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An Idiots Guide to the NFL Lockout Progression of Events
Note: If you're looking for a serious layout of the events that have taken place so far during the lockout, they are out there, just not up to the minute. You'll get information and explanations here, but packaged irreverently.
The NFL labor dispute picture has spun so completely out of control that anyone whose name doesn't end with "esquire" would sooner understand the logistics of putting a SEAL team into Pakistan to take out the world's most wanted criminal holing up in a million dollar fortress that looks more like Oscar the Grouch's vacation home. Remember a few months ago when the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) expired and we all knew they had to agree on a new one? Seemed simple then. A group of grown men with serious monetary issues to settle would sit down at a table and hash it out like gentlemen so that the nation's weekly autumnal obsession could move forward without controversy or interruption. That sounded incredibly naive did it not? See, that's the problem—the common fan is naive, and who wouldn't be? We've had dump truck loads of legal diarrhea heaped upon us to cover up one simple fact—there are lawyers involved now pulling the strings, and those lawyers have billable hours. Spin both sides any which way you choose. It's like getting lost in the woods and traveling around in circles. You always end up in the same place.
The base fact behind this all is that the NFL needs a new CBA. Again, seems simple. Since then, in an all too brief and confusing nutshell:
— CBA expires March 3.
— CBA extended one day because they can.
— CBA extended one week because they can. Both extensions create false hope among fans that they may be close to getting a deal done.
— Players reject last ditch owner offer and head to the U.S. District court in Minnesota to decertify, walking away from the bargaining table, essentially telling the NFL to go (well, you know) because they think they own the District court and can play it like Yo Yo Ma to their advantage.
— Owners lockout players.
— U.S. District court begins hearing arguments in Brady v. NFL, the underlying issues being antitrust, but the more prudent issue being the search for an injunction to lift the lockout. Here's where we start walking down a road of legality that has no end in sight.
— Judge Susan Nelson orders the two sides to sit down to mediation. The two sides sit and stare at each other for a week. Nothing gets done. This is April 20. They decide that the best thing to do is walk away from it and clear their murky heads. They decide that 26 days will be ample time to do so and plan to get together again on May 16.
— Judge Nelson and the U.S. District Court, i.e. Democrats, rule in favor of the players and temporarily lift the NFL lockout. Players start hanging out outside their practice facilities like desperate guys in a late night strip club parking lot. They know they're really not welcome there, but they think if they just stand around a while something good may come of it.
— The NFL asks Judge Nelson for a "stay" (new term for you to?), keeping the lockout in place until the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, i.e. Republicans, can hear their appeal on her ruling. Players have conversations with their coaches that are as awkward as Dick and Jane at the eighth grade Knights of Columbus dance. Judge Nelson says no thanks to the owners.
— The NFL holds first round of the draft. One of the strangest nights in sports television I have ever witnessed. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hugs each player as if he knows he's not going to see them again for quite some time.
— 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issues the temporary stay on the lockout. The same temporary stay that Nelson just denied. An appeal date on Nelson's ruling is set for June 3.
— Days two and three of the NFL Draft take place. Kids get calls from NFL coaches to congratulate them and tell them they're going to be members of their specific teams. The kids smile, hug their parents, and begin playing Madden '11 to try and study their team's playbook.
— The Eighth Circuit turns their temporary stay into a permanent stay, assuring the lockout stays in place pending their hearing of the appeal of Judge Nelson's original ruling. In their position explaining the permanent stay, they pretty much give the players a heads up that they're going to lose the appeal. Good thing we have to go through another taxpayer-gutting hearing to find it out officially in a couple of weeks.
— On May 16, in the wake of the permanent stay ruling, the two sides continued their court-ordered mediation. There were rumors that after two days another offer was tenured to the players and that progress was being made. Stands to reason then that they'd be back at the table for a third day, correct? Nope. They need another few weeks to clear those murky heads again. They'll stare at each other some more on June 7, doing nothing till the official word on the appeal comes down. That could take weeks. That could take into July. If it takes into July, there goes your off-season. If they rule in late June (which is seemingly ridiculous considering they already told us which way they're going to rule), the players have essentially two months to come to some agreement before they start losing paychecks. Or, the players could just let the antitrust case go all the way through the U.S. District Court, which they would more than likely win, possibly crippling the NFL, and leaving us without football for this season, and maybe more. And then there would be the appeals on that ruling. So you see, they have all the time in the world, right?
I can think of only five reasons they aren't sitting back down at that table again today, tomorrow, and everyday until this is done. All of them are ridiculous, because as a fan, I simply can't take any of this seriously anymore:
REASON ONE: They can't continue to negotiate with the mediator because if they actually make some headway and get a new CBA in place, Chad Ochocinco(notes) would try and come back. Hell, he's tried soccer. Fail. He's tried bullriding. Fail. I think they're just dragging this out until he finds something else he's actually competent doing so they can be rid of him. If that's the case, we're in for LONG road.
REASON TWO: Right now Roger Goodell is the goat. If the two sides continue to negotiate and settle this thing on their own, leaving us with a full season and training camps, he's still a goat. If they wait until the 25th hour he can position himself as a leader and make it look like he saved the season. Wait. I'm confusing my commissioners. Only David Stern has that kind of power. We'll find out just how much in a few months.
REASON THREE: This situation needs to be dragged through the courts as long as possible without resolution so that our tax dollars are being put to the most rational, worthwhile use.
REASON FOUR: In our great nation, we don't applaud expedient solutions to problems. We like things drawn out to "saga" status. That way, fifty new people that don't deserve it (De Maurice Smith, Jeff Pash, Judge Doty please step forward) can become famous overnight for arguing law that doesn't effect the common American's life outside of their desired mode of Sunday entertainment in the fall. If we play our cards right and stay away from the negotiating table, there could be three or four reality series waiting to happen here.
REASON FIVE: The strip club industry is raking in money right now, as bored NFL players with nothing to do clear out their savings to support the fine young women of the pseudo-porn industry. They're giving the NFL a cut to keep the lockout going. Then again, if it gets to September and the players aren't getting paychecks, the strip clubs are going to be asking the NFL for their money back.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast who hopes the Eagles have more than 2 weeks to prepare for a season. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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