I've tried to stay close to the negotiations between the NFL's owners and players. Nobody I've talked to, or heard talk, is optimistic about a resolution -- with the exception of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Owners are asking players to give back money they won during the last round of negotiations. To prevent a labor impasse, owners gave away too much. They didn't want to send retiring commissioner Paul Tagliabue out with a lockout on his resume.
Owners could set an interesting precedent if they, too, would give something back.
Instead of expanding the schedule to 18 games, contract the exhibition schedule to two games.
I don't want an 18-game schedule. Bodies weren't designed to take all those hits, some of them helmet to helmet, and bounce off the turf, not 18 games a season.
Sixteen is perfect. The number is to professional football what a 64-team tournament is to NCAA basketball.
Two also is perfect. Teams play four preseason games. Get rid of two. Owners will protest; that's easy money. Season-ticket holders have to buy tickets to the two home exhibitions as part of the package.
Nobody needs four. General managers and coaches can find other means to evaulate their players. And even football junkies struggle to generate interest in all but the third exhibition, the one that serves as a dress rehearsal.
Back to the negotiations: Fans that see the owner-player conflict as a testament to greed are missing the point. It's not about the money per se. It's about percentages, and who gets what, and how much is reasonable.
Nothing about the negotiations has been reasonable so far. The union is doing almost all the talking, and much of it feels like performance art.