Congratulations to the NFL owners for finding a way to screw up a good thing.

Today it was announced that mediation between the players and the NFL owners would be halted until June after the next courtroom milestone. I’m not intending to recap the gory details of this craptacular labor fight. Frankly, I’m sick of reading about the details of this. I just want what every other fan wants, which is a chance to follow actual football news without the backdrop of greedy owners trying their damnedest to wring every last penny of profit out of the game.

The NFL has worked hard over the last decade to turn the distraction and entertainment the league provides into a year round affair. The days of only being able to follow your favorite team during the months they are actually playing games have longed passed. Now, football is essentially a year round affair, with brief lulls in February and June. When the season ends, you follow your team into free agency, evaluating every move right along with them. After that, you turn to the gala spectacle of the NFL draft where every team gets the guy they want and everyone is a future superstar or diamond in the rough. After that, you get your first glimpses of the team they could field as minicamps are run in May and June. Finally, the actual playing of football can be glimpsed on the horizon as training camp opens in late July or early August.

Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly unhealthy obsession with all of it. I’ll watch every hour of the draft either on TV or now streaming to the iPad. I’ll check incessantly during the free agent period to find out not only who my favorite team is rumored to be interested in but also who their rivals are picking up. When minicamps roll around, I’ll watch the coach’s interviews, check out the still photos from practice, and even watch film of the drills. In late July, I’ll pick up Football Outsiders Almanac and read through the statistical breakdown of every team in the league.

In short, the NFL has become my primary diversion outside of work and the struggles of the real world. I don’t have to worry about budget or deadlines, I can just bask in the ever-increasing details of this modern-day gladiator tournament.

Coming out of college, my first purchase for myself was a DirecTV satellite dish just so I could get the NFL Sunday Ticket package and watch every game the Philadelphia Eagles play. The Eagles went 3-13 that season, but I’ve had the Sunday ticket package ever since. Over the years, I’ve been to Eagles games in Houston, Dallas, Oakland, and of course Philadelphia. I’ve done game charting for Football Outsiders and recorded detailed play-by-play data of games throughout the season. I’ve written guest blog posts for FO and the now defunct Igglesblog. Naturally, I run or participate in at least 3 fantasy football leagues a year.

Except I can’t do any of that this year. This year, I read through details of how the owners cancelled the existing collective bargaining agreement because they wanted an additional billion dollars of revenue taken out of what’s currently going to players salaries. I read daily updates on the latest in lawsuits, appeals, and media pandering. It all feels too much like work.

I also read heart-breaking stories about the heroes of my youth, like Andre Waters, and players who I saw give their all to the team, like Kevin Turner, and I can’t help but feel they deserve every penny they earn in this sport. I shudder to think what will happen to Brian Dawkins, possibly my favorite player of all time, in another 10-20 years. Will he turn into another Waters or Dave Duerson?

Yes, the players know full well they’re going to be beat up and physically abused in their career, but that doesn’t mean they should expect to be crippled, mentally or physically, for the rest of their lives. A coal miner knows the risks of the job too, but that doesn’t mean he’s at fault if he dies because the mine collapses or he doesn’t get compensated if he develops black lung. In the same way, it shouldn’t be acceptable for players to expect to wind up permanently debilitated because they chose to play this game.

So I want most of every dollar I pay to go to the players who are giving their all to win, not to the greedy bastards who strongarm taxpayers into paying for stadiums, who sell ridiculous personal seat licenses that allow you the right to buy season tickets, or who charge full price for shoddy exhibition games. I have no love lost for owners like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder who seem hell-bent on sucking every last dollar out of the fans’ pockets. (For some reason, I have a slightly higher opinion of the Rooneys, Bob Kraft, Maras, and Jeff Lurie, though maybe it’s just because they aren’t as overtly money-grubbing or they just have better PR people.)

Now, I’m not going to make a ridiculous claim about not watching or going to games once it resumes, but I am going to have to seriously think about dropping the hefty chunk of change now required for Sunday Ticket if they’re only going to have 8 crappy games this fall. However, I’m an admittedly hardcore fan and if I already feel this disenchanted with the whole mess, how do the casual fans feel?

The owners would do well to remember that nothing lasts forever. Rome fell, the Titanic sank, and even the almighty NFL can fall from grace. The only question is, can anyone save them from themselves?