The web has been chock full of stories all week about how a new CBA is near and the lockout almost over. However, as a number of stories today make clear, there is still a big hurdle to be overcome: the fierce disagreements among the owners. As Ray Rotto on cbssportsline.com writes in an excellent story, the fans who have seen this dispute as one pitting the owners vs. the players really don't know what has been going on. That's the old cliche -- management vs. labor -- but it has little to do with reality in this case. The biggest disputes have been among the owners themselves.
Rotto portrays the owners as 32 separate factions, but I think it is possible to oversimplify a bit and talk about three main factions: the idiotic greedy pigs, who regard the players as their peons and want to maximize their income regardless of what happens to the game; the much larger moderate faction of owners, who want to go on making a nice profit but understand that the best way to do that is to worry first and foremost about keeping pro football healthy; and the small market faction, who worry that they are falling behind the teams located in larger cities in terms of revenuses and thus in the ability to attract and keep the best players. To some extent, the small market faction overlaps the other two, including both "moderate" owners who care about the game itself (Ralph Wilson and Mike Brown), as well as some greedy pigs.
To approve a new CBA requires the votes of 24 out of the 32 owners. It's possible that the small market owners could join up with enough greedy pigs to block an agreement if the proposed new CBA does not provide enough revenue-sharing. That's an extremely important issue for the Bills of course, since without enough sharing of tv money and other sources of income we won't be able to compete in the future, which in turn could increase the chances of the franchise leaving Buffalo after Ralph Wilson dies. In the past the players' union has been fairly helpful on revenue-sharing, since they realize that without it players who are located in small markets won't get the same compensation they would receive in big markets, but the players have so many other issues at stake this year that it's unclear how much of a push they will make on this one.
In short, Bills fans of course want to see the lockout end soon, but we should also care about getting a new CBA with adequate revenue-sharing even if it means that the lockout continues longer than we would wish. That's why we should be paying close attention to the owner's meeting coming up shortly in Chicago where these issues will be hashed out. Again to oversimplify, we very much want to see the moderates triumph over the greedy pigs, but we also want to be sure that the small market owners come away with the agreement they need to remain on an equal footing with everyone else on the field.