I think we can all agree that there's nothing quite inspirationally nonsensical as union and management people crying doom in unison more than a year before doom can actually be enacted.
But let's hope both DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell are richly supplied with shovels over the next year or so, because the NFL's pending labor-management strife looks like it's going to be big fun.
Of course, neither side is being quite honest with the other, because both sides have every motivation to lie through their collective nostrils and no reason whatsoever to level.
In other words, we believe quite confidently that the owners never told the players they wanted an 18 percent pay cut, and we are just as sure that the players heard that very thing.
In other words, being full of mulch is as vital to negotiators as hammers are to carpenters.
That said, the owners are less worthy of the benefit of the doubt because they always talk about the potential doom of the league, and nothing is more sure than the league's continued wealth. As an example, they have $5 billion coming from the networks for the 2011 season, even if the 2011 season never happens.
Now that's liability insurance.
Are the owners feeling pinches? Yes, indeed they are, but it isn't because the teams aren't churning up money with every turn of the wheel. It's actually because lots of owners either bought their teams with a lot of borrowed money, or had investments go sour in other industries, or are looking at enormous estate tax liabilities because the principal owner croaked without making proper provisions for the afterlife.
In addition, the heavyweight owners are trying to limit or eliminate their revenue sharing responsibilities to their revenue inferiors, an owner-on-owner fight Goodell can't solve since he is paid by all of them. The less-millionaired owners budget with that revenue sharing money in mind, and are being asked to have their pay cut in the same way that players are being asked to accept theirs, and they're not very happy about it.
Thus, this is an ownership problem more than it is a player problem, and as bosses are wont to do in every walk of life, they want the workers to pay for the owners' mistakes.
Now you may think that's just fine because you're an owners' kind of guy, and you're entitled to believe what you want (we're real sports that way), but the owners' largest issues are with themselves, how they have conducted themselves and how they view each other.
These are fundamental issues that actually have nothing to do with the players at all.
If the big-money owners -- Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft, Danny Snyder, etc. -- could lay off some of their partners -- say, Ralph Wilson, Wayne Weaver, Al Davis, whoever owns the Rams next week -- they would do it cheerfully and swiftly. And then they would demand that the players give back a hunk of their money as well, just to keep their salary-cutting chops well honed.
But they can't punish their partners, at least not yet. They tried when they wanted to get rid of supplemental revenue sharing for 2010, but an arbitrator read the contracts that bind them and saw no provision allowing for good-natured cannibalism, or even shoe-squeezing.
So it's back to the tried and true -- posturing months in advance for a lockout that doesn't need to be, just to keep the proles in line and put off the real fight: between the mega-millionaires and the pretty-damned-millionaires.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.