With the Lions in the midst of a three-game winning streak, and looking to make it four before a likely-to-be-sold-out home crowd, it’s easy to forget that this is it. Sunday is the end of the regular season, and of course the Lions won’t be playing in the postseason. This Sunday is the last Lions football we’ll have for months . . . maybe many months.
It has in fact been months since I wrote my epic post about the NFL, the NFLPA, and their CBA. In the intervening time, there’s been very little (read: no) public progress. At the time, I was frustrated at both sides’ focus on posturing, saber-rattling, and attempting to get fans “on their side”—a waste of time, since fans won’t ever be on either side. Unfortunately, while the rhetoric got spicier, the negotiating seemed to go stale. Fed up, I challenged George Atallah, NFLPA Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, to explain why the players and league appeared to be at a standstill. His reply, via the @NFLLockout Twitter feed:
A smart business person in my previous job told me the first rule of negotiations is that 2 sides want a deal.
The implication here is clear: the NFL isn’t budging, despite the NFLPA’s willingness to negotiate. Indeed, the tenor of the NFLPA’s public statements and releases has changed over the last few weeks. First, Atallah wrote an open letter to sports editors, explaining the division of NFL revenue in plain language and hard facts. Then, during a media conference call, NFLPA executive committee members Brian Dawkins and Mike Vrabel explained that progress has been both promising and frustrating:
“I would think common sense would say at the end of the day, after all the fighting and after all the words are said, we understand who butters our bread. That’s where the urgency comes in at.”
I went to the NFL's CBA information site (NFLlabor.com, which is kind of a neat trick), and the only recent reference to the negotiations (that wasn’t a straight parody of an NFLPA release) is a link to a USA Today story that says it’s NFL who’s getting anxious about the NFLPA’s lack of commitment:
Last Sunday night, Goodell told reporters in Foxborough, Mass., that his "biggest frustration is the commitment and the energy that needs to be there. .. we (need) to get there as quickly as possible."
. . . A day later, in Minneapolis, Goodell told reporters, "I have said it publicly and I will say it again: If everyone gives a little, everyone will get a lot.. .. Any negotiation you have, not everyone is going to get what they want."
Ganis, who said he spoke with Goodell in Fort Worth, said the commissioner's "mood is not quite anxious yet, but clearly he wants to get to the negotiating table. .. get to the substance of it."
. . . of course, the last line in that article kind of puts the damper on all this supposed eagerness:
The Chicago-based businessman, who has done stadium-related work for the league in the past, said owners are "absolutely determined" not to repeat what they believe were mistakes that led to the last extension agreement.
“Absolutely determined” not repeat the mistakes that made the last agreement possible? Someone must have left a window open, because I certainly feel winter’s chill setting in. I know that doomsday talk and posturing is all part of process, but it seems like an agreement is still painfully far away. Let’s enjoy the Lions this Sunday folks; it may be a long, long time before we see them again.