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So Much For "A Deal's A Deal"

There's an old saying that a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it isn't written on. Nowadays, even a signed agreement doesn't mean squat -- once enough people don't like it and the government intervenes.

With the recent sub-prime mortgage bailout, the federal government -- at the sweep of a pen -- rewrote thousands of mortgage agreements because a bunch of people didn't fully read and understand documents that they swore in writing that they did comprehend, and would live up to.

And now we have the case of the New England Patriots and their stellar season.

This Saturday, the Patriots will have the chance to complete an undefeated season. And a lot of people want to watch it.

However, the NFL had set up a system for airing the game long before the season began -- it was to be broadcast over their own NFL Network, with one station in each of the team's home market buying the rights to air it themselves. In New York, it was superstation WWOR. Here in New England, WCVB -- the ABC affiliate -- and their sister station, New Hampshire's WMUR, were to broadcast it.

"Were." That's the key term.

Those stations had negotiated with the NFL in good faith, paid good money, and stood to reap the rewards of their foresight and good fortune by having exclusive rights to air what promised to be the most-watched game of the year -- possibly even dwarfing the Super Bowl.

Sometimes, though, there's such a thing as too much good luck. Envy reared its ugly head.

A lot of people hadn't signed up for the NFL network, and didn't live near enough to New York or Boston to pick up the game. They didn't like that one bit. And when they expressed their displeasure loudly enough, Congress heard -- and started making threatening noises.

As is entirely typical in these cases, John Kerry got involved. Kerry's reputation for self-aggrandizing and grandstanding and glory-hounding is long established. He's earned the nicknames "Liveshot" for his eagerness to appear on any TV news show for any occasion. Another politician noted that his initials -- JFK -- stood for "Just For Kerry," And woe betide anyone who gets between Gigolo John and a microphone.

Kerry thundered from on high, threatening Senate investigations and scrutiny if the NFL didn't let everyone who wanted to see the game see it -- despite the deals made long before the Patriots won game 1 this season.

Well, for all the sound and fury issued by John "Waffles" Kerry, it was a letter issued by two other Senators -- Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) that got the deal overturned. The NFL will allow two of the big networks to air the game as well.

The networks? CBS and NBC.

So, what happens to WWOR and WCVB? The phrase "tough shit" comes to mind. They made deals in good faith, bet a hell of a lot on their agreement with the NFL to pay off in ad revenues and exclusivity, and are now being punished for making too good a deal. And here in New England, it has to especially rankle -- they had beat out the NBC and CBS stations for the rights to the games, and now they get to watch as their rivals get handed the spoils that the ABC stations had won.

I don't care about sports in general. I won't be watching the game. You couldn't pay me to watch it. (Hmm... looking at my last bank statement... well, maybe you COULD pay me...) And I have no great affection for WMUR (I have several longstanding grudges against them).

But the plain, indisputable, unarguable truth here is that the agreements between the NFL and the local stations were signed, legally binding, perfectly valid -- and tossed in the toilet as soon as enough people who didn't benefit from it got upset that they were being deprived of what they saw as their "right."

Their "right" to see a goddamned football game.

As I said, I'm not gonna be watching it. You can watch it or not, as you see fit. But if you do watch it, and see it on some channel besides the NFL Network, WWOR, WCVB, or WMUR, you're seeing it thanks to people who didn't negotiate or bargain or buy the rights, but simply harnessed the power of the mob to take what they didn't earn.

Nice to see we have our priorities so straight.


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Comments (16)

Though an avid NFL fan, I w... (Below threshold)
Diane:

Though an avid NFL fan, I will not be watching the Patriots/Giants game because:
A) NFL Network-Gumble coverage is awful.
B) Patriots do not have enough class to deserve my attention.

Am surprised NFL negotiated with an ABC station anywhere to show the game, as NBC & CBS had contracts with NFL to show the divisions all year.

