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Originally published July 23, 2011 at 7:57 PM | Page modified July 23, 2011 at 7:58 PM

Jerry Brewer

NFL needs humility in the worst way

Even though arrogance, recklessness and greed proved to be formidable opponents, there's little doubt the NFL will land safely soon. It's unfortunate, really. The league deserved worse.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Even though arrogance, recklessness and greed proved to be formidable opponents, there's little doubt the NFL will land safely soon. It's unfortunate, really. The league deserved worse.

No regular-season games will be missed, no Sunday schedules will be altered, and no fantasy leagues will be ruined. Which means no heavy doses of fan outrage. The NFL's owners and players will soon be able to sigh and move on, oblivious to the disaster they averted. They're like procrastinating students who crammed their way to a passing grade. Never mind that their nonchalance and petty negotiating tactics nearly created a mess they couldn't clean up.

Like many, I have long considered the NFL to be the best pro sports league ever devised by man. Its parity-driven system is so good that it can make bad games seem like great ones with a couple of memorable fourth-quarter plays. It has yet to choke on its success the way that Major League Baseball and the NBA did. It also seems invincible because football is America's great sporting passion.

But it's not invincible. It's also not the beneficiary of its own genius. The public decides what's hot; always has and always will. And while the NFL is about to celebrate the end of a lockout and make an 11th-hour juke to slip past chaos, it needs to humble itself moving forward.

The four-month lockout has been an embarrassing display of distrust, legal ploys, power plays and rich-guy shadiness. You've heard of hissy fits. Call these richie fits. It's hard to believe that business partners in a $9 billion revenue-generating machine could be so void of perspective, but collecting as much money as possible is a callous pursuit.

From beginning to end, this lockout has specialized in ridiculousness. It started with the owners opting out of a lucrative collective-bargaining agreement with the players because it wanted an extra $1 billion for, well, you make up a reason. It got even crazier when the players decided to decertify as a union and pursue litigation. Then, like aftershocks following an earthquake, several other lawsuits rumbled through the courts.

The funny thing is that, if not for the players' suing, the men in black robes wouldn't have been able to get involved and force the owners and players back to the negotiating table. Who knows if both sides would be near a deal if not for that court-appointed mediator.

The lunacy continued last Thursday when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners held a news conference to explain that they had ratified a new deal. The problem? It was merely an incomplete proposal for a new deal. So the announcement was a public-relations stunt that transferred pressure to the players to finalize a new deal.

Now, though, it appears the players are getting closer to voting on a new CBA. And, presumably, they will vote yes. You never know what a group of more than 1,900 athletes will do, but once again, there is hope. Then again, hope has proved hopeless before.

The final days of this lockout show how difficult it is to untangle a web of greed. It is the owners' greed, mostly, and it seems they didn't realize the players, led by DeMaurice Smith, would be such a dangerous foe. The owners started this fight, and then the players took it to another level. Now, both sides are standing in the middle of the ring, tired, unable to throw punches. They're just staring at each other as if to say, "Please, let's just end this by falling down at the same time!"

Neither will budge. Maybe we should just throw tomatoes at them.

But assuming the lockout ends this week, the resounding message will be that it's darned hard to mess up the NFL. For four months, both sides have tried, but as long as the real games start on time, the show will resume with little fallout.

There's a part of me that wishes there would be repercussions. The NFL is too self-important right now. Its popularity fuels its arrogance. It needs to be hit in the mouth by James Harrison.

Unfortunately, that won't happen this time. Because we want the games back. We need the games back. When the lockout is lifted, the players will do their best to entertain, the fans will roar, and the owners will sit back and count their cash.

And we'll get labor peace for perhaps the next decade. It's a decent consolation prize after four months of headaches, but in the future, the NFL should be careful not to test its loyalists.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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