I look east. Tendrils of gray smoke are wafting above the tree line; lazy wisps rise and melt into the muggy summer sky. I start off on the old familiar walk. A light breeze swirls around me, and my pace quickens. Normally, this walk is a slow trudge through deep snow, dragging a wood-laden sled step by booted step. Today, my shoes feel like they’re bouncing along the well-tamped grass and dirt path that leads to the firepit.
The blue bonfire is burning steadily these days. Nearly the full width of the big flame pit is ablaze, and the flames lick several feet into the air. Not far off, log racks slouch under the weight of cords’ worth of chopped, split wood. A row of oaken casks sit dumbly on the ground, as Mother Nature patiently knits together apple juice, yeast, and sugar. The grass has been trimmed, the seats and benches have been painted. All the work to prepare for the season is done. All that’s left to do is wait.
It’s true that the icewall separating the NFL players and owners is melting as we speak. Negotiations continue apace, and news has grown quiet as the principals finally, finally—FINALLY!—finally sit down to negotiate the details of what will be the new CBA. No lawyers, no spin, no grandstanding, no pettiness. Just heads-down effort on getting what must be done, done.
Given the chance, I’d ask the parties involved why this all couldn’t have happened back in February. Of course, I know the owners intended to take this into the regular season, thinking the players wouldn’t grant major concessions without the pressure of missed checks. Of course, the players intended to use the law to stop the owners from applying that pressure. This was a high stakes game of heads-up poker, where both sides knew what cards the other held, and both sides chose to play their hand out to the river anyway.
In the meantime, people have suffered: the fans, the coaches, assistants, trainers, team PR folks, team sales staffs, team administrative assistants, undrafted free agents, free agents to be—and, yes, beat writers and photographers and columnists and bloggers. We all simply wait for the negotiations that should have concluded before the prior CBA expired to conclude. Despite it all, we’ll be thrilled when the talk is over and the ink is dry.
In the meantime, don’t be afraid to stop by the fire. Even if we don’t have new Lions football to endlessly dissect and rehash, me and the rest of the folks here never lack for memories to share or tales to tell. The blue flame of Lions fandom will keep burning, even through the hottest summer and the longest drought.