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The Return of the NFL: It’s ON!!!

[Hey there Lugnuts!! We are having a fundraiser here at Emptywheel. Help the effort out! We have been really hesitant about doing this in the past. To the best of my recollection, we have not done one at all since leaving FDL. Marcy will not toot her own horn, but I will. The level, depth, independence, and rationality, of what Ms. Wheeler does makes most “Main Stream” and other “blogs” look feeble. And it is not just her, Jim White, Rayne and, occasionally, I who also contribute. This is a valuable forum. We live for you, but we also need your help. To the extent you can give it, it would be remarkably well placed, and much appreciated. Thank you!]

I have been being heckled about this Trash Talk stuff forever. Marcy is just cranky jonesing for football and Jim White thinks the Devil Rays count. But this ain’t called “Trash Talk” for nothing you know. Pre-season fake football and baseball in the swamps are not enough. Nosirree. Not in a sophisticated joint like this.

But there was a little smattering of real college football last Saturday, so there was primordial Trash. But, now, my friends, there is REAL, professional grade, NFL football in the queue. Let it be known, unless I meet a bigger margarita pitcher and burrito that looks like this tomorrow night, there will by Saturday morning be additional MAJOR LEAGUE Trash for the weekend. NCAA, NFL and the F1 Circus at Monza (yes, that really may be the bigger story worldwide. Formula One rules; get used to it).

But, tonight, there are two games on the schedule. The biggest, of course, is a replay of last season’s AFC Divisional Playoffs between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens. Ought to be a great game. Despite what the naysayers say, Peyton Manning’s arm is turning bionic in its incredible strength. The Bronco’s, however, are a bit wounded with Elvis Dumervil now on the Ravens and Von Miller suspended for the first six games. The Ravens have also lost a LOT of weight from last year’s Superbowl team, including Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. As much as the media and fans have always focused on Ray Lewis, I cannot help but believe the absence of Ed Reed, one of the most incredible ball hawks in the history of the NFL, is every bit as big a loss. Broncos are at home and are PISSED about that last minute loss last year to the Ravens. My money is on Peyton and the ARM OF HULK.

Secondarily, and I, (maybe you?) will probably have to DVR this, but the ASU Sun Devils are opening their season tonight at 10:00 pm EST against Sacramento State. Okay, this won’t be much of a game. But, GO DEVILS!!

That’s it for now. More later as promised. This is the best blog in the world, if I do say so from my completely neutral perch! Rock and roll my friends. Today’s music is by Government Mule. Because Donkos and Peyton rock….and, because, the US Government, collectively, are a bunch of War Pigs.

How Long Until ESPN Brand Is Damaged By Money Trumping Safety?

ESPN stands perilously close to damaging its brand with repeated recent moves that appear to place their income stream ahead of safety. After working closely with Frontline for well over a year on a project documenting the effects of concussion injuries in football and especially in the NFL, ESPN on Friday removed their name from the effort, only a few weeks before the documentary was slated to air. Today, Kevin Brockway is out with an article in the Gainesville Sun noting the frequency with which the University of Florida has been forced to schedule early season home football games during early afternoon hours when heat indices are at dangerous levels for both athletes and spectators.

The New York Times noted yesterday that ESPN wields overwhelming power when it comes to setting the times for college football games to start, in some cases not announcing kickoff times until only six days before the game. Brockway’s article in the Sun shows the impact of ESPN’s decision-making here in Gainesville:

When the Southeastern Conference unveiled its week one 2013 football season start times, the collective groan from Gator Nation was heard from Key West to Pensacola.

For the fourth time in the last six years, Florida was stuck with an afternoon kickoff for its season opener. This Saturday’s 12:21 p.m. start time against Toledo at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will force fans to again stock up on sunblock and bottled water.

But we aren’t talking about a mere inconvenience with the starting time. Figures on fans treated for heat-related illness in previous years speak to the danger of kickoffs at this hour in August and September:

The burning question is why? Why would the SEC schedule an early-afternoon game for its southernmost member during a month when the average heat index (which measures heat and humidity) is at its highest point of the year?

