Salary cap KILLING the Bills

THINGS AREN'T GOING too well for the Bills this year. And it's not just on the field either. Right now I'm sitting here writing this in their media room at team headquarters, and I notice that the men's room toilet has been running for like four-and-a-half hours. I can only assume that the physical plant manager, who would have taken care of this major malfunction, was let go in some kind of salary cap move . . .

that vice president and general manager Tom Donahoe tried to slip through without anyone noticing.

[Incidentally, Donahoe can be a little sneaky like that. This morning he cut Bills all-time leading scorer Steve Christie, and instead of putting it on the front of a press release that detailed numerous other roster moves, he had it on the other side of the release at the bottom of the page in tiny fine credit-card print – upside down and backward! I mean, how many people look at the other side of a press release, let alone even bother turning it upside down and looking at it in a mirror to see what the fine print says? Not too many – except for me.]

WELL, WITH THE men's room toilet acting up, any logical thinker like me would notice and conclude right away that the Bills must have released the physical plant manager. Geez, it would have been impossible NOT to notice.  The toilet sounds like an F-16 fighter jet that just broke the sound barrier, yet no one around here is doing a darn thing about it. Something must be terribly wrong. I fear the toilet will run until the football season ends; until the Bills can finally cut some players, get some cap relief and re-sign the physical plant manager. Certainly, his first order of business will be the men's room toilet. But of course, by that time we'll all be deaf and bleeding from our ears, so it won't matter if it's quiet then.

And a few minutes ago, as the temperature of this room approached 80 degrees, I had to walk over and turn the air conditioning on. After all, beads of sweat were hitting my keyboard and I thought I was going to electrocute myself.

As it turned out, the AC must have been off all day. Maybe it had been off for weeks, even months. Much to my surprise there was a little note inside the thermostat that said, "Please keep AC off. Must sign Sam Cowart this off-season. – TD."

Man, Donahoe is taking penny-pinching to a level I've never seen before. But apparently, he's within his rights. I looked it up. Under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, a team does not have to share revenues with other franchises that are generated from not operating the air conditioner in a team's media room. That's a new one to me, but at least that explains why Redskins owner Daniel Snyder charges $50 a minute for AC in his team's media room.

ANYWAY, I BLAME the salary cap for all this, even though it's a financial reality in the NFL that probably won't go away. As much as it assaults our American beliefs in capitalism, free enterprise, laissez-faire economics and democracy, it's an extremely necessary tool. The NFL spin doctors have craftily marketed the salary cap as a way to keep ticket prices down for fans, but we all know the real reason it exists is because owners would be losing so much money without it, they would probably be destitute and living in cardboard boxes outside their stadiums. And that would certainly hurt the image of the league.

The problem with the salary cap is that hardly anyone has a concrete understanding of how it operates. Certainly, if we grasp the basic concept – that all NFL teams are given the same salary cap figure for an upcoming season, and salaries for the entire team can't exceed that figure – then at least we understand it better than John Butler does.

But once teams throw in guaranteed signing bonuses, performance bonuses, off-season attendance bonuses, bonus bonuses and Arvydas Sabonis (hahahahahaha), then they divide those figures equally over the length of player contracts, and then the league throws in all kinds of wacky dates that affect how much these teams do or do not have underneath their cap, it just becomes complete and utter chaos.

ALL IS NOT LOST, however. The good thing is that when we finally understand all of the extraneous salary cap variables, we'll have increased our brainpower tenfold and we'll be able to read books and do complex quantum physics problems in just a few seconds – maybe even all at the same time, while we're riding bicycles – though we won't need them because our mastery of quantum physics will allow us to build transporters – as seen on Star Trek.

In addition, we'll actually have the intellectual capabilities to design and develop nuclear missiles in our own backyards. And we'll begin looking like big-brained aliens – as also seen on Star Trek – because our brains will be so huge. And they'll pulsate like thumping hearts, pumping out intricate mathematical formulas with every pulsation.

Obviously, there is so much potential good to come from learning the NFL salary cap, I can't figure out why on God's green earth the league goes out of its way to hide the key financials that would allow outsiders to understand it That only leads to rampant speculation and inaccurate reporting, which are the enemies of any large public organization.

Because the salary cap affects competitive balance, just as good drafts and good coaching do, the facts and figures for every team must be made public, just as the qualities of a player or coach are talked about and made public. If that doesn't happen in the future, we can safely conclude that the NFL is doing nothing to make our brains bigger. And that makes my brain really sad.

Mike Doser stays up nights thinking of this stuff.


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