After accurately predicting a Packers victory in the Super Bowl, I'd like to take some more stabs at forecasting the future.
I predict that The King's Speech will win the Oscar for Best Picture, and Michelle Williams will win the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Blue Valentine.
I predict that Carmelo Anthony will be traded before the NBA trading deadline ... but not to the Knicks or Nets.
I predict that tonight will be "Taco Night" in my household.
And, despite all of the dire predictions from other quarters, I hereby predict that there will be no work stoppage in the NFL. None.
I make this prediction not only as a football fan and contributor to the League, but as a management-side labor and employment lawyer.
Let me say it again: there will be no work stoppage.
Because Commissioner Roger Goodell is too smart to let that happen.
And NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith is too smart to let that happen, too. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that Smith is a law school classmate of mine. I didn't know him long or well, but knew him long enough and well enough to say that he knows what he's doing.)
Labor negotiations are about positioning, and both Goodell and Smith have played their hands well so far.
Both have come across as savvy and reasonable, which is twice as many savvy and reasonable people as you sometimes see at the negotiating table.
Goodell has proposed extending the season to 18 games, which is sheer genius. The proposal gives him an artificial bargaining chip in the upcoming labor negotiations. He can make it appear that he is giving away something tangible if he agrees to keep the season at 16 weeks, when of course he is giving away nothing at all should he do that. And he is doing well in the arena of public opinion by saying he wants a deal done quickly, and that he will work for $1 in 2011. (If that occurs, don't cry for Goodell. His 2010 salary was $10 million. If he works for $1, his average salary for the two years will be $5,000,000.50. I'm sure he'll find a way to get by.)
Like a consummate chess player, Smith has matched Goodell at every turn. He's never appeared panicky or over-eager. He warned the players on his first day in his new position that he expected a lockout, encouraging them to save their money. It was a brilliant opening move. In so doing, he has created a situation where, at worst, he will be correct if there is a lockout and, at best, he will be a savior if he can help avoid it. He's played in the injury card in opposing an 18-game season, as he should. And he's offered to work for less than Goodell's proposed $1 salary if a deal isn't worked out.
At some point soon, the two will sit down and figure out a way to keep from killing the golden goose. The details will take some time, but look for them to reach some compromises. They might include:
1) Expanding the season to 19 weeks, but keeping a 16-game schedule, meaning that each team will get three bye weeks. This compromise would mean several weeks of additional TV revenue for the league and the players, while addressing the very real concern about player safety by giving them a few weeks off to rest and recuperate. That's called a win-win.
2) Setting a rookie salary cap. That will allow more money to be funneled to veteran players without increasing the overall pool. That's a win-win for the owners and player. A loss for incoming players, who have no one looking out for their interests as they aren't members of the union yet.
3) Some tweaking to the overall salary cap, which no one understands anyway. Don't be surprised to see the "franchise" player designation going away.
4) A renegotiation of players' compensation for merchandise and video game sales.
5) New uniforms for the Cincinnati Bengals. I know this is well outside traditional labor negotiations, but something really needs to be done. It's embarrassing for grown men to wear those things. Maybe after Goodell and Smith have worked everything else out and sit back to share a few drinks, they can do something about this.
When all is said and done, the 2011 season will kick off as planned.
If I'm wrong, we will have plenty of time to replay the Super Bowl on our DVRs next fall, watching Aaron Rodgers step out of the shadows of the last guy who played quarterback for Green Bay (I've already forgotten his name), watching karma catch up with Ben Roethlisberger, and watching Christina Aguilera mess up the lyrics to the national anthem.
As for me, I plan to rewatch the beautiful sight of fighter jets flying over the stadium as part of the pre-game festivities. Flying over a stadium where the roof was closed, mind you.