I feel like tattooed notes to ourselves may be the only way to guarantee that the certain truths of this NFL Lockout are not lost on us. Because, honestly, our collective lack of focus and grasp of basic facts is getting ridiculous.
A couple weeks ago, when the 8th Circuit decided that the injunction against the lockout would not be granted, but allowed the underlying issue of whether the lockout was illegal to remain in federal court, I opined that it might be a good idea for the owners to take a moment and fully consider whether their strategy was wise, and whether some concessions might be appropriate so that a deal could be done quickly. After all, the risk of treble damages in the event that the full season does get locked out...well, you get the idea. My point was only that the owners, and those lawyers counseling them, might be smart to find the quickest way to a deal, even if it meant swallowing a little crow along the way.
Boy if these shady sons of bitches didn't just up and decide to do the exact opposite.
Thursday night, I got to my buddy's place for some drinks before dinner, and we were watching the ESPN coverage of the NFL's decision to agree on a CBA. The coverage was upbeat - finally, something optimistic to report on, and finally some hope that The Network's cash cow would be ready for another season.
Yet, despite my friend's assurance that the players would sign off on deal ASAP (an opinion he based heavily on a conversation down in Cabo this spring with a Jets O-Lineman "who just wants to play"), something wasn't sitting right with me and my gut was telling me that this is far from resolved. Lost in the coverage, at least initially, was really any discussion of what was in the approved CBA, and whether the players would be ok with the proposed deal. Indeed, a fan watching ESPN that night was probably left with the impression that the players had, in fact, ratified the deal already, since the upbeat coverage glossed over the fact that whatever the owners decided on had been a decision solely of their own. In other words, there was no telling during those early moments of coverage if the proposed CBA was a product of negotiations with the players or, as I suspect may be at least partly true, whether the proposed CBA has a bunch of terms that are in direct conflict with the positions of the now-decertified NFLPA.
And then, when DeMaurice Smith had to shoulder his way in between Chris Mortensen and George Smith, just to make it clear that the players hadn't EVEN SEEN THE PROPOSED CBA, it all became all too clear.
Over at Gooses's Roost today, Corey posted the exact kind of reaction that one would expect from the current state of things in the NFL - in essence, fuck 'em all. Part of me wants to jump on board after all of this, but after Thursday night's "deal," and the subsequent revelation that the deal was not the true product of negotiations between ownership and the players, and that certain big issues remain completely unresolved, I'll be remaining on my "fuck the owners (and not the players)" wagon.
Thursday's announcement was nothing more than a transparent attempt to swing the pressure towards the players, and to make them the sole remaining party standing in the way of a 2011 NFL Season.
What a brilliant and completely dick move.
In the end, I suspect that the players will fold, because, in the end, that's what labor does in situations like this. Workers need to work more than owners need to pay their salaries, and most of the players in the NFL don't have the savings to hunker down for a protracted fight without paychecks. It's sad, because the "defender of principle" in me wants to see the fight, and wants to see the little guys get their victory (not to mention their health care coverage).
But, in the event I'm wrong, and we get to see this fight march on, let's all try to remember - no matter what bullshit ESPN is feeding us - that it's the owners that brought us here. The players, who - if you have the privilege to ask any of them - really just want to play, are not the ones who chose the lockout, who chose to deny access to financial statements that might assist in negotiating a compromise, or who chose to present a media narrative that a deal is done without actually allowing their adversaries to consider the terms. These are the indicia of bad faith negotiations, and even if we have to tattoo it on our hand, we need to remember.