Pretending to Care: Hooters, the NFL and “Fake” Service

In his song “No Sex (In the Champagne Room),” Chris Rock makes the observation that…

No one goes to Hooters for wings!

Of course not!  They go for pushed-up hooters, tiny orange shorts, and fake-tanned legs!  The wings actually suck!

Yeah, this is going to bring the wrong type of traffic to this site!

But the commodification of the female body for Hooters serves a distinct purpose beyond innocent woodies and testosterone pumping.  They are there to distract you; to take your mind off of how ho-hum the food is, how limited the beer selection is, and how boring the Timberwolves-Grizzlies game is.  And the waitresses are there to entrance you in hopes that you leave a nice tip for marginal food and “fake” service.

I am not suggesting that the women who work at Hooters are just dumb broads with nothing else to offer society.  That type of stereotyping is no different than suggesting all men who frequent a Hooters restaurant is a dirty old man.  Some women work at Hooters to pay for school; to better themselves.  Sure, some fit the stereotype, but many more are educated (or becoming educated) and just working in the medium presented to them.

But the business model of Hooters is like the Sirens from Greek mythology.  They entice you.  You sit down and the waitress will playfully flirt; carefully if the significant other is there.  But they will flirt.  They will get you to think that they dig what you are saying about your shitty job or your hobby of collecting stamps or how you think Darko Milicic is actually not that bad of a player.

But the reality is that they do not care.  It is all a ruse.  Because in the end, if they can get you to buy into that flash pseudo-relationship, then you are more likely to tip more than normal.  If they can get you to buy into the false notion that you have a shot with this girl, then you will likely tip more.  It is all “fake” service.  They pretend to care so that you keep coming back.  And so, you tip $10 on an overcooked burger and she walks away with a good payday.  She played you because she knows she is going to get paid and you will come back for more.

How does this relate to the NFL (and sports)?  The NFL, like the Hooters waitress, pretends to care about you.  Certainly commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFLPA are going to say that they need to cut a labor deal “for the fans.”  It is all “for the fans” because that is who they care about and that is who the game is really for.  It is the fans who “pay” the salaries.

Yet, just like the waitress, the NFL is distracting you.  Certainly sports serve as a distraction from the daily grind of life.  But the distraction is that it is “for the fans” insofar as fans pay an exorbitant amount of money to billionaires!  And they are laughing all the way to the bank.

But, the reality is that it is not “for the fans.”  The labor dispute is an argument between millionaires and billionaires about simply shuffling the money around.  Think about this: 15 of the 20 most valuable sports franchises in the world — not just U.S. — are NFL franchises!  The television deal for the NFL is the richest in the world for a given sport (yes, including the Olympic Games).  So it is not like there is a shortage of money.

Owners are going to get paid.  Players are going to get paid.  They are basically nickel-and-diming the fans because they want a few extra numbers here or there.  They are not trying to get a deal done “for the fans”; they are trying to get a deal done for themselves.  If it was for the fans, they would have come up with a deal already.

When the NHL had their lockout and lost an entire season, they made a token gesture to the fans by embedding “Thank You Fans” in the ice.  It was hollow because had they truly cared about “the fans,” they would have gotten through their issues, made concessions, and the 2004-05 season would not have been lost.  As it was, the players and owners could not find a common ground and the lockout ensued.  Ironically, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that expired was agreed upon to end an earlier NHL lockout in 1994.

In the wake of the NHL lockout, a slight majority of fans placed blame on the players rather than the owners.  Perhaps Jeremy Roenick essentially telling unsympathetic fans to “kiss his ass” sums up that notion.  Players will show deference to fans only to the point that it benefits them (positive face time).  Beyond that, they do not give a shit about you or your family.

Well, maybe that is a bit harsh.  Not all players fit that stereotype.  Just like maybe there is a Hooters waitress who really does care about how much sheetrock you hung today.  Players do take time to sign autographs and whatnot.  But when it boils down to money, you see where their allegiance lies.  It is not a bad thing to want to get paid, but given how much players already make it is simply a squabble over small change.  And the fans are left to pay the price…literally.

