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Could Indy Lose the 2012 Super Bowl?

There’s a story brewing in Miami, and no, it doesn’t involve the Indianapolis Colts Dwight Freeney‘s ankle. Jerraud Powers’ foot either. It’s a story that could rock the NFL landscape in 2011, and it could greatly affect Indianapolis, Indiana, host of the 2012 Super Bowl.

The National Football League and the NFL Players Association are currently at odds over terms for the new collective bargaining agreement. If a deal is not signed by March — and all signs point to no chance of that happening — the league would become uncapped for the 2010-11 season. Meaning teams with deep pockets won’t be restricted by a salary cap, and thus allowed to spend freely to stock their squads with the best free agents available. Having one uncapped year won’t greatly alter the league, but it’ll definitely represent a change. That’s not the issue at hand however. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement by the end of next year, the players will be locked out by the owners. And if there’s no football, there will be no Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

The benefits of hosting a Super Bowl are enormous. Not only will the city receive an estimated cash influx of more than $120 million, the worldwide exposure and opportunity to showcase Indy to visiting business leaders would be instrumental in raising the Circle City’s national profile. On the flip side, investing millions of dollars into the planning of a Super Bowl only to have the event taken away because of greedy owners — Jim Irsay‘s involved in this, don’t forget that — could have devastating ramifications.

Speaking at the Super Bowl, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), was than less than optimistic about the chances of the Player’s Association coming to terms with NFL anytime soon. He was downright bleak, in fact. The league and the owners, who would receive $5 billion from network television deals even if there’s a lockout in 2011, are asking that the players take, on average, a $340,000 per player pay cut. As Smith told the media, that’s a “tough sell.”

Peyton Manning, always the diplomat, told the Indianapolis Star: “I think as a player, I feel we have a pretty good thing going right now in the NFL…it would be a shame for something to have to change.” And Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae, president of the players’ union, was recently quoted as saying “the players are more united than ever before, and we’re preparing for a lockout.”

Gulp.

This wouldn’t be the first time there’s been a work stoppage in the National Football League. In 1982 the players went on a 57-day strike that resulted in the schedule being reduced from 16 games to nine. The playoffs were extended to 16 teams in what was called a “Super Bowl tournament.” The NFLPA struck again in 1987, but the owners had a backup plan. After sitting out the first week of the season, teams hired “scab players” to replace the striking regulars and played three games with the replacements before the union caved and returned to the field. In both circumstances, the union was financially unable to sit out the entirety of a season, but this time around, with years of forewarning, they’ll be prepared.

I’ve always figured the two sides would eventually come to some sort of agreement — why would they want to screw up a good thing — before anything debilitating happens, but with the way things are sounding down in Miami, that possibility seems to be growing less and less. So if you were planning on partying in downtown Indianapolis during Super Bowl week 2012, you might want to have a backup plan. I hear New Orleans is rocking this time of year.

Whether you’re an Indianapolis sports fan who follows the Colts, or someone simply interested in all the story-lines coming out of this year’s Super Bowl, keep checking back with funcityfinder.com on a daily basis.