This time next year an NFL lockout may be a reality.

The last time there was an NFL work stoppage was in 1987. It's starting to look like a reality for 2011.

NFL owners and players appear miles apart in labor negotiations and the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in March.

If a new deal isn’t reached, the ramifications will be felt throughout the nation, but Indianapolis will be hit the hardest.

Of course no fan wants to see a work stoppage – particularly if your NFL franchise is as successful as the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts have made the playoffs in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Only two other teams have been to the playoffs more than six times during that span – Philadelphia (8) and New England (7).

With Peyton Manning approaching 35, the Colts’ window of opportunity is closing fast. Considering they only have one Super Bowl victory in 10 postseason appearances during the Manning Era, they can ill-afford to lose another shot at one while No. 18 is still behind center.

While the Colts would be hurt by the lockout, the effect would pale in comparison to the impact it will have on the city of Indianapolis.

Since Indianapolis was awarded the 2012 Super Bowl in May of 2008, the city has been hard at work in preparation. Significant time and money has been invested, and numerous jobs have been created to meet the demand of the monumental event.

In fact, Ball State University’s Bureau of Business Research has estimated that the Super Bowl could deliver an economic boost of more than $350 million, create about 5,000 jobs, and bring in more than $30 million in tax revenue.

In the current economic climate losing that kind of revenue and job creation would be a huge blow to the city.

The NFL hasn’t considered what will happen to Indianapolis if the 2012 Super Bowl is cancelled. We do know the next two Super Bowls are already booked for New Orleans (2013) and New Jersey (2014).

On the bright side, even if the owners and players can’t come to a labor agreement prior to the 2011-12 NFL season, there would still be hope for an abbreviated season.

In 1982 a players’ strike reduced the NFL season to nine games, but the Super Bowl still occurred. Similarly the 1998-99 NBA season was shortened thanks to labor disputes, but a 50-game schedule was played, and the NBA Finals went on as planned.

On the other hand, the NHL and MLB have both seen their postseasons cancelled over the past two decades due to work stoppages.

It seems a lockout would hurt everyone involved. Players don’t get paid, owners and cities lose revenue, and fans become jaded.

The future of the NFL is far from certain and the 2012 Super Bowl is very much in question. In the meantime the Colts will have another crack at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy following the 2010-11 season. With a lockout looming, they’d better make the most of the opportunity.

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