Sunday, October 16, 2011


I’ve spent too much time lately, reading a million words by fine and angry writers, have stared at screens until my eyes ache. We’ve become a community of scorned lovers, obsessing about a partner that won’t love us back. It’s a perfect 72 degrees and sunny in Austin. The sky is seamless blue. I make a pot of coffee and sit at my desk. I don’t want to write about bindles and jars and slippery tides anymore. I pour my coffee into a travel mug and walk out the door.


Nighttime. I am where I always am. A padded, swivel chair. It’s pretty comfortable. I can slouch in it if I want to and lean my head on its high back. The material looks similar to the upholstery of a generic economy car. It’s getting a little dingy. I idly wonder if carpet cleaner would help.

George Cohen is head of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, appointed by President Obama. He has argued five landmark labor cases before the Supreme Court, over 100 cases before appellate and federal district courts. He worked with the NFL during their recent lockout, mediated soccer in 2010 and hockey in 2005. He pleaded for the MLB players before U.S. District Judge Sotomayor in ‘96. She lifted the strike that same day. The consensus amongst most sports writers? He doesn’t have a shot. It’s a view born of a series of downturns and deceit - it’s Charlie Brown landing flat on his back after Lucy pulls away the football, once again.

This seems to bother me in some vague way. Director Cohen has been talking to both sides, off-the-record, for months. He knows the numbers, the conflicts, the game. The players want to give him a full week to work a deal. The commissioner has given him one day only, citing scheduling conflicts. Stop and rewind. David Stern, in the midst of a media blitz, gives a presidential appointee, a day. Posturing?  Probably, but the players' union still has a complaint before the National Labor Board and Stern is dancing perilously close to the edge.

I haven’t been on twitter all day. It wasn’t hard. There’s a library within walking distance that I hadn't visited in ages. I miss the smell of books in a library. There is a restaurant with outdoor tables down the street. There’s a coffee shop that is not a Starbucks.

If somebody wants to point a gun at my head, I'm going to point one back at him. Billy Hunter

The war of words has escalated. There’s a reason people don’t trust a federal mediator. It’s the reason people say Washington is broken, not that it isn’t necessarily, but the two sides have been saying it for so long that it’s simply become the accepted law of the land. Billy Hunter and David Stern understand, they’ve been tearing each other down for decades. My heart lies with the players and I have no desire to see them give up hard-won precedent. I’m also tired of watching dirt grow under the NBA’s feet.

It’s late, a cool breeze drifts through the open slider. I think about it, touch the image of a tiny blue bird. Flickering firefights, even now. One school holds that superstars Bryant, Garnett, and Pierce, sabotaged a 50/50 offer.  Another has Stern labeling the rank-and-file as too ignorant to know what’s best for them.  And as dying embers are poked and prodded, I exit a three-inch screen and head to bed.

Mama, put my guns in the ground.  I can't shoot them anymore. Bob Dylan

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