CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: Chicago Bears fans sit in the stands after the Green Bay Packers 21-14 victory in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
With the collective bargaining agreement expiring Friday, the NFL owners and players had the opportunity to come to a fair agreement that would keep a work stoppage at bay, and ensure that the Bears would get to have a normal off-season.
They failed, and though they may feel it in their pocketbook in the short term, it's the fans who will truly suffer.
It is the fans who made the NFL the top sports league by a wide margin in the United States. It is the fans who made the Super Bowl the most-watched television event in the history of TV, even without a large market like Chicago playing.
It was the Bears fans who tuned in for playoff games that had nothing to do with their city. And it's the fans who tune in to watch anything football-related, from off-season workouts to the draft to the combine.
In Chicago, that means that we sat and watched offensive linemen running 40-yard dashes. If that doesn't prove fandom -- this does: it's the fans who buy tickets and jerseys and car magnets and hats and toasters and anything that may have the Bears logo on it.
The owners and players didn't think of these fans when they couldn't come to a decision after two years of negotiations. Two years is a long time to go without coming to agreement, and now what it comes to is frightening.
The future of football will decided by litigation. If the owners and players don't like what the courts do with their sport, it's their own fault. They had the power to keep intact the league that George Halas helped start nearly 100 years ago.
So it comes to this -- a pox on both their houses. Both sides had the power to avoid a work stoppage, but they didn't.