Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted: 11:00 a.m.
By John Mullin
The NFL non-offseason enters the now what? phase.
I strongly dislike using war in any descriptions of sports situations; nobody ever said to a buddy in a combat foxhole, Man, this is just like football! But the best analogy this history major can come up with is sitzkrieg, the lull in the early months of WWII between the German blitz of Poland and the roll through France:
There was fighting; there will be more fighting. Right now, the whole thing is slouching toward the courts, although more than one source has suggested that the league wants to keep talking, you know the players do as well, and this may not wind up being decided by a judge. Well see.
The NFL and the-union-formerly-known-as-NFLPA did a lot of heavy lifting over the past month. They and mediator George Cohen werent able to close the deal. But it was very clear, if you could read through the sudden unseemly surge of Twitter spitting and claimscounterclaims as the two sides separated, that very real progress had been achieved in a lot of areas, other than that one big bag of cash that is still to be divvied up.
Check out Andrew Brandts excellent Q&A on Courtroom football on the National Football Post. Andrew was in management with the Green Bay Packers and runs through a lot of the questions swirling around all this.
And Sports Illustrateds Peter King goes into great depth with his latest Monday Morning Quarterback, with an overall note of optimism which is worth noting, coming from one of the most insightful pro football observers.
Not taking sides
The obvious question I get is: What do you think? Whos the problem?
Some are going to blast the greedy owners and others are going to trash the players and DeMaurice Smith. Im going to do neither, partly because I dont have a bias for against either side; because as a beat writer, I dont want to take sides and readers should believe that youre at least trying always to provide un-angled reporting; and because it doesnt matter.
But Ill offer two perspectives. One is that pointing fingers at the players and noting that they would have a hard time making comparable money on the outside were it not for football and the owners borders on insulting. Too many players dont walk away from the game; they limp away and on a first-name basis with their orthopedic surgeon.
The other is that for a lot longer than most of us can remember, the league has had the dominant financial high ground. As recently as the 1987 strike, the league was pretty much acknowledged as winning in their taffy pulls with the players. The owners may not have truly loved the 2006 deal that they opted out of but its difficult to see that as a bad deal; it just wasnt as good as they wouldve liked.
George Halas and that first group sitting around a Canton Hupmobile dealership, that was risk. If an owner doesnt make it with the business structure in place now, with virtually fixed guaranteed profit margin based on revenue stream and labor costs, they shouldn't be in the business anyway (see: Modell, Art).
Locally, in a good place
As far as the immediate impact on the Bears from the weekends goings on: not much. Offseason strength and conditioning programs for most teams dont usually start until about this time of March anyway, and the Bears give their players a longer time off than most; they would be starting toward the end of March.
I liked what I heard from Ted Phillips late last week. The Bears president, who has an elite-level sense of finance, sees a deal getting done. He wasnt tossing a cup of gasoline on the fire; he understands financial issues; and he runs one of those NFL franchises that may not have the small-market challenges but is one whose primary and only business is football. And Phillips and the Bears are not trimming staff or salaries. And theyll give refunds for tickets to any canceled games.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.