"I'm pleased to report that the definitive agreement that we've negotiated with the union, the owners approved it today by a vote of 31, with one abstention, and I'm quite pleased. It's a 10-year agreement." -- Houston Texans owner Bob McNair on a conference call Thursday night
I realize Bob McNair has forgotten more about business than I will ever know. I realize he is the billionaire who brought football back to Houston. I realize that I am but a humble radio host. I know all of these things.
I also know that the word "agreement" generally means that both sides concur that a deal exists, that an "agreement" by definition requires multiple parties to AGREE with each other. Whatever it was that Bob McNair and his fellow owners approved Thursday, it may have been a lot of things.
An "agreement" was not one of them.
It may and should still become an agreement eventually, but for now it's still a proposal. (It's the whole Schoolhouse Rock "bill becoming a law" thing all over again.)
Thursday night, 31 of the 32 NFL owners ratified a proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL players. (The only team to abstain was the Oakland Raiders, which is logical since Al Davis passed away 15 years ago.) The owners did this about two hours before the player reps for all 32 teams were to hold a conference call to discuss the proposal and, at the time, possibly vote on their approval.
Momentum over the last few weeks toward agreeing to a new CBA has been strong. However, in a negotiating saga that started out as a public relations battle between players and owners in February, then evolved into litigation before settling into productive negotiations, it feels like we're back to the P.R. cesspool we started in.
The move by the owners seemed clear to me -- if this deal was going to implode, the blame from the public would rest squarely on the players' shoulders for NOT approving the proposal. By approving it first, the owners were saying, "Okay, players. Do you have the balls to deprive America of their football?"
And to be clear, it wasn't just the timing of the owners' vote, but more so the celebratory aftermath. Commissioner Roger Goodell couldn't find a microphone fast enough to talk about the end to an arduous process, even though technically the end can't come until the minor detail of the other side, you know, AGREEING TO A DEAL! He paraded owner after owner up to the lectern to convey similar thoughts, all of them acting as if the players would just rubber-stamp this thing. Some even had tears in their eyes. Here in Houston, the media received transcripts of McNair's conference call that described all of the nuances of the "agreement."
You know, the agreement which one of the sides hadn't agreed to yet.
By the time 8:00 p.m. Eastern Thursday night rolled around, players were a seething combination of livid, confused and defiant. DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA, sent an e-mail out to his constituents saying that a deal was not done yet. Several players took to Twitter to largely convey three things to the fans: (1) The deal is not done yet, (2) No really it's NOT done yet, and (3) this is a P.R. ploy by the owners.
So there you go. What started as finger pointing just after the Super Bowl finished is ending in finger pointing in late July.
To a man, most experts and insiders believe that this is a last-minute hiccup and a deal will still get done. Rumor has it the players will vote on the proposed CBA today. But how do you explain the owners' presumptive bravado? Especially if Goodell and Smith were in such close contact throughout the day as many reported they were. If indeed the owners have added elements to the deal that players are seeing in there for the first time, as has been reported, then the owners clearly take them for ignorant or careless.
You know when iTunes changes their terms and conditions, and to buy a song you have to agree to the new terms and conditions, but the document outlining your contractual relationship with iTunes is like 50 pages long, so you just say "Fuck it" and click AGREE without seeing what the new t's and c's are? It's almost like the owners were expecting that from the players.
Here's the proposal. No need to read it, it's what we discussed. Just click AGREE. Now let's get back to football!
Today it was also announced that the Hall of Fame Game between Chicago and St. Louis on August 7 would be canceled. I've said all along that until we as fans start losing pieces of the football experience, then there's no reason to get concerned or angry.
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I know it's just one "meaningless" exhibition game, but one brick fell out of the wall of the football experience on Thursday.
My anger has commenced. I don't care whose fault it is. Figure it out, guys.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Sporting News Radio (Sirius 94, XM 208) and 1560 The Game from noon to 3pm weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.