up and raise their opinion on the matter so we don't even approach the embarrassing and uncomfortable fiasco of a lockout or strike in 2011.