The NFL Lockout came to an end today. While I couldn’t be happier that we’re back to talking football without putting any ifs, ands or buts on it, I am disappointed in many regards.
To me, this entire process has been a reminder. We tend to forget that professional football is a business first. While we’re lamenting over how our fantasy team performed on any given Sunday there are real men with real families and very real pressures that tend to be ignored.
Playing in the NFL will never be a privilege. It is a right that is earned with tireless work and unimaginable sacrifice.
This offseason – or lack thereof – has put into perspective just how difficult it is to have a career in football. While the masses focus in on the superstars with multi-million dollar deals the realists know this lockout has cost countless jobs to those that would have been the last to make the roster. We seem to only think in terms of the upper 10%, forgetting that there are infinitely more men that come and go in the NFL than those that stick and have a career.
As happy as I am to see my Raiders play again I’m saddened by the fact that someone’s dream has been forever lost.
Every summer some hapless nobody becomes an NFL somebody when there are no cameras, no announcers and no fans present. During those overlooked OTAs undrafted rookies and passed over vets get their one shot at making a roster. While there will be plenty of players that will get their chance in training camp, many have seen their window of opportunity go wanting.
When I reflect on this unnecessary lockout I won’t remember the NFL golden boy Tom Brady suing the league. I won’t remember Jerry Jones adjusting his suit as he strolled in and out of Manhattan high rises. What I’ll always think of is a football nobody whose one chance was taken from them simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Pro football is a brutal business unlike any other. For those lucky enough to make a career out of it their reward could be anything from an induction into Canton or a life filled with pain and agony.
Nothing is ever promised in this life. All we can ask for is the opportunity to pursue our goals and chase our dreams. For those fortunate enough to have a contract or the promise of a contract waiting for them on the other side of the lockout this entire process has been mostly a nuisance. For those that wanted their one shot at an NFL career or one last chance to prove they can play this lockout has been the most unceremonious retirement ever.
I’m looking forward to my Sundays this fall. Whether I’m catching the BART to the Coliseum or having a beer at 10am at my favorite local watering hole I’ll be pouring out a little for all those dreams that went unfulfilled thanks to a pointless work stoppage. They might not have ever made a career out of football but for one glorious season somebody out there could have had a lifelong memory none could take from them.
That is what the lockout means to this Raider fan. A dream deferred.