A glance inside NFL labor negotiations
College football is long over. The Super Bowl was almost two weeks ago. We are facing a bleak, football-less landscape that threatens to stretch out indefinitely because of the NFL's labor troubles.
But the Offseason Pigskinpalooza is back and will be here every Thursday to document all things college and NFL. However, this week's column is being preempted by the latest NFL negotiation session between the players and owners. Let's go there live ...
(Scene: A large conference room. DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association, and his negotiating team sit on one side; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners sit on the other.)
Goodell: OK, DeMaurice, are you all ready? I see you have a lot of people with you.
Smith: Yes. I brought along a dozen or so NFL players who want to take part in the negotiation.
Goodell: So I assume your intent is to make demands and have their voices heard and the like?
Smith: Yes. Of course.
Goodell: So that's how you want to play it, huh? Well, that's not acceptable. We're canceling the talks again. We're walking out. We're done here!
[Goodell stands up to leave, motioning for the owners to come with him.]
Smith: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come on. You can't keep canceling negotiating sessions because you don't like what we have to say. You've done this once already. We need to get a deal done and that means meeting face to face and not always walking out.
Goodell: OK. Fine. We'll play along. We'll stay this time. But realize this makes one concession we've made already to you guys. Now you owe us one.
[Goodell winks at the owners and sits back down.]
Goodell: So where should we start? How about the 28-game season? I don't see how we can budge on that issue.
Smith: Eighteen-game season.
Smith: You said "28-game season." I think you meant to say 18 games.
Goodell: Nope. I have always wanted a 28-game season. I don't know where you got 18 from. But, if you guys want an 18-game season, I suppose we could accept that. Although that would be another huge concession on our part. We'll need you to start meeting us halfway soon.
Goodell: OK, moving along. Equipment. Were the players still hoping to play with equipment?
Smith: What do you mean?
Goodell: Like helmets and pads and stuff.
Smith: Yes. Of course.
Goodell: Well, all of that is provided by the teams. It comes out of the owners' pockets. It adds up. What do you think of the players providing their own equipment?
Goodell: It would really help us out. Then the league and the owners couldn't be held liable for any injuries or concussions or that sort of thing.
Goodell: Also, we don't want to pay for health insurance. Or pensions.
Smith: No on both.
Goodell: You're being unreasonable. You are unwilling to budge on anything, yet we didn't leave today and we agreed to your 18-game schedule.
Smith: We didn't agree on 18 games.
Goodell: You want more games? It would be a third major concession on our side -- if you're keeping score -- but we can do that. Should we say 23 games? It's right in the middle of 18 and 28.
Goodell: Then what do you want? I am at my wits' end.
Smith: We want you to open your books. You say the owners and the league are getting hammered financially, so let's see the evidence. If that's the case and there is evidence, we'll be happy to work with you. But we need to see the books first.
Goodell: See, you keep saying "open the books," but there really aren't any books. All the financial stuff is done electronically these days. So you look pretty silly with your "books" comments. You are obviously in way over your head. [Turns to owners.] Am I right, guys? Do any of you guys have a "book?"
Raiders owner Al Davis: I have a book.
Goodell: Ah, crap.
Davis: I have it right here with me.
Smith: Can I see it, Al?
Davis: You sure can. I have nothing to hide. Let the truth illuminate you like an overhead projector transparency.
[Davis slides his book across the table to Smith. It is thick and dusty and worn and leather-bound. There are dead insects pressed and dried in between some of the pages. Smith flips through empty page after empty page until finding a page with some scribbling on it near the back.]
Smith: This is hard to make out, but you list only three team expenditures: "Coach lawsuit legal fees: $50 million; men's track suits: $100 million; Richard Seymour: $1 billion." Is that accurate? Is this how you guys are spending your money?
Davis: Just win, baby!
Goodell: Look, DeMaurice. I don't think Al is the best example. Clearly his financial documents are the ravings of a delusional mind. Did you see all the doodles of JaMarcus Russell in the margins there?
Smith: I thought those were snowmen.
Goodell: Whatever. I can assure you Al Davis is the exception, not the norm.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Yee-haw!
Smith: Yes, Jerry? Did you have something you wanted to say?
Jones: Yee-haw! I just got my new iPad all set up! I had Apple make a custom one just for me! It cost me $70 million!
[Jones lifts what appears to be a massive, 80-inch, flat-screen television onto the conference table.]
Jones: It's an iPad, but I had it made extra big! Y'all ever seen an iPad this big? Of course you haven't! Yee-haw! Losers.
Goodell: Good for you, Jerry.
Jones: I've got my financials on this thing and I am happy to show you that I am not doing well in the money department. Not well at all!
[Jones climbs up on the table and walks across his giant iPad to the far corner of the device, where he opens up a file showing his financial details. Smith stands up and steps back to get a better view of the giant screen.]
Smith: So, if I am reading this correctly, you expect to spend $100 million this year on attorney fees for Super Bowl-related litigation and -- this can't be right -- $500 billion on "makin' things bigger?" For a total loss of $499 billion?
Jones: Oh, that's right. Have you ever seen losses this big? Wooooooo, YEAH! The biggest losses ever! I win!
Goodell: Look. Again, DeMaurice, he is not a great example, either.
Colts owner Jim Irsay: I'm wacky!
Smith: What's that?
Irsay: I said I'm also wacky.
Smith: Is that so?
Irsay: Yes. You should read my Twitter account. I tweet crazy things. I'm quite a character!
Smith: Good for you, Jim.
Irsay: Please say you'll follow me on Twitter. Please! Please say you will! I am very eccentric, I assure you!
Smith: Sure. Fine. Whatever.
Smith: OK! Shut up.
Goodell: [Sighing] Look, again ... probably not the best example of our owners. The vast majority of them have a lot of red ink -- legitimate red ink, not this weird stuff -- on their books, actual books or otherwise.
Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill: I don't.
Goodell: You don't what, Bill? AND CAN YOU ALL JUST PLEASE STOP TALKING?!
Bidwill: I don't have any red ink.
Smith: Is that so?
Bidwill: I don't even have any books.
Bidwill: Have you seen what books cost? No way I'm paying $14.95 when you can get them free at a library. And red ink is way more expensive than black ink. And black ink is more expensive than pencils. That's why I was a pencil man. Until I just decided to remember everything, because that's the cheapest.
Goodell: We need to break for lunch.
Smith: I am enjoying this, but sounds good to me.
[Smith pulls Goodell aside as they exit the conference room.]
Smith: So a 16-game schedule and we get 50 percent of league revenues?
Goodell: Sure. Fine. But you have to pick up lunch.
Goodell: OK. We'll get lunch. We're in no position to bargain.
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain-book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.