The answer lies in television, and some factors beyond the SEC’s control. Nonetheless, Florida administrators aren’t happy about the prospect of another sweltering Saturday opener. They consider it a fan safety issue. In 2011, when Florida began the season against Florida Atlantic (7 p.m. kickoff), only six fans were treated by medical staff for heat-related problems. Last season, when Florida opened against Bowling Green (3:30 p.m.), 105 fans were treated for heat-related issues.

A 12:21 kickoff is likely to be even worse than a 3:30 kickoff if rain showers don’t intervene, as the stands on the west side of the stadium usually are in the shade by 3:30 but not at 12:30, while shade doesn’t hit the seats on the east side until early evening.

As for the concussion documentary, here is how the Times described ESPN dropping out of particpation:

On Thursday, ESPN, which has spent heavily in recent years to build its investigative reporting team, abruptly ended its affiliation with “Frontline,” a public affairs television series that was weeks from showing a jointly produced two-part investigative project about the N.F.L.’s contentious handling of head injuries. The divorce came a week after the N.F.L. voiced its displeasure with the documentary at a lunch between league and ESPN executives, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

As might be expected, there are now denials from the NFL that they exerted pressure and from ESPN that they bowed to pressure. Those denials do nothing to improve the optics of the situation, however, and it remains indisputable that ESPN withdrew its support just before the documentary slamming the NFL’s handling of concussions aired.

ESPN is in very dangerous territory right now. If Saturday proves to be especially hard on fans at early afternoon games in the South, the record is already clear on whom to blame for shifting games from their traditional evening kickoffs to the worst possible time for fan and player safety.

Premature NFL Trash Talk Under Duress

Are y’all paying attention to that Twitter widget thingy lodged on our blog on the right hand side? Well do ya? If so, then you have seen the oppressive brutality with which the otherwise demure Empthwheel has demanded pre-season Trash Talk.

I get no respect I tell ya.

So, here we are. Of course, all the cool talk is about the Patriots and Tim Tebow….WAIT….WHAT?….that’s not really the story?? Oh my, turns out there is MUHDERRRRR bout the ‘ole Foxborough and baby Jesus ain’t even close to the main story. Go figure?! And, this time, the OJ of the moment is juicing his fans with mash notes of innocence. Yippy-yi-o-cay-yay.

Alright. Okay. Let’s do some serious trash talking, mmmkay? And I ain’t messin around here. I think people in Gainesville know where this is pointed and I DEMAND response!

Q: What does a Saint, a Racist, and a Murderer have in common?

A: Urban Meyer and the Gators.

Boom!

I would say some phony smart bunk about the teams (seriously, Peyton Manning’s arm is growing stronger by the day and Donkos Rule!) but, hey, it is preseason and not a lick of it matters. As Marcy said, this is a test drive to see who of the normal Wheelhouse pit crew is still in the mix and what kind of chops the new recruits have. Represent people.

Oh, one last matter: The F1 Circus is off grid until the Belgian Grand Prix on August 23-25.

Oh well, it’s been a good day here in the hell of the desert. Turn it up and splay your opinions out here for all to see – on everything. Let’s rock.

Formula One Trash Talk: The Circus Comes To Oz Town

Hi there Wheel, Empty, and and otherwise gear heads, it is time for Spring Trash Talk. There is a lot under foot, Spring Training in Major League Baseball, free agency season and pending entry draft in the NFL, the somewhat diminished fortunes of the NBA and, most of all, FORMULA ONE! The Circus season is upon us, and it is starting down under in the Land of Oz.

Appears we are starting off where we left off: there is yet no reason to believe the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are anything less than the cars to beat. But, that being said, there is also no reason to think that the Ferrari and McLarens are anything less than the threat that they were at the end of last season. Drivers make a difference in F1, and Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are very, very good drivers. And their cars are not chopped liver either. For the clear superiority of the Red Bulls, and even the McLarens for that matter, Fernando Alonso pulled off one of the greatest performances in the history of F1 with inferior equipment last year. Alonso was only 3 measly points behind Vettel in the final Driver’s standings. Simply astonishing.

