By Matt Moore
We never thought it would come this. We always knew it would come to this.
It became pretty apparent during the lockout that this was not two geniuses of chess eying each other over a board and carefully maneuvering their pieces in a symphony of strategy. No, this was drunken toddlers flinging chess pieces across the room while they swung their hands down. And each game the owners would win, they'd smash the board and scream "MOAR! MOAR WINS!" And each time the players would lose they'd cry and kick and smash the boar dand scream "No fair!" as if their daddy was going to come in and rescue them.
But surely they couldn't be stupid enough to let it come to this, right?
Of course they were stupid enough to let it come to this.
The owners backed the players into a corner. They bullied and shoved and strong-armed their way into getting nearly everything they could reasonably expect to win. Then they demanded more. They put the players in a terrible position, forced against the wall, no escape, with only one round in their chamber.
And the players summarily blew their own head off.
It is an opera, really. A dramatic interpretation of two clowns trying so hard to fight one another they knock themselves out. Only no one's laughing. It would be funny, if there weren't lost jobs, careers forever altered, and an outright disgust for both sides and their inability to corral their extremist contingents. At some point you have to tell the children in the room to sit down, shut up, and behave. Instead, both sides said "Oh, are you upset? Here, why don't you drive the car. No, we don't have insurance, why do you ask?"
The reason smart analysts like Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Chris Sheridan, and other continued to say "no, the season won't be canceled, they'll get a deal" is they were so close, it wasn't worth blowing everything up over it. At least one side will come to their senses, was the thought. But it never happened. The players had the opportunity, knowing the deal was close enough to being swallowable, no matter how bad it tasted, to meet on it. So did they vote? No. Did they send the proposal back, approved, with a series of contingent amendments, to put the pressure back on the league and keep the process going? No. Did they ignore the threat and continue to say they were ready to negotiate? No. Any of those actions would have meant the players had a handle on themselves and understood the whole board, understood that they weren't going to see a better deal than this regardless of their action. But that's not what they did.
Instead, they opted for a disclaimer of interest. Not the decertification the union proposed, but this route. Faster, riskier, in pursuit of a summary judgment that is unlikely to come. They decided they'd had enough of this bully and it was time to fight back!
Except this isn't junior high. And they're still going to lose.
Maybe the owners really will fear the awesome might of a lawsuit which, in order to have any effectiveness, would take two to three years to finish through the appeals system and which most legal experts don't think they have a great chance of winning. A chance? Sure. A good one? Eeehh, future is hazy, check back later. Maybe the court really will side with them, and then have whateve result comes out last during the appeals process, and then win the appeal, setting the precedent in a case with far-reaching implications in a matter over professional sports. And if that happens, this will have turned out to have been... well, still a phenomenally stupid move, but they'll have treble damages to play with while the league burns to the ground.
But the more likely scenario is that they've blown up a season, cost themselves that money, blown their chance at BRI above 50 percent, blown their chance at avoiding a hard cap or flex cap and only managed to put more money in the hands of their lawyers. I'm not a legal expert, that's just the impression I've been given by them. There are ways out of this. But considering how complex they are and the two sides' inability to solve simple issues, it doesn't look good.
Don't be confused into thinking this is some sort of sole finger-pointing at the players. They didn't start this fire. They didn't lock themselves out. They didn't make outrageous demands. And they're right that they've made concession after concession. The owners will say they've made concessions, but their original position was never reasonable. Conceding insanity in order to justify advocating for foolishness doesn't make you any less nuts. The owners did this. The players just responded to short-sighted idiocy with more short-sighted idiocy.
And on, and on.
There was no vote yesterday, no consideration of the deal which a lot of rank-and-file players would have accepted. Those 30 reps didn't speak with with all the players they were meant to. And something happened to scare the living bejeezus out of them into voting "unanimously" to disclaim interest. Maybe it was Jeffrey Kessler, who seems to be getting an awful lot of publicity out of this whole ordeal he wouldn't have gotten if there was a deal. Maybe it was Billy Hunter, trying to steer the conversation away from this abject failure in leadership during these negotiations in order to reaffirm his position and save his salary once this ends. Maybe it was the agents, though that's unlikely given their reaction to yesterday's debacle.
But instead there was the grenade pin pulled in the alleyway knife fight, and now everybody dies. The union is dead, the lawyers are running the show, the league's not backing down because they don't have to, and the players aren't entirely sure of what they just did.
And as always, you, the fans, lose.
We never thought it would come to this.
We always knew it would come to this.