Your Eagletarian got back from New Orleans yesterday, feeling a chill from having boarded the plane dressed for a very different climate than March in Philadelphia, and also from what the NFL meetings revealed about the collective bargaining situation.
In media sessions with various league lawyers and with commissioner Roger Goodell, it was apparent that though the locked-down NFL keeps talking about wanting to get back to the bargaining table, nothing is going to happen before the parties appear April 6 before U.S. Judge Susan Nelson in Minneapolis.
It became clear in New Orleans, if it wasn't already, that the NFL is only eager to go back to talks with "the union." So the NFLPA would have to rescind its decertification, which is kind of its basis for the antitrust suit Judge Nelson is going to be hearing.
Since the union filed notice of decertification March 11, there has been speculation that talks could resume with NFLPA lawyers doing the negotiating for the "trade association." It's clear the NFL isn't interested in that. I'm not sure, but if I had to guess I'd say undertaking such talks might somehow undermine the league's NLRB filing contending the decertification is a sham, a bargaining tactic. (Which, in reality, it most certainly is, whether it is in the eyes of the NLRB or not.)
It's hard to adequately convey the sneering, contemptuous tone the NFL lawyers convey when discussing the opponents' position. They made it seem like a slam-dunk that Nelson will agree with their contention about waiting for the NLRB to rule before granting any injunction that would end the lockout. The union lawyers are pretty eminent, well-paid fellows as well, so I doubt the case law is as onesided as the NFL suits maintain, but it does seem very likely we will not get anything definitive from Nelson on April 6 or even within a few days of April 6. She has a lot of claims and counterclaims to sort through.
One real danger here is that both sides are about to become consumed -- if they aren't already -- with issues that have nothing to do with what has to happen for football to be played again. That is, they are going to be focused on whether this tactic or that maneuver is legal, and not on how to divide up the money, which is what they have to agree on at the end of the day.
Good piece along these lines today by Ron Borges in the Boston Herald. I don't know any reporters who came home from New Orleans feeling optimistic about the sides doing something constructive. There was absolutely no hint of that.
High point of the meetings for me was stumbling into a reception in the swank Roosevelt Hotel (Huey Long memorabilia!) where I not only was afforded a couple glasses of really good free pinot noir (could there be BAD free pinot noir?) I chanced into meeting James Carville and Mary Matalin. (Well, I basically forced myself on them, but they were gracious about it.)
I told them that last week, driving my younger son from South Jersey to a college visit at Ohio State, I was reminded of Carville's remark about Pennsylvania, between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, being Alabama. Matalin said that is Carville's second-most-quoted observation, right behind, "it's the economy, stupid."
Then, an hour or so later, I went to a restaurant in another neighborhood, with some fellow sportswriters, and there were Carville and Matalin. I'd like to say they recognized me and invited me over to their table, but that didn't happen.
To read our earlier post on Michael Vick, click here.