Concussions? The NFL wants to cut down on concussions? Heck, I’m pretty sure I’ve got one after being subjected to these CBA Follies in recent weeks. My symptoms:
● Headaches/general fuzziness. (Feels like I’ve been beating my head against a wall. Hey, wait a minute … I have.)
● Seeing stars. (Is that Drew Brees who just walked into the negotiating room?)
● Amnesia. (Some days, I can’t even remember the ’82 and ’87 strikes.)
● Nausea and vomiting. (No need to elaborate here.)
● Fatigue. (There’s nothing more tiresome than billionaires fighting over money with millionaires.)
Yup, it’s a textbook case. In fact, the boss might have to list me as doubtful for my next blog.
As you’ve probably heard, talks between the owners and players are headed into double overtime. Thursday – at the behest of a federal mediator – the two sides agreed to a 24-hour extension, and Friday they extended that extension another week. Let’s hope they can reach an agreement without having to extend the extension of their original extension, because that might give me another concussion.
You almost wonder whether the league looks at these proceedings as just More Offseason Programming for the NFL Network – as something to serve as a bridge from the scouting combine to the draft. The last two Super Bowls, after all, have been the most-watched TV shows in U.S. history, so there’s a very good chance this will be the most-watched labor negotiation in U.S. history. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Roger Goodell, the Christian LeBlanc of commissioners, is nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
This is the third time we’ve been subjected to this ordeal, to the sight of owners and players fencing over finances … and holding the fans and the season hostage. On each occasion, I’ve been reminded of what Clemenza told Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” (before Mikey ruined a police captain’s perfectly good veal dinner by pumping two bullets into him): “These things gotta happen every five years or so, 10 years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood.”
Actually, it’s been 24 years since the NFL and NFLPA last went to the mattresses – a period that future historians no doubt will dub Pax Tagliabue. The peace was finally broken by the owners, who opted out of the previous deal because they thought it was too favorable to the players. Or to put it another way: The Gravy Train isn’t enough for them anymore; they want to turn it into the Acela.
Negotiations heated up after the union got a favorable ruling earlier this week from old friend David Doty, the federal judge in Minneapolis. It was Doty who, in 1992, helped clear the way for free agency. On Tuesday he told the owners they couldn’t use their $4 billion in broadcast revenue to keep things going while they locked out the players and played the Waiting Game.
(Interesting guy, this Doty. He apparently went out for football years ago at the University of Minnesota, but three weeks into training camp, “after having been repeatedly bruised and battered,” Patrick M. Arenz wrote in the January 2007 issue of The Federal Lawyer, he began to question whether he was cut out for the game. “He recounts that once, after practice, he fell asleep in the bathtub while studying trigonometry. The book’s red dye colored the water in the tub, leading his mother to think he had died. Shortly thereafter, he reached the decision that football was not for him.”)
Had the clock struck 12 Friday and a lockout ensued, it would have given new meaning to the term Midnight Madness. I mean, the NFL is the most profitable enterprise in history of perspiration. Compared to other leagues, it’s the Death Star. Surely the two parties can find a middle ground on such issues as an 18-game season, a rookie wage scale and – the major sticking point – the owners’ desire to give themselves an additional $1 billion tip.
Fortunately, labor and management had the good sense to back away from the precipice. As Jeffrey Pash, the league’s general counsel, put it, “There’s been enough serious discussion to warrant both sides taking this step.”
In other words, they’ve been able to agree on a caterer. Now for the hard part.