First of all, my friend Shoalts needn't apologize for barging in on the popsicle action.
He raises several interesting points, and his piece has given me an intuition about where the metaphorical puck may bounce from here.
I think David is right about the funneling effect that the next few weeks will have on both sides - this is a very old idea in human history as vast numbers of bison have learned to their detriment.
So assuming the pressure points are accentuated, what's the likeliest route to compromise?
Without the benefit of having done any real reporting on whether any of this would actually fly, here's a by-no-means scientific thought experiment on what it could look like: the owners badly want to trim the current-year payrolls, the players badly want to maintain every dollar of the contracts they are owed, yes?
There is a give-a-little-take-a-little scenario where both sides could sort of claim to have succeeded in getting what they want.
We already know the players are wiling to roll the dice on future revenue growth and accept a haircut in the overall percentage they get every year, and it's an open secret that the owners would be willing to sign on for a 50-50 split.
So the way they get there from here in the short term is blindingly obvious: cancel a few games (say eight or 10 or 12), play a shortened season a la NBA with pro-rated salaries and a sweetener in the form of, say, a one-time escrow holiday. Owners pay a little less out of their pocket this year, players get something very close to what they signed on for - 100 per cent of 85 or 90 per cent of what you're owed is better than missing paycheques into the indeterminate future.
Presto, first year problem solved, and you haven't imperilled any commercial relationships (yes, I'm referring to NBC, and I'm presuming here that there's a point this fall at which sponsors like MillerCoors are going to start wanting their money back and/or start putting their dough elsewhere, although the ins and outs of from deal to deal are apparently quite different).
Hell, you could even tweak the playoff system to have an eighth-place play-in game to goose revenues and general fan interest (don't laugh, it worked for baseball).
For subsequent seasons you negotiate an escalator for the owners' share of total profits where they can claim most or even all of the total revenue growth in the medium term (not sure how that would work, quite certain the players wouldn't want it to be through escrow) until the split hits 50-50 in two or three or four seasons' time.
In return, the players can demand language that protects 100 per cent of the present value of all contracts that have already been signed (with an asterisk beside 2012-13), and if there's a little bit of immediate relief for the owners maybe they're willing to make a concession or two on some ancillary issues - as in: okay, we'll pay for more trainers and hotel rooms on the road, sure, you can keep a bigger chunk of future World Cup revenues.
Besides, if the recent past is any indication, the revenues will swell more quickly than people expect - have any of you checked projected interest rate spreads and Canadian dollar forecasts lately?
Will any of this be enough to move the sides off their positions?
Is it even remotely realistic given the stakes and the personalities driving the negotiation?
I haven't the faintest, it sure doesn't look that way now, and if I turn out to be dead wrong I'll deny having ever having brought it up and perhaps inelegantly attempt to shift the blame to one D. Shoalts.
But it may look like a palatable, face-saving option in another month or five weeks when sponsors, broadcasters and the ticking clock on players' careers steer the buffalo within view of the cliff.