Quiet labor talks say much about baseball's resurgence

The Kickoff

October 23, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

I can't believe that Major League Baseball has been sneaking around behind our backs the past few weeks, negotiating a new labor agreement without any fanfare or frightening headlines.

What fun is that?

The owners and the players union finally have figured out that labor peace actually has a dollar value all its own, so both sides were motivated to bargain quietly while baseball fans were distracted by an intriguing postseason. If they can get the thing on paper in time, commissioner Bud Selig can announce the agreement this week at the World Series.

Maybe it was another record attendance year. Maybe it was the fact that an industry that tried to commit public relations suicide in 1994 has seen its gross revenues more than double since a lengthy strike that forced the cancellation of the postseason that year. Maybe it's just that Selig and union chief Donald Fehr have mellowed during the past 12 years.

"The relationship between the parties is now what it should be," Selig told reporters last week. "It's mature. We understand them. They understand us. That's the way it's supposed to be. Owners and players fighting with commissioners in the middle fighting with both was just not a very happy set of circumstances."

I don't know. I traveled to something like 28 cities to monitor the negotiations during the 1994-95 fiasco. This is really going to cut into my frequent-flier miles.

Missile toes

When Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 62-yard field goal to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, it brought back memories of the record 63-yarder that the New Orleans Saints' Tom Dempsey booted in 1970.

Dempsey's achievement, which was equaled by the Denver Broncos' Jason Elam in 1998, was made more special by the fact that he was born with no right hand and a club foot, with which he made the famous kick.

Bonus long-field goal fact: Elam's training camp understudy in 2002, Swedish kicker Ola Kirren, made a 65-yarder in an exhibition game, but it didn't go into the record book because it was kicked in the preseason.

Coming clean

Got a confession to make. I watched a French movie with subtitles yesterday (Eight Women), which could seriously compromise my reputation as an anti-culture guy. The only other time I did something like that was when I watched the original German-language version of Das Boot, but that was OK because it was a war movie.

Don't really know what came over me, but I promise I won't ever do it again.

Can't lose them all

The Bay Area media spent the week debating whether the Oakland Raiders could go winless this year, and the answer wasn't long in coming. The emotionally drained Arizona Cardinals, who had built a 20-point lead against the Chicago Bears on Monday night, fell behind early and lay down quietly yesterday at McAfee Coliseum.

Apparently, the Raiders weren't who the Cardinals thought they would be, but at least Arizona didn't let anybody off the hook this week.

'Skin diving

There were a few tense moments when it looked like the Redskins would actually be competitive with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts yesterday at the RCA Dome, but even after attempting to fold up Peyton Manning and stuff him into one of their equipment trunks, the banged-up Washington defense could not keep him down in a runaway second half.

The Redskins (2-5) have the bye week coming up, which means that their chances of losing next Sunday are fairly slim, but I'm finding it harder and harder to overestimate them.

Rare TV game

Glad to hear that Saturday's showdown between Maryland and Florida State will be shown in prime time on ESPN2. There have been so few Terps games on TV this year that I was beginning to think the Fridge had gotten his household appliances mixed up.

In reality, the reason that there have not been a lot of local broadcasts is that the TV schedule is under the centralized control of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

That said, TV-starved local football fans might face sensory overload on Saturday, with Navy-Notre Dame at noon on CBS and Maryland-Florida State at 7.

Bouncing back

Rebounded from last week's losing record to post a 7-4-1 mark against the spread yesterday and raise my season winning percentage to .574 (54-40-5) with the Dallas Cowboys giving 3 1/2 tonight.

Headline hilarity

This week's funny headline comes from The Brushback.com, a sports satire site on the Web: Tigers Agree To Delay World Series Parade Until After World Series.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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