NFL CBA Negotiations: 18-Game Schedule Might Be a Tease


With an NFL lockout on the horizon, what if I told you one of the following hot button issues affecting the owner vs. player CBA negotiations was a hoax?

  1. A new rookie salary-scale;
  2. Dividing up the $9-billion revenue pie;
  3. Improving health benefits for old timers;
  4. Expanding the NFL season to 18-games.

Option “4” has always confused me. Everywhere I turn people are against it. The media, players, former players, coaches, and even the fans. Everyone is happy with the 16-game schedule the way it is. Expanding to an 18-game schedule would be playing with fire right?

For one thing, it would mean messing with the NFL record book, and we like our record books clean so we can understand them (see Major League Baseball and steroids). 18-games would also mean more injured players, which would mean less talented players replacing them, weaker games, bored fans, etc. A diluted product overall.

I get why people don’t like it, it’s just too crazy. But the owners have been pushing for it all year, saying more games will simply make everyone more money. Maybe that’s true, but I have a feeling they’re smarter than that.

Play along with me here…

In order for the owners and players to avoid a lockout, both sides are going to have to make some concessions in negotiation = I’ll stop asking for this if you stop asking for that. I think the owners invented the notion of the 18-game schedule so they could give it up and look like they were making a concession, when actually they aren’t.

Like a reverse bargaining chip or something. A Hollow Target (a new term I just made-up, © me).

Here’s what I mean: Let’s pretend you and I are 2nd graders about to enter into the most universal negotiation known to man… in elementary school. We are about to trade lunches.

  1. I have a sandwich, a fruit cup, a pudding, and a banana.
  2. You have a sandwich, Fritos, a Twinkie, and some applesauce.

I want your sandwich and your Twinkie, I freakin love Twinkies. I don’t really need both a banana and a fruit cup so I am willing to part with one of them. Thus, I define victory as parting with one of my disposable fruit items in return for two items in your lunch. I win the negotiation that way.

You on the other hand, have been barking at me all week about trading lunches. You’re a much bigger kid than me. You need to eat more, you’re louder, but fortunately for me, you’re not quite as smart. I have been watching you eat lunch for days and I can tell you are going after my fruit cup and my pudding.

I could simply trade my pudding + fruit cup, for your sandwich + Twinkie in a straight-up two-for-two, but then we’d be even. There wouldn’t be a winner, and I’m going to grow up to become a jerk like that. Plus I want to keep my pudding, so I create a Hollow Target for you to worry about.

I spend the entire day leading up to our lunchroom showdown blabbing about how much I want your Twinkie and your sandwich, and your applesauce. All three, with the applesauce serving as my Hollow Target, or my out of the blue 18-game proposal.

Everyone in our class knows I am gunning for your sauce. It becomes a campaign. I color out a little chart explaining how it’s important for me to get my vitamins. I have some of my friends tell their friends at other schools. I explain that acquiring your applesauce will be good for everyone.

I talk about it so much you start to think I’m serious. Not only are you sold, you’re terrified of giving up so much of your lunch; you need your sugar. But the truth is, I don’t want your applesauce at all, I am just saying I do so you’ll be glad when I let you keep it.  My tactic works.

You become obsessed with wanting to keep your applesauce. You spend all of your energy screaming there’s no way in “heck” (remember we’re just 2nd graders) you are giving me your sandwich, Twinkie, and applesauce. You’re also a little obsessed with proving you’re not stupid.

When we finally sit down in the lunchroom to argue out this trade, you’re a nervous wreck. We only have 34 minutes for lunch, and you are big and hungry and you need to eat. I play it out a little, according to my plan, and then at the last minute I hand you the bait and say, “OK, I guess I would be willing to let you keep your applesauce.”

You are so relieved to hear this you jump at my new deal: my fruit cup, for your sandwich and Twinkie.

I keep my pudding, plus I get two of your lunch items for just one of mine (which I didn’t want anyway). I win.

And I did it by making you think you won a little too. Your lunch sack is lighter than mine, but in your mind it could have been way worse. I let you think I gave up ground for you. You feel smart. The rest of the class doesn’t think I punked you since you talked me down an applesauce on the surface. But in reality you score no points for shooting down my Hollow Target.

Think the NFL owners are above acting so juvenile? Think again. $9-billion buys a ton of extra puddings.

My hunch is they’ve had their eye on a hunk of that pie all along, and concocted this ludicrous 18-game Hollow Target to trick the players into going after it.

The owners will be happy to give it up, and NFL Players Union Director DeMaurice Smith will be able to go back to his embattled constituents with something, anything, even if it secretly cost them everything.