As the NFL lockout approaches the 100-day mark — it looks like a sporting Armageddon is just around the corner! — here’s your court-ordered update on the management-labor dispute:
The owners may trail on the scoreboard and lose in the courts, but at the close of any business day, they’ll somehow end up ahead.
Which brings us to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, one of my favorite sports columnists. She’s so smart, when I disagree with her, I usually figure I’ve got to be wrong. But Jenkins has been writing about how the NFL finally has gotten its comeuppance in this labor squabble:
“The owners don’t get it, and haven’t from the beginning. . . . While they were calculating revenue, studying profit-loss statements and betting on how many unplayed games it would take the players to fold, they should have taken a crucial fact into account: They are in the legal wrong.”
Sally, Sally, Sally — it doesn’t matter if they’re in the legal wrong, the NFL never loses in the long run.
For those fellas hold all the cards, and they’re dealing from the bottom of the deck. When the NFL goes to court, it always seems to be one of those “Heads I win, tails you lose” deals. The game is rigged. The dice are loaded.
The NFL runs the world’s largest three-card Monte operation. How else can an organization in violation of so many antitrust precepts be so antitrust-proof?
Does the NFL breach antitrust laws? Every day and twice on Sunday! Somehow the league gets an antitrust exemption for its revenue sharing of TV money. Aside from that, NFL staples such as limited free agency, the salary cap and the player draft all are elements that could be legally challenged. And, yet, the league stands as a monument to American (wink-wink) ingenuity.
It’s their ball, their rules and their field, although they got someone else to pay for it.
(Column Intermission: Did you hear where Ray Lewis said a lost NFL season would result in a crime wave? “Watch how much crime picks up,” he told ESPN, “if you take away our game.” Actually, I worry about the same thing if “Glee” is taken off the air. Even more so, I agonize over the psychological fallout for fantasy football participants. Where will they channel all that fantasy energy — in a Pilates class? A Starbucks coffee club? Or maybe a Congressional Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry fantasy draft?)
Which brings us to that Harris Poll I mentioned in a recent column citing 19 percent of those surveyed said they might turn off the NFL if the season is delayed. Oh, balderdash.
Yet here is what the Harris analyst wrote: “Although professional football has reigned as America’s favorite sport for many years, between the current labor lockout and increased understanding of the damaging effects of head injuries, the sport may have a rough road ahead . . . if these financial discussions turn off the fans, NFL executives may need to reevaluate their priorities.”
Where do I start?
What, suddenly the heightened awareness of head injuries is going to reduce viewership of NFL games? If anything — forgive my Sports Nation cynicism — it would increase viewership.
As for NFL execs reevaluating concerns, their priorities are to suck every last dollar out of the American public. They’re quite good at it. And, frankly, I believe they could literally double the number of games they play or literally withhold the product from us for many months, and either way we’ll come tumbling through the turnstiles, or at least watch obediently and enthusiastically on TV.
Friends and fellow fans, we’ll have the NFL this fall — it just might start a few weeks late.
For in global warming’s worst-case scenario — in which the ozone layer no longer can filter ultraviolet rays of the sun, causing surface temperatures to rise, polar ice caps to melt, sea levels to swell uncontrollably and the world’s great cities to submerge — the NFL keeps playing on Sundays and Monday nights.
Or, to put it on a more human level, I believe Peyton Manning would survive any nuclear attack. In fact, on The Day After, I’ve got him down for 24 of 33 with three touchdowns.
Q. After the hand is over, I’m 100 percent certain how to play. Is this true in marriage? (Ed Shade; Hurricane, W.Va.)
A. To be honest with you, if I were given a second shot at my first marriage, I’d still finish third in a two-spouse race.
Q. What exactly is a whirling dervish? (Les Rosenberg; Beachwood, Ohio)
A. A dervish that whirls.
(Is it my imagination, Shirley, or are these questions getting easier?)
Q. To avoid problems in the future, do you think the next Ohio State football coach will just add a tattoo artist to his coaching staff? (Ron Strah; Chagrin Falls, Ohio)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Does Jim Tressel get another job? (Dan Belkin; Pittsburgh)
A. I believe Wal-mart currently has a hiring freeze.
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