What exactly is the point of the NFL releasing the 2011 schedule when the labor situation is such that anyone with a even limited knowledge would evaluate the probability of, say, the opening game (Packers-Saints on Sept. 8) actually happening as somewhere between not-at-all-likely and icicle's-chance-in-hell?
I refuse to get my hopes up until negotiations accomplish something more than both parties sitting in a room for a long time and then racing each other to be the first to say "WE'RE WINNING!" to the nearest camera or microphone. At this rate, even if the season were to magically start on time, there's no way players will have enough off-season time with coaches and trainers, meaning we get to see out-of-shape players on teams that haven't fully installed or practiced their playbooks, to say nothing of the personnel disaster sure to come from little or no time to resolve free agency snags and sign draft picks. In short, the season is probably headed towards an unmitigated catastrophe of epic proportions.
The thing that annoys me, though, isn't the chance of a delayed or low-quality season. What bothers me is that the owners, who rigged the system to lockout from about a year and a half ago when they opted out of the CBA, aren't feeling any financial pain at all. The television networks still have to pay them billions of dollars for meaningless broadcast rights (that's being fought out in court, so we'll see), season ticket holders still owe them thousands apiece for seats at games that probably won't happen* (sure, they'll pay you back with pennies worth of interest if the games don't play, but it's still basically an interest-free loan to them), and of course there's still merchandising revenue. Theoretically, the owners don't need another game to ever be played, as long as they keep inviting everyone to hope that maybe someday there'll be football again. That's extreme, of course, but consider that the players, meanwhile, have exactly zero dollars coming in (except the tiny minority of players with advertising deals) and you can see the disparity in the situation. One side is essentially profiting from a work-stoppage, while the other one is being faced with a choice of continue to not work or accept the owners' outrageously one-sided proposals.
I guess that concept of negotiating in good faith is obsolete. Much better to have your lockout and profit from it too.
*Although I love the Packers greatly, I am not a season ticket holder, and if I were, I think my response to the team asking me for advance payment for tickets to games that aren't going to happen would be an invitation to take those tickets and shove them straight up Roger Goodell's ass.