Football is back.
After a four-and-a-half month lockout and the longest work stoppage in the National Football League since 1987, fans across the country finally got to hear those three precious words earlier this week, as the NFL Players Association executive board and representatives from the 32 teams in the league finally approved a new collective bargaining agreement with owners.
The new deal is good for the next ten years, and ensures that the only football game that will be canceled this season will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game originally scheduled for August 7th. By the end of the week, all players will have checked into training camp, and teams will be able to begin signing draft picks and partaking in free agency. Come September 8 – the day the New Orleans Saints will travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Super Bowl defending champ Green Bay Packers in the league’s season opener – it will be like nothing ever happened.
One group of fans that is particularly happy about the lockout finally coming to an end is local bar and pub owners, who unlike most of us had a bit more to lose than there Sunday afternoons if a deal between players and owners was never reached.
For obvious reasons, the NFL season brings a healthy dose of patrons and business to their establishments, something many owners said they could simply not afford to miss out on in today’s already slow economy.
“It’s a big chunk of our season, particularly Sunday and the Monday Night Football,” said Tony O’Sullivan, who along with his wife Stephanie owns in Tuckahoe. “This is great news, and I can’t wait for the season to start because we really feel it during the summer. Once it’s over there’s definitely a lull in the Sunday afternoons and evenings. We have a good steady crew that comes in here, so everyone is looking forward to having it come back on.”
One owner who was particularly relieved to see the lockout end was owner of Pete’s Tavern & Restaurant in Bronxville John Lugano, who had hoped of making the 2011-2012 NFL season a big part of his first year on the local bar scene.
“We opened last November so we kind of caught the tail-end of the season,” Lugano said. “I’m all for them ending the lockout. This will be our first football season and you can say that I was a bit nervous we wouldn’t get our first, so I’m very happy.”
Despite these recent anxious times, the general consensus between both football fans and bar owners seems to have been that the lockout would in fact eventually end, with simply too much on the line for both players and owners.
“I wasn’t really too worried about it,” O’Sullivan said. “Football is too big to fail. Even for one season, the TV rights alone… I just didn’t see it happening.”
Of course, and whether they are financially involved or not, even bar owners can appreciate why having football back is just a good thing for the average fan.
“We are a full-fledged Giants bar,” Lugano said. “We’re happy that the Mara family [owners of the New York Giants] put an end to that and that we’re going to get this season going.”