We’ve given U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan a hard time lately for his decision to go on vacation during one of the most critical junctures of the labor talks.
And we’re not the only ones perplexed by Boylan’s decision to bail. “If he wants a seat at the ‘big boys’ table, he could change or skip his vacation,” one team executive said. “To be known as the ‘man who saved football’ would be a nice swap.”
But in the hopes of being fair to Judge Boylan (and of not being audited in the near future), there’s another side to this story. The NFL and the players have known for weeks about Judge Boylan’s vacation plans. And yet they continued to spend only two days per week in face-to-face meetings. When by all appearances a marathon session over Fourth of July weekend could have possibly resulted in an agreement in principle, it’s hard for the NFL or the players to credibly complain about Judge Boylan refusing to sacrifice his well-documented vacation plans.
Also, it could be that Judge Boylan, like the rest of us, is sick of the constant chorus of “we’re close, we’re close” coming from the talks. Maybe he finally realized that they’re going to string this out until the last possible point at which the preseason can be saved, and that he concluded that point won’t come at any point before July 19.
Also, let’s not forget what Judge Boylan has accomplished. After he was appointed to mediate, the buzz in the Minnesota legal community was that Judge Boylan could get it done. After some on the league’s side of the table sneered at Judge Boylan’s inexperience in such complex matters, he rolled up his sleeves and figured out the issues. After the talks had stalled, he took Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith to lunch, helping the two men forge the kind of relationship that is critical not just to a short-term deal but also to long-term labor peace. After the talks nearly imploded on June 30, Judge Boylan clunked the two sides’ heads together like Moe on Larry and Curly, giving the process the kick in the ass it so desperately needed.
It was Judge Boylan who wanted to keep working after midnight in Minnesota on July 1. It was Judge Boylan who wanted to spend the three-day weekend finishing the job. Thus, when considering the totality of the situation, it looks like Judge Boylan has personally done more to get this thing done than anyone else.
At this point, the lowest-paid guy in the room fully deserves a break. And if the NFL and the players can’t find a way to communicate over the next week without the mediator/chaperon present, they fully deserve what they’ll eventually get.