Hillenmeyer: NFL Players Far from Royalty - NBC Chicago
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Hillenmeyer: NFL Players Far from Royalty



    I think I offended a family member over Easter weekend for making fun of the fact that she's excited enough about the royal wedding to get up at 4:00am on Friday to watch it. No disrespect to the bride and groom, but I could not care less.

    Here's why all the hoopla drives me crazy: we celebrate these people for nothing other than who their parents were. 

    Royalty, to me, is a facade because it rewards birthright, and birthright alone.

    In the US, more so than probably any country on earth, we are a meritocracy. The hardest workers, the smartest, the most creative, will generally move ahead. This is not a treatise on the American Dream; I realize certain people have a much easier path than others, but, all in all, we tend to value a more capitalistic, Darwinistic approach to who rises to the top and who is fit to lead.

    Some people criticize unions on a philosophical level because they can stray from that ideology.  When things like seniority play a bigger role in how much you earn than productivity and value-creation, I understand that some people may take issue with that.  The NFLPA, before it decertified as a union, never had those issues.

    I know NFL players make more than most Americans can fathom.  But consider this, we start every season with at least 80 players on the roster.  Only 53 of those will make the team.  There are no guarantees, minimal protection for players who get injured, and every snap of every practice and every game gets evaluated by coaches, scouts and management.  Professional football is the ultimate meritocracy.  Corporate America would kill to have the metrics and data to evaluate talent that exists in our world.  You perform every day or you get fired. 

    Now I know you're thinking, "If Brian Urlacher misses a few tackles, he's not gonna get fired."  That's certainly true, but for every one of him, there are fifty guys making the league minimum just hoping to play long enough to vest in their pension and save a little money for life after football.  Most players face the reality of knowing that a few bad games means their NFL career is over.

    The players have gotten a few early wins in the fight to return to football. Judge Nelson in Minnesota issued an injunction and decided last night to deny the NFL's request for a stay.  Football is back, at least temporarily. 

    Our cause is no more noble. Players aren't better people than the owners. I have tried (some might say unsuccessfully) to look at this fight as objectively as possible. I want to thank Judge Nelson, not for being pro-player, not even for deciding in our favor, but for doing her job well.  She researched this issue backward and forward.  Her 89-page ruling cites cases and precedents found in neither side's briefs.  Both the ruling and denial of stay are public record.  If you are as dorky as me about this stuff, check them out; they both display a rich understanding of the issues. 

    I do my homework on things I might be missing, but the more I read about this, the more I believe my opinion to be the correct one. Consider Jim Souhan's droll column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, or Sally Jenkins tirade in the Washington Post.  I don't think the players' position is more worthy of your support, its just right -- not in the ethical, telling-the-truth-is-the-right-thing-to-do sort of way, but as in correct, legally superior based on precedent, based on antitrust law. 

    Please don't mistake my tone for smug. I have no idea if the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will issue a stay and/or eventually overturn Judge Nelson's ruling.  I also am not a lawyer, so my opinion bears little weight.  I do challenge you to do this: read Judge Nelson's decision, and read those articles, and see if you don't share my opinion. 

    If you don't, it may be worth faking it, as a few more wins for the players is the shortest path to getting back to the game we all know and love. 

    And I promise, reading her ruling will be more interesting than watching a half hour of news about what kind of jell-o they are serving at the Royal Wedding.