Somewhere in our fair metropolitan area, owners of all 32 NFL teams are meeting to be briefed on the latest in lockout negotiations.
They should vote on the agreement so far and on whether they wish to support the agreement that will be hammered out by the league's leading owners, but might not.
For the owners to move forward in talks with players, 24 owners have to back the talks. That way, a deal can be in place by July 15, giving the league time for a free agency period and full training camps.
The owners needn't look far for motivation to work toward a deal.
Everywhere in Chicago they can see places that will take a hit if the lockout affects the season. Sports bars that won't be packed with paying customers on a Sunday afternoon. Hotels that won't be filled with fans for the Bears eight home games. Sporting goods stores that won't sell Brian Urlacher or Julius Peppers jerseys to fans going to their first Bears game.
They could stop at Ditka's Restaurant, and see pictures of former players hobbled by the game. They need help from the league, but can't get it without any money from games. They could take a quick trip down I-57 to Bourbonnais, and hear of the economic hit the town will take without the Bears annual training camp.
But it seems that self-interest is the only thing that motivates the owners, so they need to take a step back and look at how much money they stand to lose if any part of the season gets canceled. It will start with the $700 million that will be lost because of the absence of training camp or pre-season. The losses will mount with every canceled game.
Beyond that, they need to look at the money that they will lose with every fan who walks away from the game because of the lockout. One Steelers fan living in Los Angeles estimated that she and her husband spend just under $4,000 on their team every season. (You can figure out how much you spend using their template here.) Multiply that by the thousands, if not millions, of fans who will be done with football because of the lockout.
The losses still don't end. The biggest hit could come in 2013, when the NFL's television contracts are due for re-negotiation, which the owners have counted on for a big payday. In the past few seasons, NFL television ratings have exploded. In the 2011 playoffs, each week broke a previous week's record. The last two Super Bowls were the two most-watched shows in the history of television in the U.S, even with smaller market teams participating. Here in Chicago, games against the Packers, Jets and Vikings all broke ratings records.
All those eyeballs that are tuned into the NFL come at a time when cable television and the Internet have splintered viewers' attentions. But Americans continue to spend their Sundays watching football. That makes the NFL a must-get for television executives. With these kind of ratings, they'll happily pull out their checkbooks to buy the rights to broadcast the NFL.
But there are still two seasons until those rights will be re-negotiated, and a football fanbase stung by a lack of football won't be so quick to tune in to the show. A downturn in ratings means that television executives won't pay quite as much for the NFL. Television fees are an important part of the NFL's bottom line, and in turn, that of the owners.
So, NFL owners, if you don't want to do it for your players, former players, or the people who depend on you for a job, do it for yourselves. At least 24 of you need to see the logic in that.