There's a rumor going around that the NFL lockout is about to end. No, really this time. And amidst that news comes the revelation that DeMaurice Smith is one crafty motherscratcher.
It is now known that the owners began preparing in earnest for this lockout more than two years ago, as they negotiated a $4.3 billion dollar emergency war chest of TV money -- to be paid whether or not games were played. This would cover any lease payments, salaries for key employees (read: coaches, GMs, and money-counters), harbor dues for the yacht, and groundskeepers to keep the topiaries looking sharp.
The owners' strategy was brutally simple: refuse to negotiate until the will of the players, eroded over time by missed paychecks and the inability to keep the champagne flowing in the VIP room (or however owners imagine players spend their free time), finally broke.
However, as SI's Jim Trotter reports, Smith had established his own secret lockout fund for the players in case of a lost season.
Thursday was a critical point. If the sides could not advance negotiations then the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars being lost to canceled preseason games was real. And if the owners allowed the impasse to get that far, what was to stop them from testing the players' pain threshold by extending the lockout into the regular season?
With talks reaching this critical juncture, Smith and his proxy, Dominique Foxworth, revealed the existance of this fund. "Want to go nuclear, bosses? We'll ride out the winter right with you." That was the message.
The price for peace among the ranks of the players? The price to keep them all in line, multi-millionaires and the horde of commoners alike? Two hundred grand apiece, or roughly half the rookie salary for an undrafted free agent.
A hidden message to the massive entourages and hangers-on that newly minted millionaire athletes attract like flies - the players would have been willing to sacrifice you, too.
Fortunately for celebrity leeches and fantasy footballers alike, this knowledge might just have been enough to wear down the last bit of bravado the owners had, and get pens tantalizingly close to paper, ending this lockout once and for all.