Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Deal Is Never Art

It's becoming more and more clear to me that one reason I stopped prospering in sports journalism is that I lack the capacity to express shock and surprise at events which are utterly unsurprising, let alone shocking.

The frantic burst of "breaking news" accompanying the endgame of the NFL lockout makes me damn glad I lack it, however. Who would ever imagine that a $10 billion per annum business agreement involving the settlement of a number of U.S. civil actions and the finer points of antitrust and labor law might have some loose ends it's not so easy to wrap up? Is the possibility of canceling the Hall of Fame game really that traumatic to the NFL Network? I guarantee you that if the delay in signing a new CBA kills that London exhibition game, players and management for both teams that have to play it will be delighted.

Whether it takes another day, week or fortnight, the deal will be done. The regular season, which is all any sane fan cares about, will begin as scheduled, barring an outbreak of mad cow disease among the negotiators. And when the happy day arrives that the CBA IS official, fans should spare a thought for Gene Upshaw, Paul Tagliabue and the players and owners who came up with the old CBA back in 2006. There's no such thing as a perfect deal for both sides. The old CBA was the next best thing, though. It was written with structural give in it. The CBS was supple enough that it could be altered for a new deal which both sides found acceptable without turning the whole contract upside down.

The compromise on revenue that fueled the 2011 negotiations was profoundly simple. The players agreed to a smaller slice of the revenue pie in return for the owners tossing an off-the-top skim back into the pie. Given the facts there's STILL nothing good on TV (or at least, nothing else people like as much) and that one TV network will always be last in the ratings, looking for help, the pie should grow briskly enough to erase the players' concession and then some.

I'm sure both players and owners were irresponsible and pigheaded during the 2011 lockout. Who wouldn't be with that much money on the table? But at least both sides had the common sense to recognize they were divvying up the take from a growing concern. Profit breeds compromise, or should.


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