While I somewhat agree with... (Below threshold)
Skip:

While I somewhat agree with you, it does benefit me personally. See, my cable TV provider is Time Warner. Time Warner wants to broadcast the NFL network as part of the sports tier, which makes sense. I subscribe to that tier, so I'd have it. But the NFL won't let them, is requiring it to be part of the basic cable package, and charging a ridiculously high rights fee for it. So because of the NFL's stupid choices I want to be able to pay to have their channel, and can't.

Basically, the NFL got greedy, and now they're going to end up paying for that greed, and I'm OK with that.

I hate "professional" sport... (Below threshold)
Scott in CA:

I hate "professional" sports. A couple of reasons: they talk cities in to taxing their citizens to pay for stadium and other perks, and then have the "right" to black out local TV coverage of games, thus preventing the people who are paying for the facilities from seeing them; and the fact that about one-third of my cable bill goes to underwrite ESPN which I never watch.

Why are "professional" sports teams not treated as any other business?

If the senators care so muc... (Below threshold)
89:

If the senators care so much, why don't they just give the people NFL channel access and pay for it out of their own private funds?
At the very least CBS and NBC should be paying premium for this and the money should go to the initial stations.

I think they ought to treat... (Below threshold)
cirby:

I think they ought to treat this as a government "taking" and bill the US Government for the value of the item that was confiscated - or, at the very least, get their money back from the NFL.


B) Patriots do not have ... (Below threshold)
GoPats:

B) Patriots do not have enough class to deserve my attention.

I see. And which band of weepy incompetent losers do you follow?

-- Do you ever watch that Inside NFL program they show on Saturdays? Watched it a couple of weeks ago. There was a short piece on LT, game was San Diego versus Pittsburgh, I believe. At one point you see the SD defensive coordinator rushing out on the field toward the huddle, yelling, "The receiver is gonna be number ten! The receiver is gonna be number ten!" The play ran; the intended Pittsburgh receiver was in fact number ten.

Tell me: how did the DC know the receiver was going to be number ten? Was someone on the Chargers (gasp!) reading the Steeler's offensive signals? For shame.

Hey Diane: To quote my boy Kruschev: We Will Bury You.

(There's a better one: Kruschev was taken to see the Redskins play. He sat through the game, slamming martinis and not saying much. At the end of the game he was asked what he thought of it. He shrugged. "All stand up, all fall down. All stand up, all fall down." They should've taken him to a strip club.)

Postscript: John Kerry gives me the creeps.

"...what promised to be the... (Below threshold)
trappedinmn:

"...what promised to be the most-watched game of the year -- possibly even dwarfing the Super Bowl..."


what are you smoking? a meaningless regular season game "dwarfing" the Super Bowl in viewership? care to put your money where your mouth is on that ludicrous statement? only a NE fool could say something that silly!

That's cool that some folks... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

That's cool that some folks here never watch football or read the sports section.
However, for those of us that do and refuse to pay for cable..this is a good thing.
For many sports is a way to take a brief time out (pun intended)from a world locally, nationally, globally that offers little positive.
This will benefit the NFL as most followers simply watch when their team is playing plus the addition of those that don't watch.
I agree more people will watch this than the numbers in most Super Bowls...
It is sport history..

The NFL should black out th... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

The NFL should black out the ads on NBC and CBS and replace them with an announcement that the game was brought to you by Congress and then have a good voice over announcer read the threatening letter out loud, at every commercial break.

Those stations had negot... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

Those stations had negotiated with the NFL in good faith, paid good money, and stood to reap the rewards of their foresight and good fortune by having exclusive rights to air what promised to be the most-watched game of the year -- possibly even dwarfing the Super Bowl.

Jay, come on, only a non-sports fan would pen such a ridiculous statement. And this game promised to be nothing more than a game with limited playoff implications when the parties negotiated the viewing rights to it. And I'm sure ABC in Boston will be reimbursed for this contract violation by the NFL.

