NFL And NBA Lockouts: SPORTS APOCALYPSE NEARS!

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09: A fan of the New Orleans Saints shows support for his team by painting his face like 'Darth Maul' prior to the Saints playing against the Minnesota Vikings at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Both the NBA and NFL are facing lockouts next season. How should fans prepare if the end really is near?

Maybe if Glenn Beck was shouting about this and crying more, people would be concerned, but since he's crying about something else, I suppose I'll have to take the lead on this.

Yes, this weekend should be a joyous one for NFL fans across the country and don't get me wrong, I'm as fired up as the next guy. The next 20-plus weeks will be glorious (unless you're a Browns fan).

My concern is that I'm not sure fans know that they better savor every play of every game this season, because this time next year they'll be wandering aimlessly like zombies because the fields and stadiums will be empty.  

Despite being a billion dollar industry, the NFL and its players are at odds. The pie has grown so big and has so much filling that both sides feel they deserve a bigger slice than the other. With the current CBA set to expire next March, both sides are bracing themselves for a battle and the word "lockout" has been tossed out with great frequency over the last year.

As you might imagine, at the core of the matter is money, and lots of it. But in recent months, running a close second on the items of interest is the idea and talk of an 18-game season. Okay, I know as a fan, you're drooling at the mere thought of two more games, but if you're a player, the idea of two more games in sport that's the equivalent of being in a three-car pileup every weekend doesn't exactly sound like something you want to embrace.

Clearly, the league needs to change the ridiculous preseason format that makes no sense for anyone. Let's see ... we're going to play four games that are nothing more than glorified, officiated scrimmages and increase the risk of injuries. And for the fans, you will pay full price to see a game that showcases the players who will be filling out job applications at UPS in a matter of weeks. Makes complete sense, right?

The players would love to drop a couple of preseason games, but that doesn't mean they want to fill in the gaps with two more regular season games. Not unless they're going to get paid accordingly, and that's where the divide begins to get a little wider.

Throw in HGH testing and the rookie wage scale and you can see that there are some incredibly important and very sensitive issues on the table.

When you're dealing with the kind of money that's being discussed, the feelings for the fans and the game itself become secondary, because once inside the conference room, it's all about who gets credited with the "W". This is the highest form of elite poker and neither side wants to be labeled the loser in this. Plain and simple, it's an ego and pride thing and I think we've all seen examples of what can happen when those two characteristics are part of the equation.

That's just the NFL.

The NBA is next up on the lockout list, and with its season just more than a month from getting underway, its fans should be feeling the same uneasiness that NFL fans are experiencing.

The current NBA collective bargaining agreement ends in June and, just like in the NFL, the central point up for discussion is the money split. Currently, the NBA players get 57% of the revenues.

NBA commissioner David Stern has been adamant about the heavy losses his teams have suffered. Just last season, according to the league, its teams lost a collective $370 million. It's no secret around the league that there are a number of teams who are barely surviving, but is that due to mismanagement or the simple reality of what today's economic climate is presenting?

You can understand the owners' side, considering they're the ones taking the risk, but you can understand why the NBA players aren't buying the claims of heavy losses when they see owners handing out huge money contracts to players who haven't really accomplished a whole lot in their careers (see: Amir Johnson, $34 million with Raptors).

Players in both leagues were told, starting last year, to start saving your money because they should be prepared for lockouts. But what about the fans, how should they prepare?

Can you imagine this time next year if the NFL doors are still closed and the NBA training camps have been scrapped due to the lockout? I get queasy just thinking about it! Maybe Bud Selig in his infinite wisdom would call for a 200-game baseball schedule to take advantage of the lack of competition for viewers and fans. (Note to Bud: No sport should ever have 162 games. There's a reason fans only watch in April and October! Sorry, I digress.)

So ask yourself as the NFL season gets underway and the NBA is just weeks away from tip off: Are you prepared for what's coming your way? You better clear your DVR and record every game this season in both leagues because 2011 will be the year of replay games and Madden Football.

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