My father, the great Ted Engel, worked for nearly 40 years for a major grocery chain. For the last 20 years of his professional career part of his responsibilities included negotiated labor contracts between unions and his company.
Big Ted is now 78, very retired, but still a season-ticket holder to NFL games. When he lived in Washington D.C., he had season tickets to Redskins games. In Cincinnati, it was Bengals season tickets in the '70s. And since moving to Indianapolis, he's been a Colts season ticket holder.
Personally, I hate this labor negotiation stuff. Bores the hell out of me. But I was wondering what this man thought of all of this NFL stuff that hit the fan other day, and if he could translate any of the goings on that have thus far occurred.
Mac Engel: When the NFL appeals a court's decision to end the lockout do you think a new judge will reverse a previous judge's decision?
Big Ted: It's pretty hard to do it but in this case you can. I can see another judge saying this judge had no right to issue this order and the lockout is back.
ME: Is there ever anything really to this rhetoric we hear from both sides?
Big Ted: No. It's just sabre-rattling. What you have to do is find out the core issue. Where does this chitter-chatter stop and, in just my opinion, who is going to pressure the owners? It's not going to be the players. Is it television? Some where in this mix there is a razors edge that is going to force these guys back to a negotiation.
ME: Any chance the razors edge will be pressure within owners against owners?
Big Ted: That is the real key. Whether it's affluent owners against small market owners. Some of those guys that have deep pockets, and there are going to be guys out there feeling pressure because they have a lot of debt. There is some talk teams don't make any money.
ME: Do you believe that there are teams that don't make money?
Big Ted: No.
ME: What about the importance of "opening the books"?
Big Ted: With a publicly traded company that's pretty easy thing to do. With a NFL team, it's very hard. How one team keeps their books may be entirely different than how another team does. Does a team owner buy a plane and write it off against his team? There is no one uniform set of expenses or revenues. One team may get parking and concessions from a stadium and another may not.
And then it's very difficult for someone analyzing your books. You might get a union guy who does it, or in some cases the government, making judgements as to what your books say.
ME: As someone who has been in similar situations before do you have any feeling about this type of thing at all?
Big Ted: It's (a word this man would never have said around me as a kid). I seriously doubt the general public has any sympathy for either side. It's like the Hollywood Actor's Guild; I think some of this is plain fiction. To call this labor strife? This isn't a lunch bucket guy who has a family that is going to be out of food here. This is millionaires against billionaires.
ME: What about replacement workers/players? Is that a viable option again?
Big Ted: It always is. Under the labor law you can hire permanent replacements. That has happened. Years ago Caterpillar did it. It took a long time.
ME: What do you make of a player with a non-guaranteed contract?
Big Ted: I've wondered about that. Why I'm lost is that basic guarantees aren't part of basic negotiations. The players (union) obviously used that as a trade off somewhere. It makes sense to me that the existing players get more than the newborns. It's much easier to do that because the newborns don't get a vote.
ME: What do you think will eventually happen and do you think the league will lose regular season games as a result?
Big Ted: Well, the judge is not going to over-turn her decision. That's not going to happen. I am sure she knew it would be appealed. They'll go back to the bargaining tables. It's in the best interest of both sides to do it. There has to be some innovative ways to move that money around.
*ME: Of your five sons, who is your favorite and who are you the most proud of? It's me isn't it?
*Big Ted: Easily. By far. Not even close.
* This question and answer may not have actually happened.