The league owners came, they went and yet the NFL is still locked out.
What does this all mean? It means we are getting closer to a deal. Not close enough to not worry -- but close enough to be more optimistic that we will have a full football season starting with training camp in July.
In March, the roadblock was time, which favored both sides because they wanted to see whom the courts might favor in this dispute. No one was losing a check and no money was being lost, therefore most thought time was on their respective sides. And in any negotiation time is always the enemy. So much so that the standard rule of negotiations when dealing with the Japanese is that nothing of substance will transpire until right before your plane to return home is due to take off.
However, allowing this time to pass has cost everyone -- owners and players -- money. When the deal is eventually announced, revenues will have shrunk, and that will affect the ability of all 32 teams to chase and pay a premium for free agents.
Time is running out for both sides as we near the end of June. I was told Tuesday by a league official that the owners were unified (which is always a good sign), they want to get a deal done quickly and that things are moving in the right direction. However, it will take considerably more time and negotiation before a deal is finally announced and the lockout ends.
Starting today in Boston, the talks must start making huge strides or we will begin to lose parts of the season. I also was told Tuesday that almost everyone present at the owners meeting feels certain we will not miss any regular-season games, but the preseason is a concern.
The major purpose of the meeting was to inform every team about the direction that the negotiations are headed and for the league to discuss potential revenue sharing.
A huge component of the new deal involves revenue sharing among the owners -- which must work in harmony with the next collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL has always been a shared-revenue league -- almost to the detriment of promoting the art of entrepreneurial leadership. Teams without great stadium leases or money-making venues, or those without the initiative to find alternative ways to make money, must rely on the profitable teams to fund an account that then will allow the poorer teams to have similar economic prosperity as the richer ones.
This method of sharing is what has made the league so strong, and there was a concern that this revenue-sharing plan might hold up an agreement of a new deal. Yet after yesterday, I was told by a league official that "nothing will keep the owners from getting a deal done."
Today starts the real negotiation because time now favors no one.
Sensing we are getting close to a deal, Buffalo Wild Wings announced Tuesday that the restaurant will give out six free chicken wings -- if a deal is reached by July 20 -- to anyone who signs an open letter asking the NFL asking it to reach an agreement. That's a strong commitment on their part, and if both sides make the same strong commitment to reaching a deal then Buffalo Wild Wings will have to pay up.
Let's all hope the future is sooner rather than later.