Minneapolis, MN – Negotiations to end the nearly four month old NFL lockout stalled once again today, as players and owners abruptly ended talks at an undisclosed location in Minneapolis follwing a heated exchange between DeMaurice Smith and Jerry Jones. According to a league official, who asked to remain anonymous because the talks are confidential, negotiations hit a stalemate over the issue of compensation for team mascots.
“Things were going relatively smoothly,” said the official, “until the mascot thing came up. Within an hour, the meeting was adjourned and both sides walked out in a huff. Swoop had to be restrained.”
Sources close to the negotiations have said owners are trying to eliminate monetary compensation for mascots and instead pay them in beer vouchers and scratch-off lottery tickets. The player’s proposal seeks a 25% salary increase, full health benefits, and a complimentary weekly Febreezing of all mascot costumes. Ragnar the Viking, who along with Sourdough Sam serves as official mascot representative during the proceedings, has also requested a flame-thrower and gas money for his motorcycle. Owners, according to the official, called the proposal preposterous.
Eyewitnesses outside of the building reported seeing Jerry Jones give a thumbs down signal on the way to his limo, and Freddie Falcon looked uncharacteristically dejected as he hailed a cab in the rain and rode off towards the airport.
Among the biggest sticking points for mascots in these talks include the implementation of free agency, which would allow mascots to be traded or sign with other teams, and increased benefits for retired mascots, who often have to deal with significant cheer-related injuries and post-traumatic-costume-disorder in their later years.
The highly publicized episode of the ESPN program “30-for-30″ – which chronicled the troubles of former Colts mascot Studly Stallion as he sunk into painkiller addiction following a long battle with crotch rot and eventually became psychotic, wandering the streets of Baltimore in his horse costume and doing cartwheels for loose change near the waterfront – has recently brought the plight of NFL mascots into the spotlight, and mascot reps are hoping to capitalize on the national attention.
Owners, in response, are considering locking out the mascots and replacing them live animals. Sources close to Chicago Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey say she is vehemently opposed to this option, and if need be is prepared to change the team name to the Chicago Hamsters.
This article, of course, is completely fictional.
It is intended as a satire of the mainstream reporters who have been “covering” the NFL lockout for the last 14 weeks. If you look hard enough, you’ll see that there are quite a few similarities between this article and John Clayton’s “98%” guarantee yesterday, or the dozens of reports that have linked the Eagles with Reggie Bush, Plaxico Burress, and Ricky Williams so far this offseason.
Sure, my article is totally false. And if someone cared enough, it could probably be proven false. But that’s the problem. There is no one investigating any of these reports anymore, no one is out there asking John Clayton who his sources are and what facts he’s using to substantiate his opinion. The court-mandated gag order on negotiations has made it impossible to know exactly what’s going on at the negotiating table, and as a result there’s no way to prove whether all of these lockout reports are even partially rooted in fact or if they’re entirely based on rumor and hearsay.
All of the quotes I used in the above story are 100% accurate. I got my roommate Pat Brown to say them into my tape recorder. No, he doesn’t work for the NFL; but he is the commissioner of our fantasy football league, which we run through NFL.com. This, technically, makes him an “NFL official.”
You see my point. Without knowing who these “sources” are and which side they’re on and why they are so motivated to ignore judicial orders and speak to reporters, readers can be led to believe whatever it is the writer – or more likely the source – wants them to believe. More than one player has said recently that all the optimistic reports about productive negotiations are coming from the owners, who want to paint the players as bad guys for continually delaying the deal when it is “so close” to being done. This may or may not be true, but it’s poignant nonetheless.
Both sides – players, reps and owners – are aware of the power of public opinion. They are going to try to manipulate reporters and analysts to suit their cause. This happens all the time (agents are especially good at it) but reporters are usually professional enough to keep all but the bare facts out of their articles. Lately, however, journalists have become so desperate for “stories” that they’re willing to print anything, from anyone, at any time. So long as it’s juicy, relevant, and small enough of a story that no one will bother to look into it.
Some of us, however, are keeping track. As LeBron once said, I’m taking notes. When it all shakes out and all of these “reports” are finally proven wrong wrong wrong, I will remember who said them and when. And I look forward to reminding everyone, right here at ITI.