Sports Column by Andy Kirkaldy: Authority figures show bad side of pro sports

Every now and then the stupid side of sports is fully displayed.
This past weekend was such a time, and in more ways than one.
Let’s start with first things first. Word broke late on Friday that the National Hockey League owners and players had resolved their labor dispute after 113 days, and by Sunday it was confirmed.
It’s not that the resolution was unwelcome news, it’s that the words “labor dispute” are used kindly. It was all the owners and commissioner Gary Bettman’s fault.
When you have three lockouts under one commissioner’s watch … Well, after a while you have to wonder if the guy is a shill working for greedy robber barons. But don’t wonder too hard. That’s the situation.  
This latest lockout came because the owners didn’t like the deal they themselves signed after their last lockout. D’oh, don’t you hate it when that happens?
Anyway, it must be really hard for everyone involved to figure out how to split $3.3 billion in revenue. It must take teams of lawyers months and stacks of $225-per-hour bills to come up with a solution while league-dependent businesses in or near rinks desperately scrape by and fans sputter helplessly on the sidelines.
Or they could have just said up front, OK then, how about 50-50, eh? Because that’s where they ended up, in a flash of genius.
Sure, there were other issues: Players asked for and kept their defined pension benefits, and got $300,000 to make up for wages lost because owners wouldn’t let them play. Owners got to lower teams’ salary caps from about $70 million to roughly $64 million, starting next season, and a limit on lengths of contracts to seven years. (That last provision simply protects owners from their own stupidity in giving out contracts that are too long, BTW.)
See any deal-breakers there? I didn’t think so. See anything that required a work stoppage and that couldn’t have been settled over lunch in July? Well, maybe two lunches?
Next up this past weekend we got to ask on Sunday if NFL Washington Offensive Nicknames Coach Mike Shanahan sleeps well at night.
Look, it’s already been well-documented that NFL coaches, general managers and administrators have a — well, to be charitable — complicated attitude about players’ health.
On the one hand, there has been a lot of handwringing about and several rule changes made to prevent concussions.
On the other hand, owners have pushed for an 18-game schedule, and teams are asked — for the sake of revenue, of course — to play on Thursday nights with little rest. The Baltimore Ravens thus opened their season with four games in 17 days.
But all that pales in comparison to Sunday, when Shanahan sent out a quarterback with a bad knee, injured a month before, to limp around the field for three quarters or so until he finally collapsed in a heap while trying to reach for a bad snap. He couldn’t even move to attempt to go after the nearby ball.
Shanahan said the QB in question, rookie sensation Robert Griffin III, better known as RGIII, said he could and wanted to play and had clearance from his doctor. His doctor denies that, and anybody with working vision — apparently not our Mike — could tell RGIII could not, in fact, really play.
And even if the Washington Offensive Nicknames could win on Sunday, what was the likelihood RGIII’s knee could survive three more playoff games? Much more likely was what did happen — a potentially devastating injury to a talented and charismatic player who is the future of the Offensive Nickname franchise.
What observers saw in that game was a complete lack of common sense and perspective, and a complete disservice to the athlete.
This observer doesn’t believe either Bettman or Shanahan should keep their jobs.
Editor’s note: This column was written before news revealed this week that RGIII probably has at least partial tears in two knee ligaments.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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