Just like the players and owners, congressional Republicans and President Obama have been negotiating without result.
Both sides recognize a deal should be done, and eventually will be done. Yet, somehow, they haven't been able to reach one. There's been posturing on both sides. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walked out of talks led by Vice President Biden. The players' union disbanded. On Saturday night, House Speaker John Boehner said he wants to pursue a smaller deal, closer to what Biden's working group discussed. Obama, according to his Treasury secretary, now wants more cuts than Republicans do. But when it hits the fan in early August, no one expects the U.S. to default on its debt, and no one thinks the NFL will cease to operate as a sports league, or even bring in replacement players. As serious as all this negotiating is, it is also the very definition of charade.
I'm not necessarily confident that these billion and trillion-dollar stalemates can really inform our opinions of each other, or that there is intrinsic value in sports-life, sports-politics, or sports-deficit parallels, but there's something about watching these things play out that makes people cringe in the same way.
We know they'll make a deal eventually. Why can't they make a deal now? The waiting is the hardest part.
Some broad-stroke similarities:
Millionaires and billionaires
Ever heard the NFL lockout described as a fight between millionaires and billionaires? You probably have, because, literally, it is (except that not all players have it so great), and sports commentators and columnists appropriately like to point that out when talking about fan reactions to the possibility that such impossibly rich people will deprive them of Sundays and Monday nights full of beer, wings, and the gruesome crunch-sounds picked up by FOX's on-field mics.
The same is true of the legislators negotiating over the debt ceiling, and how much money to cut from the federal budget. In 2009, the last year for which personal financial disclosures have been publicized, the richest member of Congress, California Republican Darrell Issa, listed his maximum net worth as $451.1 million. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is worth up to $6.05 million. And these guys might cut Social Security benefits? In the words of Keyshawn Johnson, come on, man!
The NFL is worth an insane amount of money. Five teams -- the Redskins, Patriots, Cowboys, Texans, and Eagles -- are worth over $1 billion each. In 2008, the NFL took in $8.8 billion in revenue. It makes more money than any other sports league: Major League Baseball grew its revenue to $7 billion in 2010, while the NBA took in just $3.8 billion that year. And multiple industries, including sporting equipment, advertisers who target the NFL's demographic, and local bars and restaurants all depend on the NFL. For every game that isn't played, ripple effects will be felt by Nike, FOX, ESPN, and any restaurant that serves nachos and owns a TV.