Where were we in the football strike before the World Series so kindly interrupted?
The players wanted six jillion dollars.
The owners wanted the six jillion.
The fans watched fat old men play pool on Sunday afternoon TV.
Greedy players who arrogantly cried, "We are the game," put on two games of their own creation. They drew fewer than 17,000 spectators in stadiums with 135,000 seats.
Greedy owners called off their proposed deal of a guaranteed $1.6 billion because they missed another week of play. The money would be prorated downward, they said.
The fans watched Nordic descendants in plaid shirts cut up logs in a lumberjacks' tournament on Sunday afternoon TV.
The players said they'd agree to a private mediator, and the owners said fine, and the mediator said he had solved 10,000 cases and would keep players and owners locked up for 96 hours if necessary.
The fans got to know Robin Yount.
And so, the first Monday after the World Series, the paper tells us that in two weeks nothing has changed. The strike is 35 days old. The mediator has thrown up his hands in frustration and taken a plane home, leaving us where we started.
The players still want six jillion dollars. Not only do they want it, they want it just so. They want it delivered in 1,500 suitcases with the money in small bills and, if it's marked, they'll let the air out of every football in the Rawlings factory.
The owners want to keep the six jillion because they are the bosses and bosses decide how to pay employes, whether those employes nail drywall to studs or hammer quarterbacks into the ground. The owners will divvy up the six jillion the way they want to, and if these players don't like it the owners will do a Ronald Reagan and hire new traffic controllers from Notre Dame, Alabama and Penn State.
As for the fans, listen to Tony Cade, a taxi driver from Milwaukee who described himself as a lifelong Packers fan: "Lots of people who can't make ends meet don't like these players with all that money now. They're going to hate them real bad pretty soon. Don't they know that?"
Don't they know?
Put it to music and it's the theme song of football's sorriest month.
Don't they know they had something nice?
They had us hooked on Sunday afternoon. They convinced us with brilliant marketing and rulesmaking that the NFL was the ultimate sports league. Now, because owners' greed at last raised players' greed to strike level, the NFL is out of business. It happened once before, in the preseason, and since then the league has not been able to sell all its preseason tickets, as it always had before. It could happen in the regular season.
Don't they know?
The owners and players can agree on nothing beyond rhetoric that players deserve more money.
Once upon a time, Ed Garvey said his concept of a "percentage of the gross" was etched in stone.
It wasn't. He dropped it.
Another time, Gene Upshaw said the players' demand for a percentage of the league's TV money was non-negotiable.
Neither Garvey nor Upshaw talk about that now.
Even the players' hallowed wage scale is up for negotiation, Garvey said. He told owners during mediation that players would agree to another plan -- call it anything, not necessarily a wage scale -- that satisfies the players on five points.
Those five points are:
A percentage of TV revenue.
Elimination of wage inequities.
Protection for older players from cuts made for economic reasons.
Incentive bonuses for performance.
Garvey's percentage of gross concept was designed to supply money to a union fund. Then players would be paid according to seniority and statistics.
When mediation broke up this weekend, Garvey went public with a request that he says he often made during the talks: if owners have an idea, the players are "open to any proposal to solve these problems."
By now, though, Garvey has used up much of whatever goodwill may have existed among owners who agree the players deserve a share of the windfall TV revenues coming now and in the future.
So maybe the owners won't make the players an offer.
All Garvey has done, after all, is drop the rhetoric. The concept remains the same. He wants a wage scale established by collective bargaining, with minimum salaries that in many cases represent 200 percent raises. Above minimums, he wants to retain individual negotiations also.
The guy wants pie in the sky.
With a dip of vanilla, please.
He wants to go from the worst contract in sports to the best. He might have gained important ground had he fought for free agency and salary arbitration. Let the owners own the game. But make them pay the players what they're worth.
Owners are afraid of giving the slaves freedom after all these years of cheap labor. So they won't propose the obvious solution of limited free agency that has made baseball players wealthy.
You would think, by now, that players and owners would realize they are hurting only each other. The fans won't soon forget.
Don't they know?