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Show Me the Money: Business of Football

underwhelmer“Show me the money”, was perhaps the most remembered line from the classic movie Jerry Maguire, delivered by Cuba Gooding Jr., who played a talented, over-zealous football player, waiting for the right contract. Besides the cross-fire of personal character dynamics in the movie, it brought to light the stark reality that football really is a business.

Behind the seemingly glamorous curtain of all the glitz and glitter, lie collective bargaining agreements, free agency, and salary caps. And the bottom line in all of it is the almighty dollar. Money has turned a boys’ game into a corporate power venture with high-stake players and greedy ownership.

Let’s face it – once athletes go pro, they cease to be human beings. They become commodities. The more investment a team makes in a star player, the more that player is protected. Say a half-million dollar a year player hurts his knee. The staff bandages him up, shoots him with some cortisone, and tells him to go “earn his keep” on the field. A multi-million dollar player will be more protected by the staff and even allowed some rest time to recuperate. After all, the team needs to nurture their investment. The investment starts with the signing package.

JohnSebAs part of their signing package, players receive a percentage of the NFL’s defined gross revenue, which includes gate receipts, luxury box revenue, a percentage of NFL Properties, and television contracts. Television accounts for the largest chunk of change toward the defined gross revenue.

I can’t think of anything more “built” for television than football. Large men wearing matching uniforms, clad in full armor, with numbers on them so we can identify them easily. Giant screens with HD make it practically like being there. Advertisers know this and are willing to fork out millions of dollars to pawn their goods. Television represents a load of dough for the NFL because most everyone loves and watches football.

Even though money has changed how football is played on the business side, the play-off games are not about money (although a championship game is worth endorsements and future contracts). In fact, players actually make less during play-off time. Championship games are still about desire, pride, true grit and guts. Putting the money aside, a play-off game for a player still comes down to, “How good are you and how bad do you want it?” We must admit, the players super-charged with fire and drive are the ones we love to watch the most.

Yes, football is a business. Yes, football is all about money. Yes, players are commodities. Knowing all that doesn’t take away from our love of the game and our desire to watch it week after week during the fall season. Let the NFL handle their business. Let the players say, “Show me the money.” Just bring me my nachos, clear the recliner, and show me a game.

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