I just got back to Atlanta after a week of traveling (with no internet *gasp*) to Chicago to sing at the American Choir Directors Association national convention (woot!) with the Emory Concert Choir. It was a wonderful experience, and I was very glad to see the City of Chicago, eat some deep-dish pizza, see some unique, sausage-based art at the Chicago Art Institute, and find out what a "francheezie" is. I like my arteries too much to try one, but I had a nice discussion before it got to the table wondering how one would get a hot dog "filled with cheese." I imagined cheese direct-injected into a foot-long using a syringe. Their idea was much more reasonable. But while I had a great time in Chicago, I felt like I missed something without my usual dose of BCC, and after being disconnected from the sports world for most of the week, I was greeted by news of de-certification and details concerning player Anti-trust lawsuits. Yikes.
I spoke to my dad today to discuss the lock-out, and his advice was pretty straight-forward: "You might want to get a new hobby for a little while..."I am by nature an optimist, and I am rapidly becoming a fan of all the pre-draft bells and whistles, so rest assured, I will not be jumping ship here on Big Cat. However, I do feel some concern now about the Lock-out. I'm not naive enough to think that either side wants to miss any games in the upcoming season, but the players seem very bitter about the whole thing, and the NFL seems to be in a very tough place. I don't know exactly what happened behind closed doors, but based on the press release sent out from the NFL, posted on Friday on Jaguars.com, things don't look good.
If everything contained in the NFL's letter is true, they have offered some significant victories to the NFLPA including keeping the 16-game schedule, increasing post-career NFL health plans, and a reduced pay-scale for first round rookies. The NFL's offer is essentially a "more of the same for now" proposal with tweaks for the out-of-control rookie spending and insufficient post-career care. The NFL's primary reason for the letter is to save face by disclosing the terms of the deal they offered and maintain public support. The Players Association's response was to deny the offer and de-certify. That's not a good sign. Once the Union de-certifies, it means the players can no longer engage in discussions with the NFL. Yes, the players are saying: "We don't even want to talk about this any more."
The NFL's letter, however is not only meant to garner fan support. In reading between the lines, it seemed as though the NFL was letting slip a certain amount of desperation. The NFL takes a jab at the NFLPA, saying the union "left a very good deal on the table," but then turns around and insists that the NFLPA was offered "financial disclosure... not even shared with the NFL clubs." The NFL stresses the need to get back to the bargaining table and states that they "remain committed" to reaching a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Their statement about de-certification and the anti-trust lawsuit is that it will "merely delay the process of reaching an agreement." The NFL seems to feel no fear of losing the court case, but instead harps on preserving time. The NFL wants this deal done. The NFL's rhetoric is forceful so as not to betray any weakness, but I have little doubt that, at least to the NFL, the players now hold the power. The problem with that is, with the Union de-certified, there is no longer anyone to weild that power.
We've reached a stalemate in the NFL vs. the players battle for now, and nothing can be done until the players return to the table. It would be wise for them to do so soon, because the balance of power has undoubtedy shifted in their direction. Odds are, it will not remain that way for long.