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When It Comes To The NFL, Minnesota Has The Best Team, The Best Fans... And The Best Judge.

Update: The NFL has decided that it took a brow-beating in court and would also like to resume talks. They even quickly agreed to not use the talks as ammunition in their case that decertification was a sham- which, in my opinion, is a no-brainer. The catch is while the players want to negotiate under federal court supervision, the NFL wants to negotiate under the supervision of George Cohen. I'm not going to bluff that I have more knowledge of all this than I do- I don't see the problem with either mediation, but I figure it's important to the two sides, so that means it's important overall. Hopefully, they will somehow come to a consensus on this and get back to talks quickly.

Slightly homer-ish title, yes, but I stand by every word of it.

Yesterday, April 6th, the hearing regarding the case Brady et al v. the NFL occurred before federal judge Susan Nelson, who has been on the bench only four months. (Mind you, I mean federalbench- obviously, her legal experience extends far past that.) If the NFL thought that replacing Judge David S. Doty, a person who was both very experienced in NFL CBA matters as well as generally seen as ‘player friendly' in the majority of his decisions, with Judge Nelson was a boost to their side- well, they were wrong.

Ma'am- You rock.

Legally speaking, at least in terms of this court case, the NFL is in a bit of a bind. For those who are unaware, the Brady v. NFL(the plaintiffs start with Tom Brady's name simply due to alphabetical order) case primarily revolves around suing the NFL for anti-trust violations, something that the league became exposed to when the NFLPA dissolved as a union- hence the decision by the players' side to do just that. The best- and pretty much only- defense the league will be able to legally muster is by claiming that the union's decertification was a sham and nothing more than a legal ploy to allow this proceeding to move forward. The National Labor Regulations Board is currently reviewing the action, and Judge Nelson decided that it was best to wait and hear from them before making a decision on that.

One of the largest goals of the players right now, in terms of this court case, is to have the court rule that the lockout is an anti-trust violation and enter an order to lift it. Of course, should this happen, the players will have a massiveamount of leverage in negotiations, because, well, if the owners' can't lock them out, then there's no reason for the players to negotiate at all anyways.

Now, keep in mind that if the lockout is lifted, it means quite a bit more than just "yay, we get football!". In fact, the ramifications could potentially be quite large and destructive to much of what the NFL has built- we could stand to lose the salary cap, free agency, and the draft, which are the key principles behind the NFL's highly touted and rather successful policy of parity. Personally, as a fan, I hope that we manage to retain all three of these elements- the last thing I want to see is the Dallas Cowboys return to dominance simply because Jerry Jones is richer than G-d. (And of course, being as how the Minnesota Vikings are consistently at the bottom of team revenue rankings- well, it would be a particularly rough scenario for us when the spending spree free-for-all begins.)

So there's that. Well, Judge Nelson didn't allow thatto happen, either. In fact, she let nothing happen- she said that it would take at least a couple of weeks to make a decision. This was after allowing several hours for both sides to make their full cases known. But, in the meantime, she did encourage both sides to sit down and negotiate- something that the players today publicly embraced. Judge Nelson even offered to supervise the negotiations for the two sides. In essence, she told them- and this is a little surprising for a judge, but music to the ears of a fan- to leave the lawyers out of it.

So, right when the proverbial... feces could have hit the fan, Judge Nelson slapped both sides' biggest hopes- that the decertification be declared illegal, or that the lockout be lifted- right down for now and told them to talk it out, which they should have been doing all along (and by all along, I mean the past two years) as it is.

Let's hope the NFL realizes it didn't get a push-over on the bench and accepts the players' willingness to return to negotiations in the time they now have. Now, to unfortunately end this up-beat article on a slightly down note- any decision Judge Nelson ultimately makes, either way, will likely be put to appeal. So the end-game solution, should it not occur in mediation in the meantime, won't be coming in a couple of weeks either.

But again- let's keep hope alive here, and hope that Judge Nelson talked some sense into these men-acting-like-boys (that's owners and players, I'm looking at all of you), resulting in a fair and realistic solution coming out not through the courts and lawyers, but a mediation table with the key players sitting at it.