Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's all about winning

Here we are less than two months away from the start of training camp around the National Football League and both sides in the labor dispute insist on behaving like school children.

It has become a fiscal tug of war with neither side giving in because they do not want to be labeled the loser. It took several years before the owners admitted they lost the last tug of war by agreeing to a terrible Collective Bargaining Agreement that heavily favored the players.

Now, and maybe it’s because they’re still smarting from that crushing loss, the owners’ aim is to exact some sort of monetary revenge on the players. Perhaps that’s why they’ve got their heels dug so deeply in the sand, they have lost all touch with reality.

They are so determined not to lose to the players this time, they throw all reason out the window. And it’s that stubbornness that has stunted anything resembling progress in the process.

The players aren’t blameless. In still maintaining hopes of repeating their last victory over the owners, they have also lost touch with reality.

Both sides say they care about the fans, the constituency that feeds both sides of the dispute. Fact is they couldn’t care less. All the owners care about is putting seats in the seats. Making certain the turnstiles hum. The players? All they care about is their paychecks.

Maybe that’s why that constituency is confused. They see about $9 billion up for grabs on the table and both sides acting like little kids trying to grab as much of it as they can.

The results in a couple of recent polls indicate as much.

A Fox Sports poll asked the question: Which side deserves the most blame for the NFL labor situation? Of the more than 100,000 responses, 51% blame the owner, 49% the players. Confusion.

A CBS Sports poll asked the same question, but included a third option – both sides. A clear-cut winner was the third option with 52% blaming both sides; 26% blaming the owners; and 22% nailing the players as the guilty party.

It has become clear both sides have hurt themselves. The sad part is they don’t realize it. They have lost all perspective.

The closer we get to training camp and the more obvious it becomes that there will be no training camp, the more frustrated the fans will become. And the anger will mount.

Meanwhile, the two sides toss barbs at each other in an effort to curry favor with the fans. That’s the disconnect neither side understands. All the fans want is football. Not this labor bullroar over billions of dollars.

Every now and then, a spark of optimism is offered. Commissioner Roger Goodell called recent talks a “positive sign” although nothing substantive came from them. Said both sides “want to reach a deal.” Well, no kidding.

A federal judge has strongly urged both parties to settle their problems pronto. But it’s going to take a lot more than a judge to get these two sides to agree to anything.

At the risk of being repetitious, this is all about winning.

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