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Unless you enjoy watching men in suits bang heads to hold the line on revenue sharing or move it one yard back, the only way to extract any fun from the NFL labor impasse is to imagine what could take place over the next six months if the lockout continues. Consider the following a fantasy calendar of a pro-football-free future.
Less than a week before the NFL draft, more than 20 projected first-round picks announce they will not attend the event in New York City. They say they're following the advice of leaders of the decertified union, who urged the prospects to think carefully about participating in the league's showcase. They were told also to think carefully about the possibility that, when play resumes, linebackers Ray Lewis and James Harrison would personally greet any rookie who attended by reaching down his throat, ripping out his vital organs and playing punt, pass and kick with his pancreas. "That particular scenario sort of crystallized my thinking," says one anonymous draftee.
The players' legal team decides it must remove Colts quarterback Peyton Manning from the list of plaintiffs in their antitrust lawsuit against the league. With no game tapes to review, Manning had spent countless hours studying the NFL lawyers on film, then attempted to install a new legal game plan. The final straw came during depositions, when Manning repeatedly interrupted NFLPA lawyers to suggest they audible to a different question.
The owners finally agree to the players' request to see the teams' financial statements. To avoid the public embarrassment that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt suffered when, through divorce court records, he was found to have two sons on the payroll for a combined $600,000—even though one reportedly was in business school at Stanford and the other worked for Goldman Sachs—the NFL owners edit their books before opening them. An owner who used team funds to finance his wife's three-week trip to Paris for the new fall fashions reenters the expense under SCOUTING. The look at the ledgers doesn't lead to progress in the talks, but it does earn the owners a glowing mention in The New Yorker as "exciting new voices in contemporary American fiction."
Disgusted with the glacial pace of negotiations, wide receiver Terrell Owens signs with the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL as an enforcer. The contract is voided, however, when Canadiens officials realize that stories written about Owens by U.S. news outlets have not been properly translated into French, and that the oft-used phrase about his "throwing people under the bus" is merely a figure of speech.