BENNER: Fans get jilted in NFL’s player, owner lovefest

Allow me to interject this sentiment into the euphoria surrounding the agreement among the National Football League owners and players to end their labor dispute.

An extended middle finger to both sides.

There, I feel better.

Now I also shall look in the mirror and do the same, for I—as an Indianapolis Colts season-ticket holder, as a stadium advocate, as a thumper for things I believe lift White River City out of the doldrums and make us feel better for who and what we are—am part of the problem.

I say this as we move from the resolution of the lockout to the next impending crisis that has us wringing our hands: whether Peyton Manning can be convinced to take something less than $25 million a season to keep a horseshoe on his helmet.

Again, I’m part of the problem, because the idea of Manning’s not being a Colt unnerves me. And it shouldn’t.

Like, if Manning left (and he won’t, by the way), how would it affect my life? The answer is, it wouldn’t, except to make me slightly grumpy on fall weekends.

Then again, as an Indiana University football season-ticket holder, I’m already grumpy on most fall weekends.

Just as, if there had been no NFL season this year, it wouldn’t have had a negative impact on me, personally. In fact, I’d have that season-ticket money to spend on something else.

That’s not to say others wouldn’t have been hurt. I’m delighted for everyone who makes all or part of their livelihoods from the presence of the NFL … even the bookies.

Then, too, there is now the assurance that Super Bowl XLVI will take place here next Feb. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The big game is estimated to inject anywhere from $125 million to $400 million into our economy and, with all due respect to the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will serve as the crown jewel in our sporting event history. Furthermore, our ability to deliver an exceptional Super Bowl may well deliver additional business deep into the future including, I believe, additional Super Bowls. And I’ve written about the long-lasting effects of the legacy project and other initiatives.

That’s all good. No, that’s all great.

Still, I don’t feel like celebrating. Not yet. I’m going to hold off on the high-fives at least until Manning’s first touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne Sept. 11.

Perhaps it’s this notion that by settling the lockout, the owners and players have somehow done something wonderful for America.

Nonsense. They did something wonderful for themselves.

Besides, it took them 4-1/2 months to divide $9 billion. That’s something that should have been done in 4-1/2 minutes.

Then there’s the idea that, by giving us football, “the fans” are among the winners.

More nonsense. Correct me if I’m wrong, but during those 4-1/2 months, I do not recall any discussion regarding cost containment for fans.

Will the price of tickets not escalate beyond the rate of inflation during this 10-year deal? Can we place a cap on concession prices? Will cities—and taxpayers—still be expected to ante up for the latest and greatest in stadia and amenities, lest the franchises find themselves lacking the sufficient revenue streams to remain competitive?

I already know the answers.

Here’s also what they did: They left fans stuck paying full price for two absolutely meaningless preseason games. There’s a word for that—gouge.

Throughout the lockout, there was a stunning lack of acknowledgment from the owners and players about the economic realities facing our country.

It was only about how both sides could position themselves to get more. And more. And more. As the rest of America gets by on less. And less. And less.

And trust me, when Commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions talk about growing the $9 billion pot into a $20 billion one, that additional revenue will not just come from media rights.

It also will come from you and me.

The NFL and the owners and players know we’ve not only taken the bait, but swallowed the hook.

They know we just want our darn football.

And around here, of course, we want Peyton Manning throwing it.•


Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at He also has a blog,

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