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Hard to believe how we would survive without the NFL 40 years after the strike

40 years ago this week, NFL players returned to work after a 57-day strike, the first time professional football had lost games due to a work stoppage. There wasn’t quite a grudge like there would be five years later, when players crossed picket lines in droves and occasionally encountered teammates throwing eggs at them and hurling vulgarities at them as they have do.

But if you were a sports fan in 1982, it hurt, especially because baseball had also just emerged from its first extended work stoppage in the summer of 1981. Just as baseball had done, the NFL built a rushed and messy return, shortening the season to nine games, resuming the schedule from when the strike ended (weeks 11-16), then adding previously canceled games as the final week to arrive at nine games.

Sixteen teams made the playoffs. The Jets made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, but lost to the Dolphins in the Mud Bowl. The Giants didn’t make the playoffs, and before the season was even over, they lost coach Ray Perkins, who sprinted to Tuscaloosa to take on the thankless job of replacing Bear Bryant at Alabama.

Sports fans have endured many work-related indignities, of course, the latest being a baseball season that was delayed by a spring lockout. The NHL saw its entire 2004-05 season completely vaporized. The NBA saw two shortened seasons: to 50 games in 1998-99 and 66 games in 2011-12. None of this pleased anyone; all survived, some with worse reentry pain than others.

NFLPA representatives negotiate during the 1982 NFL strike.
NFLPA representatives negotiate during the 1982 NFL strike.
Sports News via Getty Images

But it’s hard to fathom what a work stoppage in the NFL would mean now, as the NFL is now an integral part of our collective sporting DNA. Yes, it could have been bad to lose those seven weeks in 1982 (and another in 1987, plus three weeks of scab football that year).

But think how different the NFL universe is now…

Start with fantasy football. Yes, its origins date back to 1962, when an Oakland, California businessman named Bill Winkenbach – also a limited partner of the Raiders – came up with the idea for what we now call fantasy football with a journalist. sportsman and a public relations man. It grew into an eight-team league beginning in 1963 called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League.

Still, it took a while for it to become a trend and even longer to become a national obsession. It probably started in earnest in 1985, when a national service was created by the company that eventually became AOL. But that was three years after the 1982 strike.

It’s hard to imagine how America would handle a hiatus from its fantasy football addiction. Fantasy fans of other sports have had to deal with these things, of course, but hockey and basketball fans tend to be deep into those sports, so when they go they cry (or rage) the absence of real games just as much (perhaps more) than those made up.

But fantasy football? Just about every league has one or three members who are proud “casual” fans of the sport, whose only interest is fantasy (you can easily pick these people out of a crowd; they’re often the ones in the top spot) . The notion of a strike or a lockout causing an imaginary strike or lockout…it’s almost too cataclysmic to think about.

Gene Upshaw, president of the National Football League Players Association, announces an NFL players' strike in New York on Monday, September 20, 1982.
Gene Upshaw, president of the National Football League Players Association, announces an NFL players’ strike in New York on Monday, September 20, 1982.

Then, of course, there’s the game. In 1982, there were those tickets circulating in offices (and classrooms) listing games and point spreads, which could win you a few bucks. There were box pools for the Super Bowl. Maybe if you happened to be in Las Vegas or vacationing on a tropical island, you could place a bet.

The hardest of hardcore had bookies. But it was a relatively small number.

Now? With advertisements for gambling dens that are as much a part of football matches as they are halftime highlights, and with it all at your fingertips through mobile phone apps… it’s really hard to imagine how people would adjust to a nine week absence from all of that. Fans today already have a hard time adjusting when the season ends naturally, with the Super Bowl.

Here’s the good news, though: the current NFL labor agreement is in place through 2030. No need to scoff at any of that. Still.

Vacuum strokes

It’s still hard to fathom, but around 4 p.m. Sunday, there’s at least a possibility that we’re playing host to two No. 1 NFL teams in our beautiful city.

I really like watching Jericho Sims play basketball. And that also goes for Yuta Watanabe on the other side of town.

Sims of Jericho
Sims of Jericho

I’ve always been pretty territorial about “Fletch,” and it’s still hard to imagine anyone else being Fletch besides Chevy Chase. But I must admit that I really liked Jon Hamm in “Confess, Fletch”. And the presence of John Slattery was also a good idea.

If only the Islanders played every game like it was already the third period.

Return to Vac

Mark Aronin: Let’s face it, the rivalries no longer exist. Even though, during the preparation for a game, the teams say how much they hate each other, two minutes after a game is over, they pose for photos while exchanging shirts.

Vac: I’ll never forget the time Carlton Fisk traded his #27 Red Sox jersey for Thurman Munson’s striped #15…

Richard Siegelmann: Joe Tsai may have judged Kyrie Irving not to be anti-Semitic, but I still consider Kyrie to be an anti-sensitivity, anti-sensitivity, anti-sense (common), anti-sensitivity formation…

Vac: Check. Check. Check. Check …

@drschnipp: As a fan of the Mets, Jets, Islanders and Knicks, I’ve spent too much time hating my own owners to worry about hating the crosstown rivals. I have only so much hate to give!

@MikeVacc: That sums things up nicely.

Michael Gijanto: Whether you love them or despise them, Houston is damn good. They remind me of the 1996-2000 Yankees. They do everything well.

VAC: And as angry as Yankees fans are about their win again…well, it could be worse. They could certainly have two more titles under their belt. And don’t feel finished either.

New York Post

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