Saturday, June 9, 2012
Pittsburgh Power win by forfeit, Fans lose again
The Pittsburgh Power losing streak may have officially ended last night, but the losing streak for the fans continues this year. It's not just limited to the Power, but also the fan bases in Orlando and Cleveland and threatens to continue growing league wide.
In week one, the fans of not just Pittsburgh and Orlando, but the entire league had to watch a game with primarily replacement players take the field in the showcase "Arena Football Friday" broadcast on the NFL Network. Pittsburgh won the game 40-28 but in the context of the season they lost. Due to the labor dispute, Kyle Rowley and Taylor Rowan were not asked to rejoin the team. You can blame the league, blame the Power or blame Rowley for all of this but in the end the fans are the ones who lose.
Last night the AFLPU called a strike for one franchise for just long enough to cause the Gladiators, who are in the midst of a fierce battle for a playoff spot, to just basically give a game away. Fans lined up outside the Quicken Loans arena were not notified until 7:45 that the game was not going to be played. Those fans stuck outside included a group of Power fans who had made a bus trip from the Steel City to cheer on their team.
The strike ended officially at midnight so the players could return to their housing, which is a perk of their employment. Officially the Gladiators lost this game via forfeit, but again, the ones that truly lost were the fans.
I continue to struggle to see what kind of leverage the union gains by forcing one of their possible playoff teams to take a dive in front of their own fans. If you want to make a statement, you get the players on all of your teams to take a stand and strike.
The problem is I don't think the players are all on board with what AFLPU Ivan Soto is doing. Over half the Power crossed the picket line in Orlando. The strike ended shortly after the game. Even last night there were reports that Gladiator quarterback John Dutton and wide receiver Robert Redd were prepared to cross.
These mini strikes have done nothing but screw with the fans of these three franchises (Pittsburgh twice now). All they are, in my opinion, are terrorist strikes. Hit and run attacks that only hurt those directly involved at ground zero so to speak. These shenanigans caused the NFL Network to cancel their broadcast of the Philadelphia/Milwaukee game to a national audience. That game finished with a last second 69-62 victory by Philly, a game that would have gone a long way to marketing this game to a larger fanbase.
If the AFLPU thinks these stunts are giving them leverage they are sorely mistaken. The NFL Network pays the league for the right to broadcast these games. This was a change from the previous two years when the league had to pay the network money to broadcast. If that reverts to last year's policy, that is less money the league has to pay their players.
Attendance is down league wide as fans are starting to stay away from this pissing contest. Look at it logically, why would fans pay money for games they don't know for sure will take place. Season ticket renewal applications went out to fans across the league this week. How many are having second (or third or fourth) thoughts about coming back next year? This is the "Year Of The Fan" according to the AFL, but the fans are the ones who are losing out in this mess.
I may cover the Power for TribLive Radio, but I've been a fan of the arena/indoor football game for over six years now. It's a fun game when they actually step on the field and play the game. I'm one of the fans watching this unfold and it angers the hell out of me.
Soto admits his proposal will cost the league over $15 million dollars over the 2012 and 2013 season. That's a lot of money considering the league was bankrupt just a few season ago. Sound out of touch to you? Speaking of out of touch. I've heard from several sources that the players are unaware of the offers that have been proposed by the league. Somehow the message is not getting to the membership from union head Ivan Soto.
Soto constantly bashes the league in his tweets and says the league isn't negotiating in good faith. The league counters with the fact that the union has not budged one bit from their offer around the time of the season opener.
There's no way to know for sure what is going on due to all the misdirection happening publicly. Here's a novel idea. Honor the agreement you made BEFORE the season and stop hurting arena football. After the season sit down and hammer out these differences. There have to be concessions on both sides, there always are during a negotiation.
I'm hopeful an agreement can be reached but regardless of how this all ultimately ends, the ones who end up losing are the fans. I repeat...the ones who are the losers in all of this are the fans.