Tonight I was your official BTSC representative at a stop on the NFLPA "One Team Tour." These are basically events in which the players' union takes their case directly to the fans, and they get the player representatives from the local team to lure us to come. It worked like a charm, too, which is how I found myself heading to the North Shore Saloon through late afternoon traffic. After going around the Federal St/General Robinson/Sandusky/PA 28 Loop-O-Death a great many more times than I would like to admit, I finally figured out where I could leave my car and headed inside. What did I see? Check it out, after the jump:I was told that Charlie Batch would be there, and many of you know that he's a favorite of mine. Charlie is on the Executive Committee. Several other current players were promised, and we ended up getting Ryan Clark, who is the Steeler on the Board of Player Representatives, as well as Max Starks, who is a co-alternate (with ARE.) Mewelde Moore was also in attendance. I feared that it would be the sort of affair where there were a lot of long, boring speeches from people one has never heard of, followed by a brief sighting of the players as they headed out the door. It was actually quite the opposite.
There were commendably brief speeches from several representatives of various unions (in a show of union solidarity, rather than their having any particular connection to the NFLPA, as I understood it.) There was an equally brief speech from DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFLPA. I had a chance to talk extensively with Memo before the speeches began, and he seemed to think that we would hear things that would curl our collective hair, but in fact Smith's speech contained nothing whatsoever of substance. (Gosh, I guess I could have said that a bit more tactfully.) He said his nothing of substance beautifully, though, and then introduced the players.
I had a nice long chat with Max Starks. I felt really bad about it, actually, because even with me standing on my tiptoes he had to bend his neck to talk to me, and I hated for him and his recently injured neck to have do that.. I then had the opportunity to interview Ryan Clark, who had lots to say in response to my questions. Finally, I spoke with Nolan Harrison, a former Steelers D lineman from the late 90s who was just hired in August as the Senior Director of Former Player Services. I never did get to see Charlie, who had apparently headed out shortly after I arrived, but I had ample compensation.
"This is all very well, Momma," you may be saying to yourself, "but what did they have to say?"
Well, that's going to take either a monster post or possibly several shorter ones. Because even though I am not a hard-hitting investigative journalist, I play one on TV. Well, actually I don't, but I do like to be thorough, so for all of your sakes I spent the past couple of days in a self-imposed crash course about the various issues surrounding the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It turns out that there is a lot of history here. I also suspect that many of you are as clueless as I was. Well, maybe not, because that's pretty clueless, but at any rate I'm going to try and fill you in on as much of the background as I think is necessary, hopefully without being mind-numbingly boring.
So if this sort of thing leaves you absolutely cold, skip my posts. I'll make it clear from the titles what they are about. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll tell you now that I didn't ask a single question about the team, or football, or anything exciting. So if you want any insight into what happened last Sunday, don't expect to get it from my posts.
But however uninteresting you may find the negotiations, these issues are almost certainly going to affect us, especially if a deal doesn't get done and the owners decide on a lockout. Being informed about the issues probably isn't going to make any difference to what happens, but it does help to know what is in the works, and why it is happening.
And finally, other than the background I give, I will be presenting these issues from the standpoint of the people I talked to, all of whom stayed pretty well on-message. That doesn't mean that there isn't another side to the issue, but I haven't been invited to speak to the owners. And there's a LOT of money involved, which does tend to muddy the waters. An awful lot of that money has come out of our pockets, one way and another. So stay tuned as I post this important information over the next week.