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Judge Nelson is the MVP for next season

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

For now, she has saved the sport from itself. She has temporarily stopped the accusations and protestations. The back and forth. The court rulings and court jesters. The debacles and tentacles of rich men fighting over billions. For now, it's over.

Football is back.

Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen -- football is back!

(For now.)

Thank you, Judge Susan Nelson. She deserves flowers, chocolate and Super Bowl tickets because she was able to do something no one could for months: get powerful men to settle their differences. She's still potentially the MVP of this season and I don't care how many touchdowns Aaron Rodgers throws.

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She gave the players a powerful hammer and probable victory but more importantly she gave fans something: a finish line. It's in sight now. The appeals and pleas for stays will come -- the owners will file faster than you can say appellate court -- but it seems safe to follow the sport with both eyes again and minimal disgust.

We can all put down our legal dictionaries and Roger Cossack translator devices. For now.

"The players have said all along the law is on our side," Jay Feely, member of the NFLPA's executive committee, told CBSSports.com. "Judge Nelson's ruling reaffirms our contention."

In effect, what Nelson has handed out is hope. Sure, the stays and appeals will be sought by the owners. Sure, there will be chaos. The run on free agents and subsequent scramble will be epic. The NFL in the coming weeks might resemble the first minute of a Wal-Mart during a half-off sale. It will be insane. But so what? Because this mess is finally turning a corner. (For now.)

There is, of course, a sobering aspect to the ruling (what would this lockout fight be without clouds in the distance). It's like a boulder hanging over the head of the sport with a small piece of rope holding it in place.

Nelson's ruling moves this dispute closer to the inevitable conclusion which is a new labor agreement. That's going to happen eventually and Nelson is pushing it hard, like a rocket engine on an Apollo ship.

Here's the tricky part. The owners will first try for a stay. Following that comes the owner appeal to a higher court and Nelson's ruling could get overturned so the good news might be short lived. If the appellate court rules for the owners then we're back to the beginning and it's likely the start of the season would be in jeopardy. The appellate court is indeed more business-owner friendly and it's by far no lock that Nelson's judgment stands on appeal.

Yet, based on various expert opinions, and in interviews with principles on both sides, Nelson would have needed to make a serious error in law or the owners would need a highly compelling reason for the appellate court to overturn Nelson. Both things could definitely happen but the odds remain more against those occurring than for them.

A stay does seem possible. Tuesday could be an entirely different day.

Since this isn't an H.G. Wells novel no one knows what the hell will happen but we're playing the odds here and the odds now favor the players for the long-term win. They have a several touchdown lead and it's the fourth quarter. (Since the lockout is over a ban on football clichés is temporarily lifted.)

Something needed to change for both the owners and players soon for their own good. The anger was getting extremely thick and it was only a matter of time before fans sought retribution.

In one way it was already happening. The interest in the draft was waning, punishment from fans for the league having this lengthy dispute.

Then Nelson entered and provided hope. She's given us football again.

For now.

But I'll take it.


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