It's hard to overstate just how important today's special master decision is, the one that could give owners a big edge in at the bargaining table. This post from Doug Farrar at Shutdown Corner is an absolute must read and offers excellent perspective.
I know it's hard to sympathize with players who make millions of dollars for playing football, something that every 12-year-old might be willing to do for free. It's especially hard when so many of us see friends and families losing jobs and generally struggling to get along lately. Even stranger is the idea of professional celebrities organized into a union, not coal miners or children in a textile mill, but football players. However...
It's important to remember that it was the owners who pulled the plug on the collective bargaining agreement, with an eye on getting a bigger slice of the revenue pie in the shape of redefining which profits get to count toward player salaries.
The owners are engaging in a shrewd, devious PR move here. They need to make sure a majority of fans see this as a battle with two bad guys, two entities keen on destroying the game we love...it's the "millionaires versus billionaires" argument. By collecting money even in the event of a lockout, owners could really come out looking like the bad guy, but not if they can strike a chord with the public's resentment, a feeling that's always easier to roust in times of seismic economic shifts.
They see baseball, where fans returned in droves eventually, and see that if they can just hold out long enough to make the union more amenable to their demands. Fans will come back. What choice do they have? Whatever the CBA looks like next time, even if it is a year away, the NFL will still have a national television deal. It'll take it awhile to get its marketing muscles back up to strength, but the league will get there.
Hell, the truth of the matter is that even if they do break the union and get a one-sided labor deal, players will still make millions of bucks and the game won't have changed all that much (maybe).
The problem is that we're getting lied to, taking a big hit as fans by sacrificing a season of football for the sake of the owners making even more money than they are already making, at a time when the NFL is as popular as ever. It may very well be a battle of millionaires versus billionaires, but it's the billionaires willing to make us, the fans, suffer for it.