While I hate Congress getting involved in this matter, and reading the articles it seems more like they extorted Roger Goodell into broadcasting this game nationwide, the NFL is much to blame for this situation. Just go to ESPN and read about their failings and what they are trying to get cable companies to do with their network, it's almost the same as what Congress was doing to them. Only the cable companies aren't budging.

I agree more people will watch this than the numbers in most Super Bowls...

another inane comment, this game will not generate the viewing numbers that the most recent Super Bowls have. And nogo, this is not sports history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins also went through an NFL season undefeated.

This is an event of little ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

This is an event of little importance to most of the country and the world.

As to the post itself, it is terrible that our agreements are more and more becoming meaningless. ww

Oh yeah, and I would love t... (Below threshold)
J.R.:

Oh yeah, and I would love to see the Patriots lose in a heart-breaker. And Pats fans better hope that Belichek doesn't leave his starters in too long in this one. There are only so many times you can tempt fate and not lose someone valuable for the playoffs.

This type of intermeddling ... (Below threshold)
Bob:

This type of intermeddling with contract rights by Senators Kerry, Spector and Leahy just fortifies my negative view of all three. They are poster boys (actually poster geezers) for term limits.

A legal contract between pr... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

A legal contract between private parties is a civil matter, but breaking a court order can be a criminal matter. If WWOR., WCVB and WMUR have legally binding contracts with the NFL they should seek a court injection baring the NFL from giving networks and other stations permission to broadcast the game. If such an injection is granted the NFL would have cover for opposing senators like John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, and Arlen Specter. Not even these self-serving politicians would suggest the NFL should break the law. If they did they could be brought up on ethics charges themselves. It's really up to WWOR., WCVB and WMUR to defend their rights through the courts.

nogo - "I agree more p... (Below threshold)
marc:

nogo - "I agree more people will watch this than the numbers in most Super Bowls...
It is sport history..

You're nothing if not consistent ogo, and this comment prove you're as wrong about sports as you are consistently wrong about politics.

The closest anyone has come to gauging global Super Bowl ratings is a tracking system devised by the New York-based media research firm Initiative, which collects data from 54 of the major TV markets from around the world. According to Initiative's most recent measurement, Super Bowl XL posted an average audience of 98 million, with 151 million tuning in at some point.
If you think for one hot second this game will pull anything close to those numbers you need to put down that crack pipe and slowly back away.

A game that means jack sh*t, has no playoff implications, is NOT "history making" (as in the first team to go undefeated would be), and will be contested after mid-way of the second quarter by 2 and 3rd stringers won'y pull more than a 10% increase in ratings over a "normal" game.

Jay, I normally agree with ... (Below threshold)

Jay, I normally agree with you, and I am equally fascinated/mortified that with everything going on in the world, Congress would stick their noses into this... but you're missing a few things.

I think that the biggest issue with this potentially historic game only being shown on NFL Network is the widespread frustration experienced by football fans who just can't get the games. Even though they're PAYING for NFL Network, they're not paying ENOUGH to get the live games, NFL Net won't budge on price with the cable companies, the cable companies are going to bat for the consumers, and the same cable companies are being vilified and blamed by the customers they're advocating for. It's a touchy situation, and I think that sometimes, in sport, it's ok to make changes so that more people can get in on the fun. I'll be watching the game - a game I wouldn't have been able to see before, and there was NO WAY I could get it.

Also, regarding your statement that the government "rewrote thousands of mortgage agreements", I have been guilty of the same over generalization, and I think it is more correct to say that the government worked with the lenders to minimize foreclosures, minimizing both loss of homes and loss of income to the same banks, along with avoiding potentially devastating damage to the overall economy, and the world. The government isn't forcing banks or consumers to do anything. Am I ticked off because I could have gotten a 'teaser' rate instead of my stodgy old 30-year fixed, and might have been able to lock it in? Heck yeah, but on balance, I think we'll be better off under this plan in the long run.




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