The opening two practice sessions for the Australian GP were late last night my time; i.e. between 9 pm and 12 am whatever the heck time AZ is. (Daylight savings time really screws with our heads here, cause we don’t do that). Bottom line…..not much has changed.

Okay, if I were pleading guilty (I would never!) to a heinous offense under truth serum to make sure I was cray cray (yeah, okay, this is some stupid shit too) I MIGHT admit that a lot of this post was written from a series of taco joints in Old Town Scottsdale. It is nowhere near as opulent as it sounds; hell even the mariachi music is piped in like Muzak. And the 60 something threesome at the table next to me looks like their Winnebago may be illegally parked out on Camelback Road.

Where were we? Okay, back to the Australian GP. Here is what Brad Spurgeon thought:

Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel have won all the titles for the last three seasons. Vettel became only the third driver in Formula One history to win three drivers’ titles in a row, after Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1950s and Michael Schumacher last decade. Only Schumacher, Fangio and Alain Prost have won more than three titles, with seven, five and four, respectively. So both Vettel and the team have more pressure on them than ever. Still, Red Bull has the advantage of the consistency of keeping the same two drivers and technical team, and Mark Webber is still pushing for his own final career chances to capture the drivers’ title. With the great designer Adrian Newey leading the way, Red Bull should remain among the strongest.

As a lifelong aficionado of Scuderia Ferrari, I would kill to demur. But, I cannot; I think that is right. Still. As to the beloved Prancing Horse, well, from the lens of the season start, it will take another superhuman drive for the ages by Fernando Alonso to keep Ferrari in the chips.

That leaves McLaren and Mercedes fighting for sloppy thirds. Maybe it will come to be that one will blast out of nowhere to be a contender for King Vettel’s Crown, but it is really hard to see. Lewis Hamilton proved himself to be a self absorbed punk at the more superior team, McLaren; now he will try to do what Michael Schumacher could not at fast, but unreliable, Mercedes. Please. Juan Pablo Montoya performed better and was sent packing to NASCAR.

For all the sturm and drang, for all the off season shuffle, the Championship will still be fought for between Red Bull and Ferrari, with a decided advantage to the former.

Let the Circus games begin!

And, then, there is the NFL free agency merrygoround. Heck, I do not know who are the winners and losers at this point. But, a quick take says the Steelers and Cardinals, the teams of local pricks bmaz and Scribe, did not do well.To be kind. Probably nobody did worse than the Cardinals, who signed an aging punt return specialist that even the Cleveland Browns did not care about anymore, and let go Kevin Kolb, the only even practice squad level NFL quarterback they had. Seriously, what kind of addled mentally challenged assholes are running the Cardinals? Oh, wait, it is still the fucking Bidwell family. Who could have guessed from this level of rank pathetic incompetence??

The Deetroit Kittehs seem to have done very well. If they can keep their peeps healthy and out of the klink, they may have the greatest show on fake turf. The Pats lost Welker’s whining wife (and shitloads of clutch catches in the slot and over the middle) BUT gained a sometimes fragile Danny Amendola. Amendola was the successor in kind at the Pirate attack fun/gun at Texas Tech. Amendola is actually every bit the route runner, and even faster, than Welker. But he ain’t as predictable, nor as reliable, as Welker. This could be a wash, or it could be a loss. Time will tell. The Pat’s defense and, especially, secondary looks to be much improved.

Other than the above, the Squawks got Percy Harvin and some other studs, and the Niners got some too. Whoo weee baybee, the gold rush is on on the left coast.

MLB is in Spring Training; let me tell ya something brother, it is fucking hot here. The NBA is in the stretch run, but the only question of interest I see is what lower seed will the Lakers fill? 8? 7? 6 looks bleak, but not impossible; though I would be shocked. We will return to that in a roundball post later. As we will with the student athletes for March Madness, and very soon.

Rock it, Talk it, Jayhawkit. Get yer sweve on Wheelies. Light it up.

Music by BB King, Bono and the band.

