Wary Of A Strike, Bob Wilds Pitches Post-Super Bowl Boycott
By: Elsa H. Partan
To describe how he feels about watching a season of football, Robert B. Wilds uses the analogy of taking in a great work of literature or theatrical masterpiece.
“It is like a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, with characters who grow and change, and rookies who save the day,” he said. “At the end of a football season, I feel gratitude for being able to watch it all unfold.”
At the start of each season, he scrutinizes the New England Patriots’ calendar and makes predictions about how the story will go. He reads about how the team is practicing and which players are injured. Not only does the Mashpee resident watch every Patriots game on TV, he records the games and watches them again during the week.
“You might think I have a screw loose, but I think I’m pretty typical for a fan,” Mr. Wilds said.
The possibility that the professional football season will be delayed in the fall because of a contract dispute has made him seriously unhappy.
“All the emotions that I felt during the first baseball strike in the 1970s came back,” he said.
He was 21 during the 1972 strike of Major League Baseball players, which lasted 13 days and wiped out 86 games across the country. Already a devoted fan, Mr. Wilds had skipped school to attend every opening game of the Boston Red Sox since he was 14 years old. When opening day was canceled that year, he felt betrayed.
Boycotters Web Resource
- Robert Wilds is selling T-shirts for $19.95 at his NFL boycott website, www.rayvanmad.com, which he plans to launch today.
- A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the families of soldiers who have been injured or killed in action.
“It tore me to shreds. I vowed that I would never go to another game again,” he said.
This time, Mr. Wilds is organizing a boycott of the National Football League. As soon as the Super Bowl is over on Sunday, Mr. Wilds has resolved not to buy any NFL paraphernalia and not to purchase any tickets to games. If the NFL season is delayed in the fall, he will not watch the first three games on TV when they resume, plus continue his boycott of all NFL products and tickets, and extend the boycott to companies that advertise during NFL games.
Mr. Wilds is an entrepreneur with several projects already underway. He is a co-founder of a natural baby wipe company, a kayak and whale watch guide, and a self-published novelist and screenwriter working to produce his own movie on Cape Cod.
Armed with T-shirts and a website, Mr. Wilds is asking other football fans to join him.
“The message is, ‘We won’t be there when you come back,’ ” he said.
The idea got a mixed response from patrons at Dino’s Sports Bar on Route 151 this week. As a Boston Bruins’ game flashed above their heads, Mr. Wilds explained the boycott to Charles Dillard Jr. and Robin D. Roderick, who said they are football fans.
“I’m trying to say, ‘Don’t mess with us,’ ” he concluded.
The two shook their heads and said they did not see the point.
“I don’t see who it hurts,” Mr. Dillard said.
Jennifer Papageorge, sipping a bright red drink at the bar, said that she could not give up football, even for a short time. “There’s so much going on in the world with terrorism, racism, and the bad economy, while sports binds us together,” she said. “I don’t want to take that out of my life. It brings joy to my life.”
Bartender Leonard (Matt) Goldman was willing to go along with the boycott, saying that he could set aside his typical purchase of one jersey a year and skip watching a few games.
“If they don’t consider the fans, I would absolutely give it up,” he said. “If the owners want to be that greedy.”
For his part, Mr. Wilds does not blame the NFL owners more than the players, asserting that both are at fault.
The dispute centers on how the two sides will split up the league’s revenue. The owners say they made a mistake five years ago when they agreed to give players about 60 percent of the $8 billion annually. Now they say they need about $1 billion of that money back to help pay for new stadiums they built. They proposed to extend the regular season from 16 to 18 games as a way to make up some of the difference.
But some players contend that two extra games with no extra pay is unfair, especially given that each game presents a chance for serious injuries. If the players refuse to sign on, the owners have threatened to lock them out, which could delay the start of the 2011 football season.
Reached on his cellphone, bar owner Constantinos (Dino) Mitrokostas said he would take a financial hit if football disappeared from the calendar. He estimated that customers who come to watch football account for about 10 percent of his yearly revenue. The effect is more dramatic if you look at individual Sundays.
“There is a minimum 50 percent increase in business when the Patriots are playing on Sunday,” he said. “On playoff days, it’s a 100 percent increase in business.”
Based on the billions of dollars at stake for both the players and the owners, Mr. Mitrokostas said he fully expects they will avoid a lockout.
“They’re not going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs,” he said.
Asked whether he would support a boycott of the NFL, Mr. Mitrokostas said he did not think it was necessary, adding that there is a natural consequence for the league if they do not work out their problems.
“Nobody will be buying NFL T-shirts anyway if they are not playing football,” he said.
Besides, the fans should not take the labor dispute as a personal affront, he argued.
“It’s just business. There are more important things to worry about in life than football.”
Mr. Wilds countered that the relationship fans have with a sport is more than business.
“They have intentionally made us loyal, loving fans,” he said. “They have made an emotional attachment that is as strong as any in our lives.”
As Mr. Wild’s own story demonstrates, the heart of a sports fan can take a long time to heal. After the baseball strike of 1972, Mr. Wilds did eventually go to another Red Sox game. It was 15 years later.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.