You know, I've thought fairly hard about what the off-season would be like without the National Football League to provide us with news, whether it's free agency or trades or whatever else. It took me a while, but I finally came up with something that I think is a decent metaphor.
Anyone that's followed this site for any length of time knows that I'm a big fan of the Vegas illusionist duo of Penn & Teller. (Seriously, it's worth having Showtime just to have access to their television show, which is just getting ready to kick off a new season.) They also know that I'm a big fan of video games, having played them for. . .damn, have I really been gaming for 30 years? Man, every time I don't think I can make myself feel any older, I go and prove myself wrong. Anyway, there was a point in time where these two things were supposed to cross paths.
Back in 1995, a game was supposed to come out for the old Sega CD. . .back when putting games on CD rather than cartridge was still sort of a big deal. . .called Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors. The game was never actually released due to contractual issues that you can read about at the link there, but it has lived on via various emulators. The game was set to consist of a few different mini-games. . .nearly all of which were completely rigged, allowing the owner of the game to fool their friends by various means and, generally, just anger them to the point of throwing their controller across the room.
There was one of the mini-games, however, that has gained fame for a different reason. At this point, I believe it serves as a perfect metaphor for what the NFL landscape looks like now that we're headed for a summer of legal battles rather than player transactions.
Ladies and gentlemen. . .I give you Desert Bus.
Warning: There's a bit of NSFW language in the video, if you're against that kind of thing.
As the video states, Desert Bus was inspired by former Attorney General Janet Reno, who once made the off-handed remark about how great it would be if somebody made a game that was non-violent, so that's what Absolute (the company that published the game) went for. Here's how Desert Bus went.
Your job in Desert Bus is to drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas. In real time. At a top speed of 45 miles an hour. This means that a trip from Tuscon to Las Vegas takes eight hours to complete.
Did I mention that the game can't be paused? Oh. . .because the game can't be paused.
Now, anybody that has actually driven the road between Tuscon and Vegas would be able to testify to the realism of the route the bus takes. . .because there is absolutely, positively, nothing there. It's all desert, and the whole road is just one straight line. Tape down the button for the "gas pedal," you say? Nope. . .see, the Desert Bus has a tendency to drift to the right, so if you just tape down the "gas pedal," you're going to crash.
A crash means that you need to get towed back to the town you started in. . .again, in real time. If you got an hour into the drive, it's going to take you an hour to get towed back. If you make it all the way from Tuscon to Vegas, you're rewarded with. . .one point. Then, you get to drive back.
The route of the Desert Bus pretty much sums up what the NFL's off-season is going to look like now that the owners and the players simply couldn't figure out how to divvy up nine billion freaking dollars. We're going to have a long, slow, boring slog from here on out. . .and, with the exception of the draft, the scenery isn't going to change.
Free agency? Nope. There isn't going to be any of that right now.
Trading players for draft picks? Nope, can't do that, either. With no new CBA, teams can only trade draft picks for draft picks.
Mini-camps? Nope. . .which stinks for the Vikings, because Leslie Frazier would have been entitled to an extra mini-camp, thanks to his status as a new NFL coach.
Training camp? Ummmm, well, maybe. . .who knows at this point?
The stadium efforts? This could be the biggest one for the Vikings. . .the efforts to get a stadium funded were counting on a contribution from the NFL's G3 fund, which has dried up and won't be replenished until a new CBA has been finalized. The Minnesota legislature generally adjourns just before Memorial Day. If a new CBA isn't finalized before then. . .and I wouldn't hold my breath on it happening. . .then it's really quite hard to imagine stadium legislation ending up getting pushed through without it.
This situation defies every known law of physics by managing to suck AND blow at the same time. I honestly, can't believe it's come to this. . .and I have a tendency to agree with what Ted has said about how serious the players may have ever been about getting a deal done in the first place.
I don't care if the players "win" here. . .I don't care if the owners "win" here. But I damn sure care if I, my fellow Viking fans, and football fans in general lose, and that's exactly what's happened here. This is all about nothing more than pure, unadulterated greed, and now look at where both sides are.
After all, the last time I checked. . .50% of zero is zero. 60% of zero? Still zero. That's what both sides stand to gain right now. . .and that's, apparently, what the National Football League players and owners think of their fans with their inability to get any sort of deal done in the allotted time frame.