NFL Hard Knocks, Head Injuries and The Monza Rebuttal

Here we are at the real, official, start of the football season in earnest. Yes there were a full slate of college games last weekend, but only a couple of decent ones. and, yes, the NFL officially kicked off wednesday with the Cowboys somewhat surprisingly laying one on the Gents – at the Meadowlands no less. Credit to Tony Romo, Rob Ryan’s defense and the ‘Boys, they fairly earned the win. But now the conventions are over and we start it all in full in the football universe. Also, this weekend is Monza on the Formula One calendar and, as always, it looks to be special. I will return to F1 a little later.

Despite the excitement of the return of football, it is time some dues should be paid to the trauma suffered by the working union members of the NFL who provide the spectacle and entertainment for us manning couches and barstools on Sundays. I wrote about this nearly two years ago in describing the “The Walking Wounded The NFL Treats Like Disposable Trash”. So much has happened since then with focus on repetitive brain injuries and high profile suicides like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau bringing the stark reality of the problem home in a powerful way.

But the Ferengi like single minded profit whores of the NFL have paid mostly lip service to the issue, save for a couple of competition rules that fall far short of a prophylactic redress of the problem. Marcy suggested a piece by Dave Zirin in The Nation to bring it all to a boil. She was right:

Beneath the fireworks, concerts and breathless hype that will mark the start of the 2012 NFL season, is a league that’s haunted. It’s haunted by future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau who killed himself in May at the age of 43. It’s haunted by the recent suicides of Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, and OJ Murdock. It’s haunted by the now widespread knowledge that the country’s most popular sport can leave you damaged in ways never before suspected. What a sign of the times that the start of the season wasn’t punctuated today with chest-thumping and military flyovers but with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement that the league’s owners would be donating $30 million to the National Institute of Health to further study the affects of brain injuries.This recognition of the danger inherent in the sport has sparked a high profile debate across the political spectrum. The terms of the debate are simple: Given all we are learning about Read more

Vilma Vanquishes Goodell & NFL; Saints Players Reinstated

There is some early Trash from the National Football League breaking within the last hour. The four New Orleans Saints players suspended in “Bounty Gate”, led by Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita, dissatisfied withe the league ruling handed down by Roger Goodell, first filed suit in the Easter District of Louisiana and then appealed to a special appellate panel available under the relatively new collective bargaining agreement.

This afternoon, the special appellate panel unanimously ruled in favor of the players and ordered them reinstated:

The four players suspended by the NFL for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” program had their suspensions overturned by a collective bargaining agreement appeals panel Friday, NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said.

While the suspensions are vacated immediately, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can go back and suspend the players if he proves there was an intent to injure. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said all players are eligible to play, starting with this weekend, until Goodell does so.

“Consistent with the panel’s decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league’s pay-for-performance/bounty rule,” Aiello said in a statement. “Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend.”

Here is a full copy of the written decision.

This is pretty significant news on a lot of fronts. First off, of course, the Saints get two key players back, including Vilma who is the quarterback of their defense and a critical team leader. Secondly, it is a slap in the face to Roger Goodell, and an equally big win for the NFL Players Association. Thirdly, this is an appeal process that the league agreed to and the first time it was taken out for a test spin, they got clobbered by it.

And a rebuke like this could not happen to a more deserving group of arrogant folks (see: refusal to make deal with referees) than the NFL and its owners.

That said, the ruling is not quite as huge a win as you might think at first blush, as it still leaves room for punitive action by Goodell against the players. Here is the key language from the ruling:

While we agree, then, that the Commissioner had jurisdiction to discipline the Players in this case, we are uncertain that the discipline handed down was attributable, in any part, to that aspect of the Program which lies within the exclusive jurisdiction of the System Arbitrator. While we could speculate, it is not clear from the record before us whether the Commissioner had the distinction we draw in mind at the time he disciplined the Players.

In light of the serious nature of the penalties imposed, we believe caution is appropriate. Therefore we vacate the Players’ discipline and remand the matter directly to the Commissioner for expeditious redetermination.

