As we all watch Major League Baseball expose everything that none of us want to feel or hear about greed in pro sports, especially in this time of worldwide crisis, I would suggest we use history as a lesson for getting some HOPE from the toxic current dialogue. Please allow me to step outside my area of expertise to just offer some perspective.
Every time I hear MLB, make an attempt in returning to the field, playing out publicly, I just shake my head. We have seen the leaking of information, negotiating in the media, agenda driven statement after statement and all the other predictable reactions, from the other side, that come with these actions. Nothing new here. Clearly there is a total distrust of the other side and a “win for me” attitude that is more prevalent than ever before. I’ve negotiated hundreds of deals so I get the “art of the deal” and the timing mechanisms that come with. These tools have been used by both MLB and the MLBPA and to be honest, are things we see in many labor negotiations. What makes this version of labor strife hard to swallow is our current social climate and our need for positivity. How can millionaires and billionaires create so much negativity?
I am far from an expert on MLB labor relations but I do know this. A bigger picture perspective is available and has proved to be effective in the past. Why not consider what’s best for the GOOD OF THE GAME.
I use as an example the picture in time when Paul Tagliabue was commissioner of the National Football League and Gene Upshaw (RIP) was head of the NFLPA. Big money was at stake then too. As an employee in the league I always felt like, even though they had issues between the two sides, that both men had this as an unwritten rule; both had respect for each other and a sense of history as to what was best for the “good of the game”. Both understood that they had to be willing to bend, if it was good for the game in the end. I think this came from Gene’s internal passion and respect for the game and the blood, sweat and tears he poured in to it. The almighty dollar did not rule every negotiation and each, big picture decision, had to have a bigger prize- to preserve the game. He was a former player, he knew what it was like from a player’s standpoint and what it took to present quality football, in hindsight, currently and in the future. Paul understood (as a lawyer and a very smart man) that it wasn’t about winning every negotiation for the sake of pocketing every dollar for the owners. Maybe it just my opinion but I always felt he had so much respect for those who came before him and his job was being the “caretaker” of a great game, that he would not lose sight of doing what was best for the game in serving this purpose. The owners understood and gave him leeway as well.
Everything that the Tagliabue-Upshaw era stood for is missing in the labor landscape of today’s pro sports world. It’s not just baseball, it is bubbling on the surface in other sports, but MLB just has our attention now because the stage is empty of any U.S. pro team sports. We all seem to struggle to trust the messenger and the message. Wouldn’t it be great if the two sides would come together on a deal that truly is “Good for the game”?
This attitude and message of teamwork and mediation for a bigger and better cause must come to the top of this boiling pot we call society right now. MLB and Sports in general can be leaders on this front I they can realize there are bigger issues at stake. Seems simple but everyone doesn’t have to feel their side is right on all counts. I’m going to grab a phrase from a man much smarter than me. Robin Koerner (robinkoerner.com) which gives me some HOPE from history “There is something I don’t know, the knowing of which could change everything”. This can carry beyond sport and into most walks of life currently. And the message to Baseball is- Let’s all do what’s best for the good of the game and that doesn’t mean, being RIGHT all the time.