There was great news yesterday and there was no news yesterday.
The news there wasn't is a lot better than the news there was.
As rumors circulated and were later confirmed that the NFL's true power brokers met secretly in Chicago with players and DeMaurice Smith, fans began to have hope that the first serious talks about a new CBA since March might be taking place. While no one is necessarily expecting a signed and finished deal to come down this weekend, the threat of the 8th Circuit appeals court is hanging over the head of both parties.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the odd stay of the injunction did not create a clear winner. Though it was seen as a crushing victory for the owners, it did nothing to validate the lockout itself or bolster their claims. It merely indicated that Judge Nelson didn't have the authority to lift the lockout. In other words, it may still be completely illegal, but the court wasn't going to remedy the situation.
As arguments begin today on the appeal, both sides face an unenviable future. The owners may well have to proceed with their lockout, knowing they are breaking the law and eventually would have to pay massive damages for it. The players could well face a future where they are illegally locked-out for months, but have no way out other than negotiation. The result of that tension may well have created a brief window of equilibrium where both sides are equally scared of the future enough to reach a deal. The Minnesota court announced scheduled mediation was canceled because they were involved in secret settlement talks. That certainly sounds serious.
Obviously, if that's true, it's great news for fans.
Even better than what we know about the secret meetings (how dare they not invite fans!), is the fact that we have no idea what happened and what if anything was accomplished.
No news is the best news of all.
There was no posturing, no spinning, no media wrangling. We didn't see awkward interviews with people standing on the steps of a non-descript building.
There was nothing.
No one knows how close they are or aren't to deal, and that's a sign that they are really talking at least. Far more than the petty insults of Jones and Richardson, what really irritated the players in March is the fact that they got little face time with the owners who actually had power to make decisions. The mediated talks in March were in exercise in killing the clock. This, however, by virtue of the fact that we know NOTHING about what was said or offered, is the first thing to give me hope that a non-court-ordered resolution is possible.
It's not a deal, but hope floats.