NFL fans only want to be able to watch the players they love, not imposters. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Just a number?

The lockout and the possibility of a standoff between players and management well into this year’s training camps and maybe into the season raises some interesting questions: Number one being, what the hell do we do if there is no season?

What’s even a more interesting question is whether fans would buy tickets and turn out for games if management decided to go on with the season with scab players … what would you do? Would you attend Green Bay Packers games if the only recognizable people on the field were the coaches?

Would you go to a game wearing your number 12 replica jersey knowing full well that there could well be a number 12 under center for the Packers, but that person wouldn’t go by the name of Aaron Rodgers? What if that mystery player was throwing to a number 80 or an 85, 87 or 88? Would you continue to cheer for the team or are you a fan who knows who usually wears those numbers and would have a difficult time getting over the fact that those guys were also watching from their living rooms?

Interesting question … and I’m sure one that, should it come to pass, will bother a great many fans of not only the Green Bay Packers, but fans of every other team in the league.

I’m sure Vikings fans are not going to be happy watching a number 28 run the 40 in a time that would embarrass even the slowest of current NFL players. I’m sure Pittsburgh Steelers fans would have a difficult time watching a number 7 run the team’s offense. How about a player wearing the Colts’ number 18?

There are many fans who might like the change … after all, football isn’t like baseball or basketball where you see the faces of each player clearly and recognizably. Football players wear helmets and enough pads to make one’s body unrecognizable. If there is a sport of anonymity, it is football.

However, put the top players – the Bradys, the Rodgers’s, the Petersons, the Mannings, on a picture board and I would think any NFL fan who is even minutely serious about the game will recognize these stars.

Football has become America’s game, while baseball is America’s pastime. Basketball has become international. To put anyone on the field wearing number 12, number 18 or number 28 for any team in the league will be a mistake by the owners and something the players should not allow to happen.

The league and the players association are nearing crunch time. Something must be resolved soon so that Anerica can get back to its game … the game fans love. Yes, we are enamored with the baseball season and will continue to have a deep-seated love affair with our pastime … but to take away the game that so many of us have grown up with … that will be a crime.

To try to put the game on the field with a bunch of imposters will be treason.

We want our players. We want our stars … we want our game.

Get it done and let’s move on.

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