NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday said the league and players "shouldn't be where we are right now," and the two sides "should have addressed the issues far enough in advance," according to Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. In a conference call with Falcons season-ticket holders, Goodell said that he "thought progress was made in previous mediation sessions and thought the NFL made a fair proposal to the players." He added, "We need to get down to negotiating so we can make an agreement that makes sense for everybody. ... We should be sitting at the table working from that proposal." Asked if the NFL has decided when it would start canceling regular-season games, Goodell said, "We do not have a drop-dead date right now. My concern is so much has to happen to get ready for the regular season." Yasinskas noted Falcons fans gave the commissioner a "pretty good grilling about the labor situation" during the 35-minute call, when "only season-ticket holders, not members of the media were allowed to ask questions" (ESPN.com, 5/2). In N.Y., Judy Battista reports NFL owners and players "remained in a holding pattern Monday, as a federal appeals court considered the league’s request for a full stay of the injunction that lifted the seven-week-old lockout last week." The decision of the 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis, "expected early this week, will largely determine what the off-season looks like" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/3).
YOU BE THE JUDGE: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes the "best thing that could happen for anyone who cares that pro football will be played without interruption this fall is for the three-member panel of judges on the 8th Circuit Court to offer up another round of raspberries for the owners and their high-priced attorneys." When you "get past all the legal mumbo jumbo in the owners' 18-page brief, the best little nugget is the almost laughable paragraph that tries to convince the court that the short-term (and ultimate long-term) effects of a lockout won't create an economic or career hardship on the players." But a lockout "leaves plenty of careers in limbo." Burwell: "If the lockout ended at this very instant, the NFL would be able to get on with its regular business within 24 to 48 hours. They would simply put into effect the same rules that they operated under in 2010 and life would go on without a hitch" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/3). Also in St. Louis, Stu Durando profiles the three randomly selected judges ruling on the NFL appeal and notes they "will convene in St. Louis to hear arguments by both sides and deliver a decision." But for the time being, the judges -- William Benton of K.C., Kermit Bye of Fargo, N.D., and Steven Colloton of Des Moines -- are "spread across the court's seven-state jurisdiction area while deciding the outcome of the NFL's request for a stay of last week's decision" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/3).
NO SENTIMENTALITY IN THE EQUATION: The '11 NFL season is scheduled to start with the majority of games being played on Sept. 11, the 10-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that will "have no effect at all" on the labor negotiations and helping to force the two sides to start the season on time. Schefter: "The two sides go about their business and try to get this deal done -- period -- separate from the events of 9/11 and the 10-year anniversary." But if the two sides "don't have a deal in place by that particular day, and that Sunday comes and goes without any football, it makes both sides look that much worse" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 5/2).
NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France made the rounds at ESPN’s HQs yesterday, appearing on multiple shows during the course of the day. France noted the sport has "momentum" this year. France: "We started off with a really neat champion in the Daytona 500 in Trevor Bayne, a young kid with an old team, so we had some neat storylines. Some of the drivers that had been struggling, like Jeff Gordon, have already won and they put notice they're going to contend for the championship. … And then Dale Earnhardt Jr. is running well." France noted Earnhardt is the "biggest franchise in NASCAR" and it would be "great if he continues to figure out the chemistry of the team." France: "He went through a pretty good slump, but it's nice to see him competing at a high level" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 5/2). France also said the sport needs rivalries, but admitted there may be a hesitancy from some drivers because of “obligations that drivers have with their sponsors.” He said, “They don't think they can express themselves in the way that maybe everybody would like to see. I hope that changes over time. We're encouraging that. 'Boys have at it' is part of that." Meanwhile, France was asked if NASCAR had any initiatives to try and attract new fans and take advantage of the labor issues affecting the NFL and possibly the NBA. France: “We're not planning on that. We're fans of most other sports. I hope they get their labor issues resolved and we certainly wouldn't plan in or around that. It's out of our control obviously" (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 5/2).
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has confirmed that his league has signed "a mutual of understanding" to stage a second Izod IndyCar Series race in Brazil in '12. In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes "if all contracts are signed, the race will be a downtown street race in the southern city of Porto Alegre." Bernard said, "It'll be great. It will be in the city, but it's their wine country." The Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 was held yesterday after being postponed one day due to weather (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/3). However, Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage in a special to ESPN DALLAS wrote, "If you hold an IndyCar race in Brazil, does that move the needle for IndyCar racing as a whole? ... Should the series ever leave the U.S.?" IndyCar seems to be "enjoying an increased relevance in America, albeit slight," and the question "haunting IndyCar racing" is whether "international events cost the sport in the U.S." (ESPNDALLAS.com, 5/2).
SHOWING THEIR HAND: USA TODAY's Gary Mihoces notes former World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack is "launching a pro league aimed at showcasing poker's proven somebodies." There are 218 players "approved to compete, if they choose, when play begins Aug. 9-12 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas." The list is "topped by such stars as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Phil Helmuth," but those three are "far outnumbered by pros who have built consistent winnings without celebrity." Players qualify for "five-year, three-year and two-year eligibility cards." Mihoces reports Pollack's league "plans announcements on its name and TV deal" (USA TODAY, 5/3).
THE MORE, THE MERRIER? In DC, Thomas Boswell noted with MLB considering playoff expansion, some fans "will scream that a one-game or three-game playoff is comically inappropriate -- and a grab for TV money -- in a sport that plays 162 games to decide who makes the playoffs." Boswell: "Sounds reasonable. But that misunderstands the baseball culture: What infuriates lifers is playing six months to finish in first place, then run the risk of a KO in a fluky five-game series by a wild card. That problem will still exist under any new format. ... One thing’s certain. With the NBA and NHL playoffs at 16 of 30 teams, and the NFL at 12 out of 32 teams, there’s no way baseball isn’t going to 10-out-of-30 -- by next year" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/2).