What this means is that Goodell can still take punitive action on these players via his “redetermination”, but he is going to have to do it under a provision different than he originally relied on. According to Albert Breer at NFL.com, who did fantastic reporting this afternoon and first posted the written opinion, Goodell will now have to base any punitive action on “intent to injure”, and that is how I read it too. That is a significantly tougher evidentiary burden to prove up legally.

Now the question is will Vilma et. al cut a deal with Goodell or keep fighting? Jonathan Vilma is very bright, and a very proud, tough fellow. It will be interesting to see if he has any inclination to deal. With Judge Berrigan still proceeding in EDLA, and having indicated she would rule in favor of Vilma if she could, I would not bet on Vilma being willing to cut any deals with the Commissioner.

Fear & Loathing Mix With Beauty & Greed In the Olympic Cauldron

The Summer Olympics are here! Yay! The Olympics, especially the summer ones, have become so commercialized, politicized and oversold, on so many levels, that it is hard in some respects to get too excited about them. That said, there is still a powerful beauty and lure in the physical prowess of the athletes, the competition, the joinder of nations from around the globe, the spectacle and the always awesome pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies. To whatever extent the games ever had “purity”, there is much less of it now; but there is still a lot of sporting, and viewing, value.

Not long from the posting of this article (well it will be two full hours for me and those on the west coast, which is totally bullshit), the opening ceremonies will commence. We Yanks in the States cannot of course, due to the fucking craven greed of NBC, see the opening ceremonies live. If that were the only unmitigated greed by NBC and the other purveyors of the Olympics.

I have always loved the opening and closing ceremonies. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen was the closing of the 1994 winter Olympics at Lillehammer, with the moving tribute to Sarajevo by lamplight in the dark. Powerful stuff. As was the simply incredible, even if long, opening ceremony in Beijing last time around. I have seen a little of the gig on a bootleg feed from London; it is good, but nowhere near the over the top opulence of Beijing and some of the others. I am anxious to hear what you all think, and let this be a forum for just that, and all other things Olympic.

There are also a few other notes to be made. America’s own Borat, Mittens Romney, brilliantly blurted out that London was not ready for the Olympic experience and that such was “disconcerting”:

Thursday was supposed to be the easy day, when Mitt Romney would audition as a world leader here by talking about his shared values with the heads of the United States’ friendliest ally.

Instead, the Republican presidential candidate insulted Britain as it welcomed the world for the Olympics by casting doubt on London’s readiness for the Games, which open Friday, saying that the preparations he had seen were “disconcerting” and that it is “hard to know just how well it will turn out.”

The comments drew a swift rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron and, by day’s end, a public tongue-lashing by the city’s mayor as the Olympic torch arrived in Hyde Park.

“I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re Read more

Trash Talk: The NFL Season Begins Packers & Saints

It’s Here!! It seemed like it may never happen the way things looked in the spring and early summer but, unlike those mopes in Washington DC, the NFL and the players figured out what needed to be done for the long term, and got it done. Not some freaking kick the can down the road for a couple of months, or pass the buck off to a “Super-Committee” of bribed up asshole politicians, but a comprehensive and fair agreement for the next ten years. The Congress and Executive Branch in DC could learn a few things from our mindless sports pastime.

There are a couple of other updates I would like to get out of the way before we get down to business. First, in the biggest news of the day – and this is going to break Marcy’s heart – Peyton Manning is in a world of hurt. Manning had a cervical fusion operation today, and will be out 2-3 months. I would not bet against Peyton returning this year, but I find it unlikely. Unless the Colts are looking good for the playoffs late in the season, why would you put him out there? The surgery sounds very serious, and anything involving the spinal column is that, but it is fairly common actually. I have seen several personal injury clients through the process in the upper cervical area, all with good results and very little effective reduction in motion range. He will be back; just maybe not this year.

Secondly, good old Henry Waxman is again reaching his unneeded long hairy arm into the world of professional sports:

Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman sent a letter to National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players’ Association urging them to put in place human growth hormone testing (HGH) procedures for the players without further delay. Despite agreements to test and impose penalties for HGH use, the NFL and the Players Association have failed to finalize HGH testing procedures in time to begin testing before tonight’s start of the 2011 season.

