What with all of the huffing and posturing, it was hard to believe the two parties were supposedly in agreement on the most divisive issue: how to split $9.3 billion in revenue. As of late Thursday night, you got the feeling that there were people in the negotiations still thinking in terms of winning and losing, instead of just getting an equitable deal done. They were still playing chicken and trying to make the other feel scared.
But when the large and small print is finally written and the deal is signed, all either party should be entitled to feel is slightly relieved and faintly disappointed. That would mean it’s a fair deal and that the split of gains and concessions went pretty much right down the middle.
NFL owners voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of a tentative 10-year agreement to end the lockout, pending player approval.
Winners: prosperous NFL owners who get 10 years of labor peace and a measure of payroll relief from their players to help with their costs, though not the major giveback they were seeking.
Winners: players who will get better health benefits and will still have brains in 10 years because they got a reduction in offseason workouts and limits to hitting in practices.
Losers: NFL owners who now have to spend 95 percent of the salary cap, and can no longer peel money straight off the top, and who may have poisoned their own well with the public by crying poor and exhibiting ingratitude for the massive infusions of public money and tax breaks they receive.
Losers: rookies who from now on will make dramatically less, because basically, no one believes you should be a millionaire before you’ve done anything.
Losers: players who will see a slightly smaller percentage of league revenue, and who show no sign of understanding that when you make millions, it’s incredibly stupid to live so high that you can’t afford to miss a single paycheck, and if you do decide to live that way, you surrender your negotiating leverage.
Let’s face it: Neither side deserves much credit for reaching a fair conclusion on their own. If the NFL gets labor peace, congratulations for that should go not to the owners or the players or their lawyers, but rather to some people in black robes. The judges really got this thing headed toward settlement, when they sent a strong judicial message that the two sides would be well advised to compromise, otherwise, the grownups were going to take away all the toys.
Winners: the rest of us, who won’t have to listen to this carping and haggling anymore.