March 25, 2011
Yes, it appears to be true. Fran Tarkenton, former quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, a true Hall of Famer on the field but sometimes less so in the business world, believes that if he was in charge of the mediation sessions between the NFL owners and players, he'd have all the issues sorted out in two minutes.
No, really. That's what Tarkenton recently told Dino Costa of SIRIUS Mad Dog Radio.
I'm really emotional about this. With everything going on in the world, we've got the tragedy in Japan and what's happening in all the Middle East when all these people want freedom, and it's a wonderful thing. And here we have the most successful sports franchise in the world, the National Football League. We don't want to give this up. And we understand in professional football, teams win, individuals don't. And it's time for these owners and time for these players to sit down together, get the lawyers out of the [room], lawyers don't help things. Lawyers muck up things. Lawyers cause problems, lawyers in divorce suits. They don't help the people get back together. And we need to get real people, get the lawyers out of the negotiating room, stop the lawsuits, and let's get real people, owners and players, who are partners in all this, let's let them get together and get this thing solved now rather than later.
I don't take the owners' side. I don't take the players' side. I take the fans' side. This is not a typical labor situation. The players are not impoverished. The players are making the most money of any generation ever. They're the greatest players we've ever had. Every generation has gotten better and this generation has gotten better. The owners, certainly, these are billionaire owners. And they've got great egos. There's a big pot of money here. There's plenty of money here. Everybody is doing well. Let's don't jeopardize what we have. Let's think of how we can get this together. They're not that far apart.
While Tarkenton shares his views with many Americans, things aren't quite that simple. Yes, there are far more important things going on in the world, and yes, the NFL is a ridiculously profitable entity, and yes, it's always funny to make lawyer jokes, and yes, NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash writes his own unintentional jokes at times with his … "interesting" relationship with the truth. But when it comes down to what is affecting the two sides and their ability to work it out, getting the lawyers and mediators in the room was the only way owners like Jerry Richardson didn't start acting out and treating players on a radically condescending fashion. And how is Tarkenton going to resolve the fact that the owners want the players to take an 18 percent pay cut across the board without audited, line-by-line financials per team? Just tell both sides to "respect the fans and get it done"?
Gosh, why didn't anyone else think of that? All these complicated issues out there, all these other ramifications to deal with, and all someone had to do all along was to tell the owners and the players to respect the fans? Well, that's a relief. OK, Fran — you get everyone in that room, and tell these two sides in heavy conflict over billions of dollars and life-altering health issues, that goshdarnit, they just need to work it out.
And watch them laugh you right out of the room. And justifiably so.
Tarkenton has been known to spout off on a number of current NFL issues — his takeoffs on Brett Favre and other quarterbacks are generally funny (if a little overblown), but he is so far out of his depth here, it's hard to know where to begin. Before he starts popping off with overly easy answers that anyone could have come up with (unsuccessfully, to be sure), he should study up a bit on the actual issues affecting both sides so that he can come up with a series of reasoned options that actually work.
And then, maybe his words will be worth our time.
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