The New York Giants opened up their weight room yesterday to three players: Chris Canty, Brandon Jacobs, and Mario Manningham. Why just those three? It isn’t clear. As Gary Myers says in this morning’s Daily News, “The Giants have now decided to close the weight room until there is further clarification of the labor situation.”
I think I can clarify it for everyone: The players have won.
The one-two punch of the court decision a couple of months back that forbade the league to be paid TV money if no games were televised and Monday’s ruling by Judge Susan Richard Nelson that lifted the lockout imposed by NFL owners has ended any realistic hope the NFL had of crushing the players union and forcing them to start negotiations with a $1 billion giveback — money the owners had earmarked to pay for their new stadiums.
Are the owners and their hired man, Commissioner Roger Goodell, so dim that they haven’t yet realized this?
Guys, let me explain this to you in graphic terms: Do you remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur fights the Black Knight and hacks off his arms and legs? The stump of the Black Knight (in John Cleese’s voice) indignantly says, “Okay, then, we’ll call it a draw.”
Well, NFL owners and Commissioner Goodell, you are the Black Knight, and NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is King Arthur, and the absolute best thing you can do now is call it a draw, quit, and hope nobody notices that you just got cut to pieces.
In the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, Goodell wrote a bitter response to Judge Nelson’s decision, one he had obviously already prepared in anticipation of getting a judicial butt-kicking. The emotional commissioner wrote, “A union victory threatens to overturn the carefully constructed system of competitive balance that makes NFL games and championship races so unpredictable and exciting.”
Unpredictable? As Norm MacDonald says, “Wait what?” Since the first Super Bowl in 1967, exactly 17 different teams have won the Super Bowl; over the same period, 20 different teams have won the World Series in baseball, which has had fewer teams.
“Nelson’s ruling,” wrote Goodell, “may significantly alter professional football as we know it … By blessing this negotiating tactic [the players’ right to dissolve their union] the decision may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.”
He may be half right. The ruling may well significantly alter football as we know it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for the fans — from now on, the players are going to have a big say in decisions involving their livelihood. As for endangering football, it if isn’t obvious now, it soon will be that the players have dragged their bosses, kicking and screaming, into a new decade of prosperity.
Goodell’s biggest complaint, though, is that all the best players would go to “a handful of elite teams. Other teams, perpetually out of the running for the playoffs, would serve essentially as farm teams for the elites.”
Well, hot damn. if by “elite” teams, Goodell means the New york Jets, who haven’t been to the Super Bowl in the last 42 seasons, bring on the new system.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 27, 2011