Recently, I applauded Judge Susan Nelson for forcing the squabbling sides to come together in the ongoing NFL/"NFLPA" labor dispute. The lockout has been a drain on the patience of fans the world over, so it seemed fair to call her the best judge ever, as I was wont to do.
Unfortunately, CBSSports.com columnist Mike Freeman has done a little reporting and concluded that my optimism may have been misplaced. Based on his conversations, he thinks the mediation basically boils down to a wink and a nudge between the two sides:
While the mediation venue has changed the motivations of the players and owners haven't. It's as simple as this. Both sides think they can win in court, and neither wants to do anything in mediation that might damage their chances. Thus mediation now is a song and dance, ritualistic, done to satisfy Judge Susan Nelson and football fans eager for both sides to reach a compromise.
My first reaction to this report? Unmitigated rage. This mediation should be taken seriously as an opportunity to end a bad situation that is rapidly alienating fans. If the two sides are blowing this off and hoping to win major concessions thanks to the courts, then they're being absolute assholes. There's no way to dress that up.
I genuinely hope Freeman is wrong here, but it echoes earlier reports of the collective arrogance and stubbornness from both the owners and the player's union. Frankly, I'm more or less bound to be disgusted when the collectively slimy folks up at Capitol Hill can take negotiations seriously enough to avoid a government shutdown and the NFL cannot. I recognize that the stakes are not as high, but it speaks to how little respect either side has for the fans.