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As hard as they might try, neither side 'winning' labor situation

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Posted March 16, 2011 @ 9:39 a.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Over the past couple weeks, Charlie Sheen has redefined the word "winning." He even made up a term — bi-winning.

Since the NFL labor talks broke down last Friday, leading to the decertification of the NFLPA and a lockout — the league's first work stoppage since 1987 — the two sides have done their best to convince fans they are "winning."

This constant strive to win has led to a situation where no one is a winner, and it's unfortunate that the players and owners will never realize that is the belief of most fans. No football, no winners.

Winning has a few forms in the labor situation. In simplistic terms, both sides want to "win" the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. They want to get a deal that favors them. As much as they will tell you that they want a fair deal that works for everyone, they each want to win.

The owners feel they lost with the 2006 CBA. None of those 32 egos wanted to walk out of negotiations thinking they lost, again.

The players call the 2006 deal fair, and will come just short of saying they won, as that would admit they are getting too big a slice of the pie. They are so determined to prevent the owners from winning this CBA that they were willing to bring out the big guns by decertifying and going to court.

Football is a sport. The players, coaches and owners are competitive people — they want to win. Unfortunately, that becomes a problem when it comes to the negotiating table, as a relentlessness to get a deal to write home about has left the NFL in a dark cloud of uncertainty.

With talks ceased, it came time for the players and owners to try to win a new game — winning over the public in the game of public relations.

The P.R. trains are on the tracks and have been going at full speed since Friday evening, when league counsel Jeff Pash tried to see how many times he could say, "Evidently, not good enough" in one monologue while describing the players' refusal to accept the league's concessions.

Give credit to the NFL P.R. machine. They displayed transparency by releasing their proposal and having owners constantly use the phrase, "The players walked away from negotiations." League spokesman Greg Aiello spent part of his weekend re-tweeting some fans who say they now give the owners their support. What was once a battle that heavily favored the players (in the fans' eyes), the owners did their best to get in front in the P.R. battle to win the fans back, and make the players out to be the bad guys.

The players responded, calling Pash a liar and consistently telling the fans that the owners disrespected them throughout negotiations. They went on their own media blitz, with players taking to Twitter and going on the air to tell the fans that the owners have planned this all along — that the owners are greedy.

The latest strive to win has come in the form of the NFL draft. There are reports that the former players association is encouraging top picks to boycott the draft and join their new team at a players function down the street from Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Views on this strategy are very divided, but the players believe this gives them a win. How ridiculous would Roger Goodell look if he had no one's hand to shake on stage? Meanwhile, the top picks are celebrating with their family at the former NFLPA's draft party a few blocks away.

But in the fans' eyes, that, like everything else, is not winning. The draft has become quite the spectacle, and with the lockout, it's the only solace football fans have. If it is not run as normal as possible, the fans ultimately lose.

What's sad and ironic about the entire situation is pretty obvious: the owners and players will sound like a broken record as they apologize to the fans, but they don't really care to truly "win" in the eyes of a fan. If they did, the owners would be more willing to show 10 years of financial records and the players would have agreed to extend the CBA again instead of going the litigation route. Both maneuvers would lead to a quicker resolution.

What's done is done. Instead of trying to prove who is winning, the two sides should maybe teach Charlie Sheen a lesson and slow down the P.R. machines and quit trying to win the fans over. The owners and players have already shown that they don't have the fans' interests in mind by getting to this point, so the charade can end.

As long as there is no football, there is only one group of people who can truly say, "Duh, winning."

The attorneys.


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