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NFL labor battle simply appetizer to owner-on-owner violence

by | Columnist

Right now, Roger Goodell is trying to arrange it so that David Doty's next law clerk is Charlie Sheen. And Goodell can do it, too, given the painful throbbing in that vein behind his right eye.

Doty, the judge who essentially said NFL owners don't have that $4 billion screw-the-union war chest they thought they had, suddenly undercut Goodell's ability to force a deal so crushing to the players that the owners would forget that they actually hate each other.

Longtime Bills boss Ralph Wilson has been leading the way for lower-revenue teams. (Getty Images)  
Longtime Bills boss Ralph Wilson has been leading the way for lower-revenue teams. (Getty Images)  
As a result, an agreement in the long-awaited-and-soon-to-be-here NFL lockout will actually be harder to achieve. Oh, it'll get done -- the game is the game, after all, and nobody who believes in the overarching power and desirability of money can stand on principle forever.

Nor, frankly, would they want to.

But barring an appeal to a higher and more traditionally red state-Republican legal authority, the owners now have to deal with the union knowing that it really will be prelude to a war with themselves over universal revenue sharing.

Jerry Jones and Ralph Wilson, shirtless and wrestling in a hotel ballroom over parking-lot money -- if that doesn't scream for Mike Mayock, nothing does.

Then again, Mayock and all the other NFL Network animated characters -- and all NFL reporters everywhere, for that matter -- will have lots of free time and only a few tasks this summer, starting with mustering up the will to repeat the phrase "If there is a season" in every paragraph.

Indeed, next month's draft ought to be the most hilarious six-hour show in television history, right above the Oscars and right below Sheen's reality series, A Winner's Guide to Being a Punch Line.

"So Cam, now that the Bills have drafted you, what are your plans?"

"Sit on my couch, I guess, and wait for the rich guys to beat each other with lawyers tied to sticks."

"Great. And now back to you upstairs."

Getting football consumers to understand all this may be difficult, judging by the "Why isn't my favorite team signing more free agents?" tweets and e-mails floating about. They are creatures of habit, and the vagaries of a closed industry seem to escape them. They don't believe that rich folks would cheerfully pistol-whip the golden goose that makes breakfast for us all.

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And they are obviously wrong, to the detriment of their fantasy teams, their fantasy lives and their fantasies in general. Indeed, the only person with a fantasy anything this coming fall is probably our pal Sheen, and his fantasies are frankly way more interesting than where Adrian Peterson should be taken.

That is, unless train wrecks with shoes offend you.

Actually there probably will be football this year, but the real battle, the one that Goodell has been dreading, is the owner fight on revenue sharing, which is why he needed the owners to be fat and happy and non-pugnacious for as long as possible.

Judging by the parade of owners who went to Wednesday's negotiating session, the owners see that as well. The entire 10-wallet negotiating committee trundled into the room with the labor side to exchange pointed insults and lectures on the volatility of the modern economy, and then go back to their corners for a long cooling-off period.

This last-minute shoe squeezing is the last act of fun before the inertia begins in earnest, and that's when Goodell's problems really begin. He'll probably want the session to last forever, so he can be out of the office when the other 22 owners start calling demanding timely updates, and he'll be booking mountaineering trips with sportswriters all summer long for the same reason:

"C'mon, it's just K2. If I wanted to kill you, we'd hike up K6. And leave your laptop and cell at home. There's no Internet service where there's no air. At least that's what Aiello told me. Right, Greg?"

So yeah, summer's about to become really open for everyone. Chores will be done, families will reunite, tasks will be completed, businesses will be more focused.

And then when the settlement happens, whenever it does, we'll be back in our typical nonproductive world. Except of course for Charlie Sheen, who is doing enough work for the rest of humanity.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay


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