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In my past life, I was a high school English teacher. I did that job for almost thirty years and to say it was rewarding would be a major understatement. During my time as an educator, I was also the union president and served as the chief negotiator for three teacher contracts, covering about ten years. Two contract talks went well; one did not and led to a teachers’ strike. Strikes, I can tell you from experience, are far from pleasant and, often, tear communities apart. What I learned was that fair negotiations can usually lead to fair outcomes.

Putting it simply, negotiating is a process. My side would start the process by asking for more than we would accept and the other side would offer less than they were willing to give. That is when the conversation would begin to try to reach a common ground and a contract.

Like any organization, each group had reasonable people on their side and each group had “hard-liners” who wanted things to end their way or, if you did go on strike, “the highway”.

I had a secret weapon and, I guess, I would be considered the school board’s secret weapon (though they did not know it). I would get together with the school district business manager in a clandestine meeting in his basement and we would be honest with one another. He would tell me what he felt the school district was really willing to give and I would tell him what the teachers were willing to accept. It was usually the case that we were not too far apart with a few sticking points. We knew where both sides wanted to end up and mutually saw a way to get there. We often had to meet in the basement more than once but it worked. The only time this did not lead to a
contract was when we both reported that we were very far apart and there was little wiggle room. That led to the strike.

This leads me to the current situation for Major League Baseball. As I write this, no further negotiations are planned. That will mean the continuation of a lot of tough talk from both sides, followed by bitterness, also, from both sides. The owners say the players are being unreasonable and the players feel the owners are, too. The owners argue that the season needs to be shortened to 50 games; the players want 114. The reasons are obvious – more games mean more money for the players, but it means more expenses for the ownership. Remember, there will be no fans and no concessions. The more games played under these circumstances, the more the players
gain and the owners lose. This writer believes there is a compromise here – say 82 games!

The owners, since the games will be without fans, want to get to the playoffs as soon as possible because they say they fear a second wave of Covid-19 would shut everything down again. The teams stand to get well over $750 million from media rights for the playoffs. This is where the owners win, but getting to the playoffs faster means less regular season games and the players lose.

Right now, there is a serious impasse. For games to start by July 4, both sides need to find someone to “meet in the basement”.  If not, there will be no baseball this year.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Dare I say it has been an awful week in America with the senseless murder of George Floyd followed by looting and destruction? There was a positive when so many in this country came together to peacefully rally against racism.  After covering sports for over 50 years, I am not naïve to think there is an absence of racism on the teams I cover, but I also see camaraderie, teamwork, shared goals, and an allegiance to one another. There can be common ground, a sense of fairness, and respect for one another. If only we could all wear the same uniform!

2. The PIAA is working with the state to come up with the guidelines that will allow fall high school sports to take place this year. I am optimistic that we will not only get back to school, but also get back to athletics in some form.  To that end, it was nice to put together a TV football schedule this past week.

3. The college scene is starting to come together, too. It appears that most colleges will start classes a couple of weeks earlier than normal in mid-August so that the fall semester classes will be completed by Thanksgiving. Students will be tested upon their arrival on campus. There will be no fall break because they do not want their students going home and coming back, potentially with the virus. The plan for athletics is still being discussed.

4. It looks like the NBA has actually figured out the resumption of play in July. Twenty-two teams will be back to finish out an abbreviated season of 71-75 games (down from the typical 82 games). The playoffs will follow. Games would be played at the Disney Complex in Orlando. Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota, and New York will not participate because of their overall records when the stoppage occurred.

5. I am looking forward to a week that possesses many more positives than negatives. I am sure you are, too.

Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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