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When you're a junkie, dealers can jack up prices

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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I mean nobody ill. I really don't. You're all so very keen for there to be the National Football League again, and as much as I enjoy mass schadenfreude, can everyone be wrong?

That said, I wouldn't feel any sense of personal loss if, at 11:59:53, metaphorically speaking, the labor/management talks broke down over something weird and stupid, and we were back to, oh, say, quarter to eight.

And why? To teach us all some valuable lessons we chose not to avail ourselves of during the first lockout, starting with this:

We should not as a nation need a form of entertainment this badly. The wailing and gnashing of incisors over the possibility that there might not be the Hall of Fame game, let alone the start of the regular season, suggests a nation of junkies that has worried itself into a state over THE POSSIBILITY that the flight from Bogota isn't going to land on its appointed day.

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And not just fans, either. It has been covered by many media types in exactly that way as well. It turns out that the folks who cover football are every bit as vein-stripped as the fan bases, and we know this because every report on every day seemed to drip with the implied message, "And God forbid this doesn't get done, because I might have to cover something else, and I don't wanna cover anything else, 'cause I'm scared to."

And that definitely includes the on-air pundits, chat-show hosts and blog jockeys who have found safety and sinecure in the NFL and long ago stopped paying attention to anything else. Their panic was palpable, because they never even tried to hide it.

Not everybody, mind you. Some folks dove right into the morass of labor law and tackled this story as it should be covered. Yes, covering labor disputes can be a pain in the ass, especially if you want to make your camp plans, but it isn't the same as actual 9-to-5 CubicleWorld work. It's a grind, so you grind.

But the overall message from inside the laptops and on the streets was the same -- without the NFL, we shall all perish. And if that isn't heroin with helmets, I don't know how else to describe it.

It might have been good to cold turkey this a bit, to appreciate it a bit more and to get night sweats over it a bit less. It might have been healthy to spend a bit less time obsessing over your special teams rankings for the fantasy league draft at your local tavern. It might have been a great idea to stop gnashing your damned teeth about the Hall of Fame game.

And why, you ask, is not having your favorite form of entertainment such a good thing? Because the people who set the prices for your favorite form of entertainment notice this, and they mark up the goods. And the people who run the teams that the journalists cover notice too, and they make the conditions for covering a team more difficult and restrictive.

Any industry that knows it has its hooks in the public can and does charge whatever the hell it wants, and is usually way more than the product costs. Any industry that has people who love that industry monitoring it knows it can get away with nearly anything.

And that's what we have here. The NFL isn't king any more, it's Galactic Overlord. And as someone who has lived on other planets, let me tell you –- galactic overlords pretty well suck.

No, it might have actually been better if the league missed some weeks, like baseball did, and hockey, and even basketball the year it played only 50 games. It teaches everyone to appreciate what they provide a bit more, and what they receive as well. It allows them to see that while entertainment makes life more fun, there are lots of forms of entertainment out there, and we can all find something else to kill time if we have to. We are some time-killing suckas when we need to be.

As it is, it looks like peace is on the way, at least for the three years it will take for the owners to learn how to cheat this deal, or screw themselves into the ground fiscally in their other businesses, or just make bad judgments because they think they know so damned much about football when it is clear that they do not.

So, well done everyone. The plane has landed, and your corners will be stocked with the finest grade of Sunday fun available. Let joy be unconfined, and let's everyone get out there and boo a quarterback soon. It has been way too long.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.

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