There's no negotiating when nobody wants to give ground

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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If you're tired of hearing about NFL labor, if you're weary of billionaires vs. millionaires, well, get used to it. For the next six months that's all you'll be discussing when it comes to football. Know why? This is why.

"If there's no agreement by the end of March," said one NFL player with intimate knowledge of the negotiations, "then there won't be until September or October. And I don't think there will be an agreement by March."

Drew Brees might have a lot more time to hit the golf course this offseason. (AP)  
Drew Brees might have a lot more time to hit the golf course this offseason. (AP)  
"I think this is going to be bloody," he added.

Oh, crap. Here we go. Crap.

I don't believe you, I told him. No way the golden goose gets cooked. The goose is laying too many fabulously juicy eggs.

"If you heard the language emerging from that meeting ... it's far worse than people generally know," he said.

Here we go. Crap.

What are these negotiations like, he was asked?

"The movie Braveheart," he said.

(Why does everyone compare everything to Braveheart?)

The player's explanation made total sense. In one scene, the protagonist, William Wallace, moments before a battle, goes to the middle of the battlefield to negotiate with a representative of King Edward Longshanks. Wallace knows he's going to fight the army so the negotiation is pointless but he does it anyway, and in the end antagonizes Longshanks' representative. Negotiations end and the battle proceeds.

The player said both the owners and players are William Wallace (not a sentence you'll read every day). They are negotiating knowing nothing will come of those discussions in the short term and that eventually a battle will ensue.

"Neither side is giving an inch," the player said. "Half an inch."

That explains why future negotiating sessions were called off.

The true outcome of the meetings, it seems, is a sense of how entrenched both sides have become. Some in the union are starting to genuinely fear not only will there be a lockout but there will be a protracted one that could last into the season.

My guess: The league, not the players, wants the current agreement to end. Owners, to some degree, desire the players brought to their knees and are willing to endure the bad publicity -- and potential loss of customer loyalty -- in order to get a better long-term deal.

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It's ugly. And expect it to get worse. But don't get worked into a tizzy over it. It's called negotiating. Read More >>
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There is also this piece of truth: The NFL has become our crack. Its popularity, for the foreseeable future, is unshakeable. If games are missed and you become angry, it won't matter, because you'll be back. We'll all be back.

This isn't baseball. This isn't the 1950s. Before its labor issues and steroid scandals baseball was on its way to semi-fossil-dom. Football is just hitting its stride. It's the sport of the future and will be that way for the next 20 years. Nothing can stop it, not even the impending lockout foolishness.

Football to fans: I may be away for awhile because of a lockout.

Fans to football: Do that and we're no longer BFFs. I'll never watch you again.

Football: Yes you will.

Fan: No I won't.

Football: You will. I'm crack. Here's a taste. Take a hit. You know you wanna'.

Fan: OK.

Football: Remember that feeling?

Fan: Yeeesssssss! Give me more!

Did you notice how many people watched the Pro Bowl? A putrid 55-41 game drew the highest ratings in over a decade. When people are so desperate for football that they watch the Pro Bowl in massive numbers, it says a great deal.

The player was asked the odds of a lockout being avoided.

"The same as me becoming president of Egypt," he said.

Well, there might be an opening soon.

Here we go.

Crap.

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