The entire Super Bowl XLV exemplifies fans paying the price for the general selfishness of the NFL.  The game itself was good (and granted, I like the Packers so the game was grrrrrrrreat!).  But from the silly $200+ fee to stand outside Jerry Jones Stadium — ERRR Cowboy Stadium — to watch the game, to the 400 or so fans who had tickets to the game, to the ridiculous fly-over that no one in the stadium saw live (other than on the Titanic-sized television in the stadium)…this had little to do with the fans.  This was all about maximizing profit and setting some sort of attendance record.  It was about self and not the fans.

If you need more proof about the selfish nature of Super Bowl XLV, read this e-mail published on the website for Business Insider.  It is from one of the “lucky” 400 who were denied the seats that they purchased.  Sure, the NFL is trying to “do the right thing” by offering tickets to either next year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis plus $2400, or a full-paid trip to any future Super Bowl (minus the cash…and non-transferable).  But that is more of a P.R. move as the NFL is getting hammered over this.

Again, if it was for the fans, wouldn’t Jerry Jones had been more prepared?  Dallas (or is it “North Texas”?) was awarded Super Bowl XLV in 2007!  Cowboy Stadium just completed its second season of use.  And the Cowboys’ last game was on 19 December…seven full weeks before the Super Bowl!?  And they still could not complete the task on time!?  Maybe they should have hired Hispanic workers, at least according to South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford.

If it were all for the fans then the NFL would not have allowed Jerry Jones attempt to pack as many people as possible into his stadium in an attempt to break the attendance record.  It was all about self.  The price of tickets for the Super Bowl is ridiculous to begin with; to think that those “luck 400” paid near $800 (at least according to face value) for seats that were to be constructed in a “standing room only” section speaks to that.  This is a reason why I have no problem with a Super Bowl in London…it is already too expensive for “average” people to go to the game!

Wow! $70 for tickets to a Jags game!? How fan-friendly!

And if it were for the fans then part of the negotiation would bring down ticket prices.  With advertisement, television deals, merchandise, sweet stadium deals, and revenue sharing, teams are already walking away with a ton of money.  According to Forbes, in 2009 only two franchises lost money — Detroit ($2.9 million) and Miami ($7.7 million).  Most teams made a profit, with the New York Giants turning the smallest profit ($2.1 million).  Based off the numbers in the article, only three franchises made less than $15 million (with the Lions and Dolphins losing money).

The NFL is a cash cow, so shouldn’t tickets to a Jaguars game not run $70+!?  That is, if it were really for the fans.

The labor dispute and potential lockout are not going to necessarily change the amount of money coming in to the NFL and team owners.  The dispute primarily focuses on the distribution of that money; currently anywhere from 56-60 percent of revenue going to player salaries.  The owners feel they got jobbed with the 2006 extension and are looking to hoard more of the money.  But it is expected to be the same about of money coming in.  It comes down to simply shifting the money around.

So, if players are still going to get paid and owners are still going to get paid…and they are all going to be handsomely paid…then why not compromise and meet somewhere in the middle?  For the fans?

Because it is not for the fans.  All the talk about getting a deal done for the fans is empty…it is fake service to make the fans think the sport is for them.  But let’s be real…while we love football in the U.S., it is still a business.  And when it comes down to it, all that matters is profit margins and getting paid.  And really, even if the lockout does wipe out the 2011 season, the owners are going to get paid anyway thanks to that outrageous television deal that guarantees payment even if no games are played!!! The players are going to be the real ones to suffer.  The fans?  Simply collateral damage.

But the thing is that when a deal is cut, the fans will come back.  Any notion that a prolonged lockout will irreparably damage the NFL’s reputation and fan loyalty is nonsense because it will not hit as hard as the NHL or Major League Baseball and their respective lockouts.  We, as fans, have been entranced by the Siren song of the NFL.  Like the Hooters waitress, the NFL “flirts” with us and makes us believe that they want us.  And in the end, we always go back because we have bought into the “fake” service — “it is for the fans.”

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