As you know, Friday is June 3rd. If you are a died-in-the-wool football fan like we who read AP even during the off season, then you already know what happens Friday. If you are a casual football fan, who loves to root for a team but really doesn't follow the league's machinations during the part of the season where games are not played, then you may not be aware of what is going to happen on Friday and what effect it could have on NFL football.
On Friday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is going to begin hearing arguments on whether or not the lockout is legal, and whether or not the Norris-Laguardia Act applies to management lockouts as well as employee strikes. The Act denies district courts the ability to become involved in disputes that arise from labor negotiations, just like the current dispute between the NFL players and owners did back in March.
Many believe that this is the most significant court decision that will be handed down during this work stoppage. They believe that because they also believe that the players did all of this in order to gain leverage to be used in the next CBA. Leverage that will hypothetically be used to hold the owners feet to the fire and get the most favorable deal possible. If the players lose this decision, 'they' say, then the players will have to give in and start negotiating again. 'They' say that if that happens, we will have a quick and decisive end to a work stoppage that has now lasted 81 days if you count March 11th as the day the decertification happened and the lockout began.
I am not so sure that 'they' haven't missed a few things. It all keeps coming back to the fact that both sides did not only disagree, they actually agreed that they had irreconcilable differences. Both sides knew the fight was going to court, and both sides knew that there would only be one winner. For the owners 'winning' (thank you Charlie Sheen for putting that reverberating word in my conciousness forever) means a new CBA.
Does anyone really know what 'winning' means to the players? There may actually be over 1800 ideas of what 'winning' means. I have not heard one person involved with the players side in this thing actually state what it is that would bring this thing to an end for them. All they say is that they want the lockout lifted so they can play football. How can we have football with no guidelines set for how the teams run their businesses? I've seen a couple of bloggers who are citing anonymous sources (players) who have said that they really don't know much about what is going on with the law suit(s) because no one is communicating with them. If that is true, what would those players consider a win?
This lack of cohesiveness among players concerning what they actually expected to gain from this lockout is troubling. How do they maintain a constant theme if they don't have a clear picture of the end game? This lack of vision could easily end up costing the players more than they would otherwise have had to give up simply because it will take so long to get them all on the same page.
Roger Goodell made this quote recently concerning how long this could go on without some irreversible consequences:
"We've made it clear that (revenue loss) is current and will continue to accelerate and impact on the ability of ownership to make an offer (the players) find attractive," he said.
In other words, the longer this goes on the less you get.
In an effort to sound very Gene Upshaw-ish, De Smith decided to drive the wedge between the lockout and a new CBA being completed even deeper:
“When I went into this,” Smith said, “my attitude was that the only way you have power is collectively, and I believed in unions as vehicles for employees asserting their rights. But looking back on what Gene [Upshaw] experienced and understanding this particular situation, I’ve now come to appreciate the value of decertification in our particular circumstance. And I don’t see why we’d want to go back to being a union.”
Posturing for leverage? Just when does he plan on using it? If the court decision goes against the players as expected, this just prolongs the process of getting back to some collective bargaining. It would seem the only way that this would be of any value whatsoever would be if they were currently negotiating. Since that is not the case, who's to say that his version of 'winning' isn't prevailing in the anti-trust case that would destroy the league as we know it today?
Then there is this. Chester Pitts, the Seahawks player rep was asked about whether the owners could just 'wait out' the players until they start missing game checks. Many believe that this will be the ultimate tipping point to get a deal done. Not necessarily, says Pitts:
"That's why for the last two and a half years we've done everything we could to prepare for that," Pitts said. "There's going to be guys more prepared than other guys but we have a plan in place for the guys that may need a little bit of help. We have a fund called 'Players Helping Players.' We're in it for the long haul."
Does that sound like someone who wants leverage or someone who wants to win?
Sorry folks, but the idea that this is all about leverage when everyone involved is willing to lose 9 billion dollars in revenue, miss an entire season, risk damaging fan support in a way that has never happened to the NFL and/or destroy the current league in hopes of improvement on the day after Armageddon, is farcical. This isn't about getting a deal done, it's about winning. Friday we begin to find out which side is which. I just hope that knowledge doesn't lead to the beginning of the end.