Watch a grandfather's clock for just a little while and you will notice the motion of the pendulum. It goes from one side to the other and back
again; it does this over and over again. Look closely and you'll see that when it is at the mid-point of its journey - right there in the middle -
that is the point at which it is traveling the fastest. It spends less time in the middle than anywhere else. Go and take freshman physics on any
college campus and you'll learn just why that statement is true.
Now consider the figure of speech we all use when we say that the pendulum is shifting or swinging in favor of one side in a continuing tug of war.
What we mean is that one side had gained an advantage of some kind and now that advantage seems to be slipping away. Implicit in the figure of speech
is that when the other side gains an advantage, it too will erode some day. By implication the best point is in the middle where there is no
advantage - - but that is the point at which the pendulum is traveling the fastest and spends the least time.
And such seems to be the situation in sports with regard to the players and the owners. Back before there were unions and players associations, the
owners were a venal and ornery bunch of folks whose dominion over the players was downright reprehensible. Curt Flood put an end to much of that and
Marvin Miller showed what a tough union negotiator could do in order to bring benefits to the players. All of that was good and people who have known
me for the last 25 years will attest that I have believed for that long that both Curt Flood and Marvin Miller belong in the MLB Hall of Fame for what
they contributed to the game. No one in any state of sobriety can deny these two men changed the face of the game as much as Kennesaw Mountain Landis
did - and he's in the Hall of Fame.
However, that good old pendulum did swing too far in favor of the players and the unions in sports. For the past decade and a half, fans have been
held hostage by preening divas and their agents who have isolated themselves as an entitled class within the society. They perceive that they are
beyond the level of ordinary folks and they have enough money to put themselves above the law in many circumstances. But maybe - just maybe - that
good old pendulum is beginning to swing back toward the center where it belongs.
Look at what happened to the NHL players over the past couple of years. They players and the union dominated the league such that the players
salaries were about 75% of the league revenues and most of the teams were swimming in red ink. The union went into negotiations with the league
taking the position that the owners were lying about profits and losses and the union sought more concessions from owners. They swore they would
never - as in NEVER - accept any contract that had a salary cap in it. Later that was modified to be no contract with a salary cap tied to league
revenues. Then the union turned down an offer of a salary cap in the $45M range and the league went dark for a year. Now that same union signed a
deal with a salary cap tied to revenue in the $35M range. That is called capitulation; that is called a rout; in the history books that would rank
right along side the Rape of the Sabines. And maybe that is the start of something good...
Look at the current collective bargaining talks between the NFL and the NFLPA. Gene Upshaw said that the percentage of revenues that had to go to the
players in terms of a salary cap would 'have to start with a six'. His latest offer is 59.5% and that number does not start with a six. The union
wanted some form of guaranteed contracts; that's not gonna happen. And maybe that is the continuation of something good...
Last season the Philadelphia Eagles took a malcontented - and simultaneously a highly talented - player named Terrell Owens and told him to go home
and stay away from the team under all circumstances. An arbitrator ruled in their favor of the Eagles' actions thereby rendering Drew Rosenhaus
useless and silent for half a year. The only thing that the Eagles might have done to improve the atmosphere in South Philadelphia is if they had
fumigated the old Veterans' Stadium to kill all the rats before imploding the place. Some team will sign Owens in this off-season and he will be a
good boy for a year and then need to be booted out of town from wherever he lands within 24 months. The precedent is set and maybe that's something
The NBA players have their guaranteed contracts and seem to be on top of the world at the moment because they get paid even if they don't play. When
Steve Francis was traded to the Knicks for Penny Hardaway, people praised the Magic for dumping Francis and his outrageous contract to acquire
Hardaway who cannot and does not play but whose outrageous contract expires this season. The NBA trading block has been reduced to an athletic
version of the old penny-ante poker game, 'Pass the Trash'. But maybe the good old pendulum is swinging there too. After a lockout in the NBA there
is a cap on the percentage of revenues that the players can earn and if the revenues drop they have to pay back some of their salaries. And the
Commissioner had - and used - the right to impose a dress code on those prima donnas. They squawked but he made it stick. Maybe that is something
else that is good...
Even the outrageously haughty baseball union, now headed by Donald Fehr and Gene Orza got their comeuppances recently. (By the way, I've pointed this
out before; but in case you have forgotten, both 'Fehr' and 'Orza' are in fact four-letter words.) At one point, we had to tolerate the smarmy Donald
Fehr lecturing everyone about how any kind of drug testing for baseball players was an unconstitutional invasion of their privacy and that such action
could only come about through collective bargaining. Well, when faced with legislation - which he didn't actually think he could get ruled
unconstitutional obviously - he capitulated. And the drug testing regimen for baseball is more than just steroids now; it also includes amphetamines,
which were hardly the focus of media attention or Congressional inquiry last March. And that is definitely something that is good...
Lest anyone misinterpret here, I am not trying to carry water for the owners of sports franchises. I think most of them are less than honorable
people who just happen to have gobs and gobs of money and egos that would envelop a small planet. If Danny Boy Snyder were to take a bath with his
investment in Six Flags Amusement Parks, the only reason I'd be a bit saddened is that would give him more time to be an annoying preening schmoe with
regard to his Washington Redskins' team. I can ignore him as long as he is trying to figure out how to charge kids $8 for a watered down Coca Cola at
his damned parks; I would have a lot more trouble trying to ignore him when he puts his face behind a microphone on a regular basis to offer punditry
about football and his team and et cetera. I don't want the owners of teams to get the leverage they used to have; that was merely a form of
latter-day indentured servitude and that would be wrong. But it looks as if Mr. Pendulum is swinging in the owners' direction at the moment. Now if
we could just get it to slow down as it approaches the mid'point of the oscillation...
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...