The talks between the players and owners stalled slightly Friday. There was very little progress made as of late in the day. But that's not the news.
The feeling that emerged from the post-8th Circuit ruling that kept the lockout in place was that both the owners and the players doing the negotiating are determined not to allow the ruling to derail the talks. Thus the negotiations remain productive and the sides do remain close to a deal. We are still on target for a handshake agreement next week.
That was the message from several people on both the player and management side with knowledge of the discussions. There is still widespread belief that both the preseason and regular season will be saved.
What's happened in the past few hours alone is that the moderates from both sides are trying to make sure the extremists from both sides don't use the ruling to push various extremist agendas. The feeling is that if things aren't handled delicately, the fanatics could ruin everything.
The problem with the court ruling -- besides its timing -- is that crazies from both sides can use it to push their agendas. There are people within the trade association who want to continue to fight the owners and possibly lose the season. This ruling, they think, helps them. There are owners who want to union bust and the lockout, in effect, helps them.
The good guys have to hold off the bad guys in order for a deal to be struck.
So far that's what's happening. The sensible forces in the sport are holding off the irrational voices.
If that continues, a deal gets done. If it doesn't, a deal doesn't, and there's chaos.
It's pretty much that simple.
So we now wait and see who wins. The moderates or the crazies.
I'm betting on the normal folks saving the game.