Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scar tissue

How serious are National Football League owners as they battle the players for power? If their attendance at court-ordered mediation in Minneapolis Thursday is any indication, not serious at all is the operative answer.

There are 32 owners in the NFL and only four answered “present” when the two sides met in an effort to stop the silliness that has resulted in a lockout. Showing league pride for the billionaires were owners from Carolina, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and New England.

That’s it. Everyone else (a) was too busy, (b) out of the country, (c) couldn’t care less or (d) all of the above. Judging from the meager attendance, (c) seems to be the front-runner. It certainly appears the owners don’t give a rat’s behind how long it takes to get this labor action resolved.

Wonder where Randy Lerner was. Probably stressing over his Aston Villa soccer team. Figures. When it comes to league matters, the Browns owner seems to cower behind the league’s movers and shakers.

The disdain the owners show now toward the players is more than palpable. It has become quite apparent they have dug in their heels and will not accept a Collective Bargaining Agreement as player friendly as the last time.

When Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson and Pittsburgh boss Dan Rooney objected strenuously to the last CBA, they were laughed at and ignored. That’s not going to happen this time.

In the last CBA, Paul Tagliabue was the NFL commissioner and Gene Upshaw headed the NFL Players Association. At the time, it was suggested that Tagliabue and Upshaw colluded to maintain labor peace just for the purpose of maintaining labor peace.

It was a convenience of sorts since Tagliabue did not want to exit as commissioner with a stain (lockout/strike) on his reputation and persuaded the owners to accept what turned out to be a bad deal.

That’s one of the popular theories that emerged from the last CBA agreement and no one has refuted it. However, the staunch stand the owners have taken now is a broad indication that was exactly the case.

If the owners continue to scornfully thumb their noses at the players and the players continue to engage in name-calling, the courts can order all the mediation they want. It will all be futile.

It looks as though the kissing and hugging and saying “we didn’t mean anything personal” conclusion to this mess is a lot farther into the future than some people thought. It very well could reach many more bitter stages before a resolution, leaving scars that might not heal for a very long time.

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