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The NHL player lockout and NFL referee lockout are only eroding the games that they represent. For fans of the leagues, they have no real impact on how long these things last. Or do they?
Lockouts and strikes have to be the most frustrating aspect of sports for the fans that follow them. They greatly impact the sports they follow while not having control over any facet of the things that both sides of the dispute are fighting over.
Fans of both Buffalo sports teams are going through withdrawal with their unique lockouts. Sabres fans have to endure an unknown period of time without their favorite team as the league and the players fight over how much of the revenue pie they are going to share. It's something that NHL fans are accustomed to as the league goes through this song and dance everytime the collective bargaining agreement expires.
The fans of the Bills are going through their own special lockout with the NFL locking out the referees which has caused some interesting games in the first three weeks of the season. Missed calls, bad calls, a relative incompetence with the knowledge of the rule books, you name it and it has happened across the league. The hope was that the way the referees handled the games wouldn't impact a playoff race. After the Seahawks and Packers game on Monday night, that hope has gone out the window.
Lockouts may help the business aspect of sports but they don't help the entertainment value. Nothing annoys fans more about both sides complaining not getting enough money that the fans hand over. From merchandise to ticket sales to TV revenue, all of the revenue that comes in for both of the leagues comes off the backs of the fans that support the teams. It's even more infuriating for fans because they really have no control over how the proceedings are handled. They just have to sit on the sidelines and watch things deteriorate.
Fans do have an outlet though, even if it might be the toughest thing to do. Lockouts continue until someone is hit in the pocket book hard enough to cause them to break. For the NHL, facing the fact that they may lose the cash cow that is the biggest Winter Classic in the history of the event might give the players some leverage to get a better deal. The bigger players are playing overseas while a bunch of players are taking AHL salaries to keep some cash flow into the coffers.
The NHL will continue to do this because they have no fear of losing what they have. The years after the full season lockout in 2004, fans came back to the game in droves and the league experienced record revenue last season. The league is expecting people to come back because the NHL is the biggest hockey league out there.
For the NFL, if fans stopped watching games, it could very well have an impact. The ratings for the Sunday night game against the Patriots and Ravens were up 8% over the last year's ratings. The ratings for the controversial Monday night game were still relatively solid as they led everything on television with their 12.0 share.
It is often mentioned that Major League Baseball is a modicum of labor peace. They haven't had a work stoppage since the 1994 strike eliminated the World Series. The main reason for that is that people stopped going to games after the strike and it took a magical home run season four seasons later to get people excited about baseball again. Stop going to games, stop watching games on television, stop enjoying the leagues you love. When you impact the pocketbooks of the leagues that perpetuate these infuriating tactics, it might make them think twice before pulling stunts like these again.