…or wherein Kelly officially becomes a Merchant of Doom.

Lots going on in the world today. It’s hotter than balls in Wisconsin. Not surprising even though there was a hard frost only last week. The WIAA State Track and Field Meet is going on just down the road in La Crosse. Oh, how could I forget, it’s Doomsday for the NFL today.

I’ll be honest. The hearing before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has me a little queasy today. If their decision regarding the stay on the lockout a few weeks ago is any indication, it appear that the tide is turning for the owners.

There have been lots of references bandied about since the lockout began several months ago. There was Adrian Peterson the owner/player dynamic to slavery. Okay, that was a little too steeped in the dramacakes for my taste. Really wish athletes–and politicians would stop using terms like slavery, Nazi, communist, etc unless they are actually referencing them in true historical contexts. I’m not going to deny there is a lot at stake in Brady v. the NFL. While most of the rulings probably won’t come after the 2011 season (or lack of a season) has come and gone, we may have some resolution regarding this damn lockout. Okay, it may not be until July, and it may not be something we like. But it will be something.

There’s been a lot of speculation that whoever gets the short end of the intial rulings will be the side that will need to make concessions. Reading the proverbial tea leaves, it isn’t a stretch that the players are going to receive the fuzzy end of that lollipop. Let’s face it, they didn’t just lose on the temporary stay decision on May 16. They got kicked into next week. Boiling down all the legalese ( Which Mike Freeman did so well ), the 8th Court of Appeals all but signaled Game Over for the players. Thought the court would be sympathetic to the players as it had been in the past? Well the 8th Court just called the players’ bluff and unless there is some fantastic legal arguments today from the players’ lawyer Theodore Olson (yes, that Theodore Olson that successfully argued Bush v. Gore in 2000) the NFL players are going to be on the receiving end of one spectacular ass whooping.

Meanwhile the uber secret, do-not-dish-under-penalty-of- death -law continue between owners and the players. The pundits are now blogging that they are cautiously optimistic that real bargaining will be had at the table now that both teams are willing to have a real conversation.

To me, it’s a race against the clock.

Sure, both sides can appear to be as magnanimous as they want to when a judge orders it. Yeah, it sounds positive that the judge has canceled upcoming scheduled mediation and it appears that for the first time since March there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. But what happens if the court rules before a double top secret deal can be brokered? What happens when that inevitable ass kicking is handed down and the players are finally cut off at the knees? What will be the bargaining strategy then?

I hardly think that there will be any magnanimous gestures are going to be made by anyone. And since everyone likes to make references to World War II and other assorted historical citations when it comes to this lockout, I’m going to take the liberty to make one as well.

I worry it’s going to be the players’ Hiroshima. There I said it. I’m pulling out the nuclear option. How’s that for the queen mother of hyperboles? But I worry it’s going to hasten an end to any chances of meaningful mediation. If and when the 8th Court decides in favore of the owners, there will be an undeniable imbalance in negotiating power. Think it will be the same offer that was on the table in March when talks broke down? Think the NFL will be offering the same deal that they were brokering yesterday?

Oh hell no. They would have no reason to be as generous because, as the saying goes, To the Victors Go the Spoils of War. It will no longer be two-way conversation trying to reach a middle ground. It will be an Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the NFL’s USS Missouri . The will be no question that the NFL owners will have the upper hand, and it very well may come to a take it or leave it offer. Period. What would be the alternative? An combination of the indefinite lockout and a good old fashioned Mexican Standoff?

And why do I think it’s going to come down to an ugly surrender if a deal cannot be brokered before the court rules? Because neither side has given two rips about burning bridges. Both Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith stopped being objective months ago and made their own personal grudgewank to win at all costs. They want to win. End of discussion. Who cares if it is good for that side. They want to win and rub the other party’s nose in it. Don’t tell me if the court sways toward the owners that Goodell would surpress that urge to stick it to Smith.

One of the judges on the appeals court recently said, ” We wouldn’t be all that hurt if you went out and settled the case .”

Yes, that might be a very good plan. Broker a deal, players, while the playing field is still level. The clock is ticking. It’s time to put personal grudgewanks aside. If DeMaurice Smith actually gives a rip about the players he represents, he needs to end the Win at All Costs mentality. The writing is on the wall, and it sure ain’t pretty for the players. Cut a deal that is the least odious to the players a whole. Because tomorrow that deal may not be even worse.

Oh, and major kudos to our own Cullen Jenkins who is a glutton for punishment and is actually sitting in that courtroom supporting the players while the actual plaintiff Tom Brady is, well, not there.


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