On the occasion of your sport's lockout, I'd like to impart a bit of advice. As you know, the NFL's been boarded up since March, and it's been no church picnic for the football media, to say the least. We've been reporting different levels of miscommunication, no communication, and excommunication for months, and we're all more than a little tired of it. Speaking for myself, it's far more interesting to go over Saints-Ravens tape than it is to review the latest 80-page legal document from one side or the other, earning an informal junior law degree by virtue of the fact that there's nothing else to cover if one wishes to cover a sport responsibly. So, that's point one: Get used to wrestling with legal language. I'd advise a trip out soon to pick up a copy of Black's Law Dictionary, one of the larger bottles of Advil, some bad-ass coffee, and perhaps something a bit stronger.
At some point, you're going to wish that your biggest problem was LeBron, just as most of us were ready to trade another Favre unretirement summer for an end to this garbage.
Second, you're going to hear a lot of stuff from lawyers on both sides, and my best guess is that 90 percent of what they'll tell you is complete and total homespun B.S. You'll be lucky to crowbar a single straight answer out of these people. That's not an indictment of lawyers in general (I have worked for lawyers, and count many of them among my friends), but in these positions, let's just say that the further they get carried away in the process of public perception, the more you'll be tweeting things to your readers like, "Looks like another step back — it doesn't look good." The moment most of us knew that the NFL negotiations were on the right track? When NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith told his own lawyers to stand down in a recent session.
Third, the dynamics of a lockout are very different from those of a strike. When strikes happen, it's a lot easier to blame the players … and if you're generally predisposed to be in that boat, get ready for a different school of thought. The owners are obviously on the hook for this labor disruption; the primary difference as I see it is that the NBA owners are at least somewhat honest when they claim they're losing money, while the NFL has come to define "recession-proof." I don't know the particulars of the NBA situation (I live in Seattle, so you know where I stand on the subject), but I wonder if, with your sport's legitimate financial issues on the table, your lockout won't be worse than ours.
I hope not, and I feel for you, because what you're about to endure is ugly. You will wonder about the future of your sport, and your own financial health. People don't really care how lockouts affect "ancillary" people, but I spent a long summer hoping I'd actually be able to write about football full time this year, and it's only recently that I've come around to the idea that it won't be a problem even though our lockout is still in effect.
If I can impart one suggestion, it's this: When negotiations break off (and they will; you're about to see both sides act quite frequently like a bunch of second-graders), find other ways to make your mark. I've covered baseball and golf in the last year in addition to different kinds of football stuff, and the lag in things to write about forced me to be creative. Do the same. Hit up your buddies in other sports and branch out.
If you need copy/paste phrases from me, I'm happy to oblige. Your lockout won't be too different from ours in the basics; just hit a few Find/Replace tags and you'll be fine. Here are a few handy phrases for your use.
"We tried to avoid the lockout; unfortunately we couldn't reach a deal." (Oh, wait … they're already using that one).
"The [owners/players, fill in depending on which side you're talking to] don't care about the good of the game; they're just after the money."
"Negotiation over litigation is the only way this will be solved."
"We understand that the fans are angry, and we agree with them [this works for either side]."
And my personal favorite: "I think there is a deal to be made … I really do."
Take care, ladies and gentlemen. Believe us, we sympathize. We know what it's like to lose the sport you cover for God knows how long just after an interesting championship which should indicate that the game is strong. We get that you're wondering why these beanbags weren't negotiating before, and we totally understand your feelings that these people are nuts to put the game on hold, because no matter how your game is doing financially, the lockout option seems to make very little sense.
Finally, be patient and informative with your readers at all times. They'll be relying on you now more than ever. And learn to be entertained by different emails you receive on the same day that accuse you of being a stooge for the owners and a mouthpiece for the players. It will happen. More than once.
Try and avoid our mistakes, and we'll (hopefully) see you on the other side.
The Football Propaganda Proletariat