By: Bob George/BosSports.net
June 26, 2011

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HULL -- To all the good people of Pembroke, Athol, Hampden, Sheffield and Rehoboth, be on the lookout. You might get a Roger Goodell sighting in your town.

On a gloomy and overcast day in June of 1983, an old friend of mine invited myself and some friends to his hometown of Hull. We spent one dank and rainy afternoon in some arcade at Paragon Park playing some of the popular video games of that day. Then we went to the South Coast Plaza that night to see a movie, as the rain prevented any outdoor activity.

Yesterday, the negotiators for the NFL lockout wound up in Hull. That afternoon we spent in 1983 playing Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Centipede proved to be more fruitful than what went on with Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and crew. The lockout lives on, but at least Goodell and Smith got to do Nantasket Beach.

Goodell would not admit to taking a drive out to see Hull Gut. Wonder how his gut feels right now, as the cancellation of preseason games looms large.

The "secret negotiating place" in greater Boston turned out to be the tiny peninsula beach town which on a map looks like the appendix of Hingham. It's a wonder why Hull was chosen, with the more fashionable Cohasset right next door. If privacy was what they wanted, the media found them anyway. If Bob Kraft was the driving force behind bringing the talks to Boston, why not Brookline, where Kraft lives?

Whatever. At least Kraft is in on the negotiations, instead of being over in Israel for unrelated business. Where they hold the meetings matters not, though it does bring some fame (or notoriety, depending upon how you view this) to Hull and Nantasket Beach. What does matter is what is, or isn't, taking place at these meetings.

Like, for example, time is becoming a factor. Both sides stand to lose a ton of money real soon. It's now late June, and training camp is supposed to be starting up roughly a month from now.

Unlike 1987, the players seem to be standing more firm than ever. After the one-day strike of that season, the owners put out replacement players and literally broke the players union. 1982 went a little better as the season was reduced to nine games, but 1987 seemed to signal the end of the football union as we knew it. The owners had the hammer all along. In baseball, thanks to Marvin Miller, the players have the hammer. Not in football, it seemed.

Do the players have the hammer now? Or will the owners try and put together replacement teams again and put the players in their place?

The landscape is different now than in 1987. The owners cannot get away with what they did back then in 2011. Too much money is involved, and the owners cannot afford lower attendance and lower advertising rates. Don't look for replacement players.

What to look for is for someone to blink. Odds are that it will be the owners who do the blinking. They simply don't have the leverage they had 25 years ago. At some point, the owners will capitulate in some way, and the deal will get done. The problem is when will that happen, not if.

Many of the players are of the opinion that fewer preseason games are a good idea. The owners don't think so because those games are literally free money. They don't count, but they are still in the season ticket package. Take those games away, and the owners will start bawling. The players could care less if there are three preseason games instead of four. This is one area which greatly favors the players.

Once the lockout is lifted, lots of things need to happen before camps can open. Most of this is personnel-related, like signing draftees and managing salary caps. You might as well flush off-season workouts down the toilet. Some players have organized their own informal workouts, and it has become a big deal that the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have not been one of those teams which have done any workouts. But houses need to get in order, caps need to be locked in, players need to be signed, and decisions need to be made on some players who might be released.

Then you can go ahead and open camps. Only the head coaches will care about what condition their teams are in at that time, not these guys at the negotiating table. Bill Belichick and the birds of his feather will have to work triply hard to get their teams ready for the regular season. But head coaches have nothing to do with negotiations. This is where the players really need to take it upon themselves to be ready when camp opens. With one less preseason game, though, the coaches will still care more than the players. This is once again an edge to the players and something the owners need to pay careful heed to.

At some point, the owners need to sit down and say to themselves, "I'm rich enough. Let's end this now." This will not be a repeat of 1987.

And this won't be a repeat of baseball. The players don't have a Marvin Miller (who is still alive at age 94), and the NFL owners don't have the stupidity and lack of common sense like the baseball owners. What MLB has in place is so strong that the head of the players union can sit in front of Congress and project attitudes of "You can't do anything to us!" and "Why are we even here?"

Fans are getting antsy, and it is hoped that the owners are also. Football is the most popular spectator sport in the USA right now. Baseball is time-honored and the other sports are more regional-based from an interest standpoint, especially hockey. But football is universal. Nowhere in the USA can you go and find a pro football Siberia. You can go to Alaska and find a slew of Seahawk fans. The Dakotas are loaded with Viking fans. Montana and Wyoming love their Broncos. Ironically, the only places you can go and find pure indifference to pro football is the second largest city, and maybe Hawaii. In both LA and Honolulu, they'd rather go to the beach.

Look for something to break soon. Too much money is at stake. Cancelling an entire NHL season is one thing. Of course, MLB lost a postseason in 1994, so anything is possible. But this is the NFL, as in Not For Long, says Jerry Glanville. This lockout will continue Not For Long.

Meanwhile, Goodell and Smith perhaps cursed their fate that Paragon Park closed nearly 30 years ago. Maybe they could have ridden the old carousel and gotten a deal done on those nice hand-crafted horses. One can only wonder.


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