Here is the full letter. Waxman had no basis to be sticking his hand in the sports pie as head of House Oversight, and only slightly more as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. I guess the NFL is commerce but, really, that is a little thin; with all of the concerns in this country and Washington DC, this is not among the top of them. What really pisses me off is that Waxman is out there making a stink about this crap and, from what I am told, still pushing buttons behind the scene to maintain the prosecution of Roger Clemens.

What the Oh So Honorable Mr. Waxman, nor even any of his lesser staffers, manage to find time for is to discuss the issues behind the DOJ colluding with admitted felon obstructor of justice Scott Read more

F1 Hungarian Grand Prix and The Return of Football Trash!!!

Well, you knew sooner or later the Masters of the Football Universe (MOTFUs) would prove their superiority to the mental midgets in Congress and get the deal done so as to not cook the golden goose. For once, Daniel Snyder is looking better than the other DC Deciders, although that is a relatively pitiful spectrum of comparison. Well, whatever, we gots teh football back on the burner, and that is awesome. Before we get to that, however, there is the little matter of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

There was no Grand Prix in Hungary in 1961, so we will pick up with the season long retrospective of the 1961 Yankee Champion with the Italian GP at Monza in early September. This weeks tilt is at the the Hungaroring, just outside of Budapest. It is a dusty course that has many of the limitations on overtaking and competitiveness of Monaco without an ounce of the charm and elegance. In other words, as a circuit, it is bleech.

Sebastian Vettel still has a 77 point lead over his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, and 82 points over a resurgent Lewis Hamilton of McLaren. They simply are not going to catch Vettel, but the remainder of the season looks to be much more competitive across the board and the race for all positions but the Championship will be fierce. Practice revealed Hamilton still fast, followed by Alonso and Button. The other marques waited just a little too late to catch up Red Bull, but they clearly have as to speed.

The BIG news is the continued Murdochization of F1, and it is not welcome:

The bad news comes from Britain, where the country’s F1 fans are seething over the announcement that the BBC and Sky Sports have signed a joint deal to show Formula One from 2012 to 2018, with only half the races being shown on free-to-air TV and the other half on pay TV.

More coverage of the SkyTV deal with F1 here; and the sad truth on where all the riches of F1 are going is to a spoiled little rich bitch. Well, at any rate, at least the race is back to live broadcast in the US again, with coverage starting at 7:30am EST and 4:30am PST on SpeedTV.

Now, and without further adieu (i.e. before Marcy kills me), we move to NFL FOOTBALL!!! Yea! It’s back! Thanks to universe masters that actually can cut a deal without screwing the pooch royally, the NFL is back and the agreement mandates a whole decade of uninterrupted football free of labor disputes. And with that, we are off on a flurry of signings trades and activity. Let’s take a look at what is up with that. Read more

Tom Brady et. al v. The National Football League Stay Decision

Just a quick post because, well, we are sometimes a football blog here at Emptywheel you know, and we have football news! The NFL draft starts tomorrow night, so one and all can come back and yammer about the draft and who your team did or didn’t draft. But, more importantly right this moment is the decision just entered by Judge Susan Nelson of Minnesota District Court to deny the stay of her decision on Monday lifting the lockout imposed by the owners collectively acting as the National Football League.

Judge Nelson hit on, and reinforced, many of the points made in her 80 page decision entered Monday, but today’s order is a nice compact 20 pages and I thought it worth taking a look at.

Here is the full 20 page order denying the NFL’s stay request.

After noting that the NFL bogusly attempted to use a self serving low burden for getting their stay entered, Nelson clobbered them again:

But this Court need not address this matter further because even under the lenient standard that the NFL proposes, the League still is not entitled to a stay pending appeal. Even if a lesser showing on the merits is permissible, the NFL would have to compensate for that lower showing with a strong showing of irreparable harm to it pending the appeal (and, more precisely, a strong showing of its harm compared to what a stay would inflict on the Players).

