Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch have sent a letter to fans regarding the current decertification/litigation/lockout situation engulfing the NFL. In contrast to the frustration that Mara directed at the players on Friday, accusing them of not trying to get a deal done at the bargaining table, the message from the men who own the team expresses general dissatisfaction without calling out the players, the NFLPA*, or anyone else.
“We are as disappointed as you are in the developments of the past week and the current state of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement,” the letter says.
The difference, of course, is that the fans had no control over the outcome. The owners did, and they failed to get it done.
“For there to be no CBA in place today is extremely disappointing, given the amount of time and hard work and the numerous conversations devoted to achieving an agreement, not just in the last two weeks but over the last two years,” they write. “We are not happy about that and we certainly understand and appreciate your unhappiness and frustration.”
We’re not sure how much “time and hard work” was really devoted to the process. No one seemed to take the situation seriously until the past three weeks, and there were plenty of days without bargaining, or with limited hours.
“Where we are today serves no positive purpose for you, for our players and for the National Football League. Although we had hoped and expected to have an agreement by now and are disappointed that we do not, we remain as committed as ever to returning this process where it belongs, which is the negotiating table. We are convinced that what we have stated many times remains true, that there will be a new agreement and there will be a 2011 NFL season. It is just a matter of when we are able to reach an accord on the current issues.”
We’ve said this before, and we need to say it again. The current posture of litigation and uncertainty potentially helps the players and the fans, because if the players’ approach succeeds the lockout will be thwarted and the players will have more leverage when talks resume. More importantly, and coincidentally to the players’ objectives, the fans will have football. The league will fight the players’ efforts to build leverage in court because the owners’ maximum leverage exists via collective bargaining and, ultimately, a lockout. For now, the “positive purpose” for the players and the fans is that a lockout possibly will be blocked. So where we are today serves no positive purpose for the NFL; it may serve a very positive purpose for the players and the fans.
“The impatience and the displeasure we know you are feeling is completely understandable,” Mara and Tisch then explain. “We can only assure you that the point of the entire process is to make our game as strong as it can possibly be and to enable it to continue to grow for the good of everybody — the league, the players and the fans.”
Again, they don’t care about growing the game for the good of the fans, with the exception of making the game more enticing so that more fans will devote more money and/or attention to the sport. We’re simply the vessels through which money flows from our don’t-cash-this-until-Tuesday checking accounts into their Scrooge McDuck coffers.
The owners don’t “care” about the fans; they “care” about separating the fans from their cash.
“The last thing we wanted is for the business end of our sport to play out this way,” Mara and Tisch write. “We know people frankly don’t care how owners and players manage their business. These negotiations distract and detract from what is most important to all of us: the game.”
We’ve never agreed more with any paragraph that anyone has ever written in any context or setting.
“We are doing all we can to return the focus as quickly as possible to where it belongs, the field of play,” the letter concludes.
It all sounds pretty good, and it could mollify some of the Giants’ paying customers. But folks who get it will realize that Mara and Tisch are simply saying what they have to say in the hopes of containing some of the damage done by the inability of the two sides to come up with an objectively fair way of splitting up a very large pie stuffed with paper spinach.