Bring on the lockout: NFL has week to forget

by | Columnist

In the end, which is now when you think about it, this will be remembered as a Super Bowl the game could not save. Frankly, a slightly-better than average game had no chance against the nightmare of the week.

In fact, if you get right down to it, maybe a lockout wouldn't be such a bad thing, if only to give the sport time to recover from the disasters perpetrated in its biggest week of the year.

A brutal winter storm was the right backdrop for a bummer Super Bowl week. (Getty Images)  
A brutal winter storm was the right backdrop for a bummer Super Bowl week. (Getty Images)  
An ice storm caused by either intransigent owners or obdurate players (depending on who's doing the spinning) blew the early week to smithereens, and the league's ridiculous inability to put tickets and seats together on Sunday bookended a terrible week for the league's reputation as Party-Giver Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary.

Oh, the Green Bay Packers were happy, don't get us wrong. They were the best team in football for the last weeks of the season, and without argument. Aaron Rodgers was repaid with a usurer's interest rate for the indignities of the Brett Favre period of his life, and is now the logical inheritor of the Brady/Manning throne as the Quarterback of the Decade.

Mike McCarthy got his back after being blamed in San Francisco for not being able to turn a sow's ear into platinum ingots back in 2005. And general manager Ted Thompson has a metric ton of I-told-you-sos he and his secretary will be working on from now until the first OTA. For all the malicious grief he took on the Brett Favre case, he must be a particularly devoted believer in karma. Good on him, too.

But the league got its comeuppance on so many other fronts last week that the indecipherable shrieks of Christina Aguilera were actually a positive on the What Went Wrong Scale.

The weather ruined the early part of the week, but Roger Goodell, as an employee of the owners, does not yet have the full powers granted to fulltime employees of The Weather Channel.

But those inside couldn't pull themselves away from the labor/management nightmare both sides seem hell-bent upon concluding. The Steelers used Media Days I and II to excoriate the 18-game schedule concept as directly antithetical to league's stated goal of reducing concussions. Both DeMaurice Smith on Thursday and Goodell on Friday struggled to put a sensible explanation for their positions, convincing the rest of us that their chances of doing this right are even smaller than we imagined.

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Then came the extraordinary greed of trying to wedge too many people into too few seats, a deserved result of the "temporary seating area" concept. At these prices there should be no temporary seating areas, and the only explanation for why the league thought it was good idea is that it bought into Jerry Jones' idea that putting a high price on even the worst vantage point, people think you're doing something truly special.

Yes they did, and there's a word for it. Gouging.

Frankly, the only way the league can save itself here is if Jones and Goodell go house to house to personally deliver the rebate checks to the 400 fans, and then stay to clean out their garages. I mean, in an event notorious for its avarice, this was a pure ski-mask-and-teller's-note special. And the Party Pass concept, in which you pay an almost exorbitant fee for not having a shot at seeing the game, is a Federal Trade Commission matter if ever there was one.

And then there was game day, in which the league turned the entire day into a civics lesson (the flyover that the people in the stadium could see only on TV was a particularly cynical touch) and then turned the National Anthem into four-cats-in-a-three-cat bag.

Not only that, it reinforced the idea that when your band has agreed to appear at the Super Bowl in any capacity, your career is in freefall. The Black Eyed Peas may still have some life left in them, and credit to them for not electrocuting themselves, but Aguilera? Did she do something important recently that we missed? Who books these acts, Milton Vaudeville?

And finally, it was heart-warming to see that Art Schlichter, onetime quarterback and ongoing gambling addict, allegedly stiffed several ticket-buying clients by taking their money and then blowing it on gambling losses. The Secretary of Metaphor says his medal will be in the mail.

There may even be a case to be made that the game the league keeps saying it is trying to make safer had a staggering number of injuries, but we'll chalk that up to bad luck and two teams that like to hit, well, hitting.

But in all, this was a sorry excuse for a Super Week, a terrible confluence of events, greed and witlessness making Super Bowl XLV the kind of event that makes you fear for the health and sanity of XLVI. I mean, what next -- a meteor shower?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay ,mf


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