Here, the NFL has shown no such injury resulting from or in any way related to this Court’s Order, which, importantly, only enjoins the lockout. The NFL argues that it will suffer irreversible injury and irreparable harm–not because the lockout has been lifted–but by the potential signing of contracts between owners and players in a free- agency market. (Doc. No. 103, at 11-12 (claiming that “the Order in this case may entail the start of a free-agent signing period in the NFL–a period in which any structure or set of rules, even an agreement among the member clubs on the number of games that should make up a season, is subject to antitrust challenge ”).) That argument is based on the incorrect premise that this Court’s Order somehow enjoined the restraints on player free agency alleged to violate the antitrust laws in the Brady Plaintiffs’ Complaint.

Ouch. Well, okay, how about the Leagues other points? Judge Nelson didn’t like those either:

Moreover, as the Brady Plaintiffs point out, a stay of the injunction and a continuation of the lockout would inflict financial harm upon the League, which stands to lose approximately $1 billion before a single game is even cancelled. (Doc. No. 111 (Decl. of Richard A. Berthelsen) ¶ 3, Ex. B.) As to the notion that, without a lockout, the “competitive balance” of the NFL will be jeopardized, Plaintiffs counter that in 2010, the last season covered by the expired CBA and White Stipulation and Settlement Agreement (“SSA”), the League operated without a salary cap and there was no harm identified to competitive balance, as perhaps best exemplified by the fact that two small market teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, played in the Super Bowl. (Id. ¶ 4.)

Further, the League’s own advanced planning belies the likelihood of any descent into chaos such as they now envision, absent the imposition of a stay. On April 13, 2011 – during the lockout – the NFL announced the complete pre-season schedule for 2011, and released the regular season schedule one week later.

Heh. Hilariously, the League also had the temerity to claim that the players (you know their opponents who do NOT want a stay) would be harmed without a stay. Judge Nelson didn’t think much of that either:

Any such argument fails to acknowledge this Court’s ruling. The lockout plainly raises issues of harm beyond those that are compensable by damages. This Court addressed, at substantial length, the irreparable injuries that the Players are presently incurring, and have been incurring, since the League locked them out on March 12, 2011. This Court came to that conclusion based on the extensive affidavit evidence submitted by the Brady Plaintiffs. The NFL offered little, if any, evidence to directly rebut the Players’ affidavits, either in response to the motion for a preliminary injunction, or here. Moreover, the NFL’s argument assumes the Eighth Circuit will rule before the season begins. In the absence of a motion seeking an expedited appeal, that seems unlikely.

Accordingly, the balance of equities tilts indisputably in favor of the Brady Plaintiffs. A stay would re-impose on the Players precisely the irreparable harm that this Court found the NFL’s lockout to be likely inflicting on them since March 12.

After again noting that the NFL is premising their stay request by substantially arguing irreparable harm on issues that were not even in front of the court, much less elements of Monday’s decision from which they could appeal, the court concluded by telling the NFL that their argument that “public interest” would be served by letting the league trample the players is complete horse manure (and it is):

The NFL has had ample opportunity to serve and promote the public interest in encouraging the collective bargaining process in the past, but in this present context, there is no such process to encourage. As this Court suggested in its Order, there is no public interest in permitting the NFL to continue to enjoy the benefits and protections of labor law–antitrust immunity and the right to lock out the Players–without the Players being able to enjoy their corresponding rights of collective bargaining and the right to strike.

In contrast stands the public interest in the enforcement of the Sherman Act and the public interest in a professional football season. These are actual, “live” interests, and they favor the denial of a stay of this Court’s Order.

Well, okay then. That is a pretty thorough butt whipping laid down by Judge Nelson. Now the league will seek an accelerated appeal and emergency stay in the 8th Circuit. The 8th has a reputation for being pretty business friendly, so the NFL will find it a much more friendly forum. That said, it is far from clear the NFL will get their stay; Judge Nelson left quite a record supporting her decision, and it is pretty compelling. The 8th Circuit will have to do some fancy footwork to overcome what Nelson has ordered here. The 8th may be generally fairly business friendly, but it is a good bet they are football fans too; I would not be shocked if they surprised the pundits and also declined the stay application.