Bernie Miklasz bjmiklasz Sunday, March 13, 2011

There will be football in 2011. At some point the battling all-star teams of attorneys will complete their game of tackle football. The NFL owners and players have chosen their quarterbacks. And over the next few weeks or months you'll be hearing a lot about David Boies (owners) going against Jeffrey Kessler (players) in the courtroom.

But understand that there will be football. At some point the lawyers will close their briefcases, collect their fees and clear out. And we'll be debating the merits of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning again. Instead of counting up the legal bills, we'll be monitoring rushing yards, sack totals and wins and losses.

So take a deep breath, because there will be NFL football. The owners and the players will eventually bench their egos, find a way to grind out an agreement to divvy up $9.3 billion in revenue and return the focus to the field.

So why let them upset you? Just because the owners and players are equally insane, there's no reason to let them make you crazy, too. Cooler heads and even deeper pockets will ultimately prevail.

In the meantime, if sports is your thing, take a deep breath and enjoy the NCAA Tournament. Baseball is just about back; the Cardinals open the season against San Diego at Busch Stadium on March 31. Or take a walk in Forest Park. Enroll in a cooking class. Fly a kite. Whatever makes you happy.

The dumbest thing to do right now is pay attention to the fools who own NFL teams as they square off against the dolts who wear the uniforms on Sunday afternoon.

As of right now the NFL players and owners are making Charlie Sheen look calm, rational and sensible.

They've already made you mad. So why allow them to build on that frustration? Wouldn't it be nice if the owners and players would leave us alone for a while?

At the time I write this, it's been around 24 hours since the players walked away from the bargaining table to officially trigger the legal war. And I'm already numb to the news releases coming from the NFL offices, and the spin-room bulletins coming from the NFL Players Association. Both sides are pelting the media (and fans) with incessant briefings designed to sway public opinion.

Enough with the debate-club pontificating.

This isn't a matter of bad guys vs. good guys.

They're all villains.

It's the epitome of arrogance and ignorance to close the doors and the vaults to the richest sport in the history of Western civilization when there are 13 million unemployed citizens in our great nation.

The owners' lockout of the players was inevitable. That was the plan all along. The owners don't believe the players have the guts, the unity, to ride out a protracted shutdown. The owners adopted this strategy a couple of years ago by opting out of their current deal with the players.

For their part, the players had no real interest in making a new deal through bargaining sessions with the owners. That became obvious Friday when they walked away from mediation sessions even though the owners seemingly tried to make enough concessions to keep the talks going.

On the NFLPA side, the plan was to decertify and then litigate not negotiate. The players' leaders believe they'll win in the courts, and the victories will pressure the owners to cave in.

Really, I don't know what's more comical here.

The 32 NFL owners a group that includes 12 billionaires, according to the latest Forbes survey apparently want to convince us that their league is fraught with financial peril and could turn into the NHL any day now. The owners would have us believe that they'll soon be living under viaducts and begging idling motorists for handouts unless the players give them a $1 billion give-back from the deal negotiated in 2006. Sure. Next time I walk along the Delmar Loop, I'll check to see if Stan Kroenke is on the corner, playing a harmonica for tips.

And the players want us to believe that they're the victims in some real-life sequel to "Norma Rae." That they're valiant oppressed workers, standing up to the evil barons of big business. Here's the deal, fellows: When the first NFL franchise goes out of business like some plant closing in rural America then let us know. When you have to accept a minimum wage with no health insurance to play football, then give us a call, and maybe we'll walk the picket line with you and fight the power. Until then ... well, don't hurt yourselves surfing in Hawaii or by straining an oblique on the golf course. And let us know how that new Lamborghini is handling.

No, there aren't any good guys here.

There isn't a right side to this argument.

Indeed, the owners and the players are partners: They're both disrespecting the game and their fans. And they're already hurting the good people who depend on the NFL for income. The folks who really depend on the money through this game the stadium workers, the low-level team employees, etc. will take the hit.

The owners and players won't suffer. Oh, sure, some revenue will be lost in the immediate future. And some players who didn't save enough money will have to adjust their lifestyles a bit. But in time the NFL will be fully restored, and the money will flow in like never before.

And the owners and players will be laughing on the way to their banks and to the penthouse suites in Las Vegas. The owners and players are used to life inside the velvet rope, a life inside the VIP rooms. There may be a minimal interruption, but a brief labor dispute won't change their lifestyles in any real way.

So that's why I'll be doing my best to ignore all of this mewling from the owners and the players.

To NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: Please go away.

To NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith: Please do the same.

Go find a conference room, sit down and make a deal. I'm thinking there's got to be a way to share $9.3 billion. Until you gentlemen are ready to give the game back to the fans, we'll find something else to do.

At this point, I'm a lot more concerned about Chris Carpenter's availability to start against the Padres on March 31.