How NFL fans can survive a lockout - NBC Sports

How NFL fans can survive a lockout
Not autumn of discontent: there's college football,political rallies, holidays, family ... and Charlie Sheen
If we can't have Rex Ryan's bombastic pronouncements during the NFL lockout, at least there's Charlie Sheen, contributor Michael Ventre writes.
March 3, 2011, 4:03 pm

That's just NFL football. College football is a friend, too, but it is somewhat less of a presence in your life because the NCAA won't let its athletes take money and other benefits that NFL players enjoy. College football is like the friend whose parents lay down a curfew, or take the car keys away, or sometimes rake his backside with a belt.

Actually, NFL football might be our dearest friend. But that friend might be going away for a while. No, he didn't rob a convenience store. Not that kind of "going away." There might be a work stoppage, because the owners and players can't figure out how to divide the booty from the most successful sports league ever. The problem isn't money, but rather, too much of it. I'd like to say, "Heaven knows I've been there," but really I haven't, and I don't know anybody who has.

But without NFL football, will life grind to a halt? What will fantasy league people do? Gamblers and oddsmakers? Pizza delivery guys? Acid-tongued cocktail waitresses and barmaids at sports bars, like in those commercials?

There must be alternatives.

Perhaps through a spirited letter-writing campaign we can get CBS to expand "60 Minutes" and call it "420 Minutes," to cover the loss of two Sunday games at roughly three hours each. Granted, that's a lot of Andy Rooney, but hey, he still seems alert enough to handle it.

Some network NFL analysts like to take off their suit jackets, loosen their ties and get out on a miniature fake field inside the studio to demonstrate what that day's combatants will need to do to be successful. Why not put them in full pads and let them hit? They have insurance.

College football will still be available, but up until now it's been games all day and night Saturday, plus one Thursday night. So move all the Saturday games to Sunday, show the Thursday night game Monday night, and see if anybody notices.

The fall of 2011, leading into the 2012 elections, will be a crucial time for political campaigns. Without NFL football, fans will have more free time to get behind their favorite candidates, raise money, circulate petitions, attend rallies and register voters. It will remind people how proud they are to be Americans, and at the same time take their minds off the communistic system of revenue sharing in the NFL.

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There is of course the baseball-basketball overlap to fill some of the void left by the NFL. Baseball's stretch run and postseason extends from September into October; NBA teams go to camp in early October and begin their seasons at the end of that month and early November. Only fans of rich glamour teams in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and Chicago will have this option, however. The rest will still have to cope with the fact that their small-market clubs have as much of a chance to win a championship as an NFL team that isn't playing because of a labor dispute.

Charlie Sheen is always an attraction. Chances are he will be just as unemployable in the fall as he is now, so he probably will still be giving interviews in which he boasts and brags about himself and makes outrageous statements. That will make up for not having Rex Ryan around.

There is a lot of unrest in the Middle East, and I'm guessing it's not going away anytime soon. Watching television and seeing scores of people in the streets chanting and yelling and demanding change will help make a seamless transition for NFL fans in cities such as Cincinnati and Buffalo.

The new fall television season is always a treat, and this year might serve as a welcome diversion for folks without NFL football. The usual preponderance of shows that involve doctors, lawyers and police may provide comfort and make fans feel that football is just around the corner.

Holidays will be extra special in the fall as well. This year Halloween falls on a Monday night, so people will be at their doors giving out one piece of candy per child rather than leaving a whole bowl of treats unattended on the porch so the kids can grab as much as they want. Without NFL games on Thanksgiving, there will be more time for family members to make small talk and get to know people who just showed up out of the blue as guests of guests. And Christmas is on a Sunday this year, so without NFL football that means that after gifts are opened, everyone will have lots of extra time to ponder, "Why did they get me this?"

Get this resolved, please. Quickly.

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