When the NFL and the NFLPA* embarked on their recent strategy of weekly negotiations, which began secretly but have become increasingly less so, the fact that the parties were together only two days or so per week wasn’t particularly troubling. After all, communications could continue to occur in other formats when the two sides weren’t in the same room. Besides, at that point any meetings were better than the previous pattern of no meetings.
Within the past couple of weeks, the failure of the principals to make these talks their principle focus has become increasingly alarming. With much to do and not much time left to save the full preseason and the $800 million in cash that goes along with it, meeting for two days per week fails to create the kind of personal inconvenience that will cause the human beings involved in the discussions to focus on efficiency and productivity in order to get home to their spouses, their children, their beds, and their routines.
Perhaps the recent reversal of a slow-but-steady march of the tortoises was needed in order to grab the parties by their respective hair. Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that Thursday’s negotiations, which Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports pegged earlier via Twitter as, on a scale of one to 10, at “about a 2” (he’s promising a comprehensive column later tonight, and I’ve promised to stop calling him a tease if/when he finally delivers it), have extended into the evening.
“I’ve heard the cries for weeks now — ‘Why aren’t they locked in a building, ’round the clock?'” Breer said. “Looks like people are getting their wish.”
It’s about damn time. With the talks at a crucial juncture, and with each side likely pondering whether there’s a way to walk away from the table without disappearing in an avalanche of negative P.R. (given that the media and the fans have been led to believe for a month that a deal is coming), it’s time to show the media and the fans that the parties are taking this matter seriously.
Come early. Stay late. Order in food. Work 18 hours a day. Do whatever is necessary to create the sense of personal frustration (and, in turn, razor-sharp focus) that will get the owners to quit playing the same games they were playing in March and that will get the players’ lawyers to accept the fact that a “run out the clock” strategy won’t derail the negotiation of a new deal.
The next question is whether the talks will continue on Friday. And then whether the assembled negotiators will decide to sacrifice their three-day holiday weekends in order to ensure that the season will be saved.
Both sides make billions from a nation of sports fans. It would be fitting, then, for the two sides to lock the doors and stay put on the anniversary of the nation’s birth.
The fireworks can wait until an agreement is reached.