Punt the money and run

America's pro football strike negotiators got away with something the teams will never be able to pull off when they return to the field on Sunday: Both sides claimed victory.

Or is such the logical outcome of a game which, like other professional sports, is becoming more and more a profession and less and less a sport? Laborers are worthy of their hire in any endeavor, of course. But what does it matter who wins any pro contest these days when even many fans seem no less interested in how much money was made by whom?

There is, of course, a sense in which everybody wins in a well-played game. And, whether well played or not, the National Football League negotiations might be said to have given the players a win in their unprecedented severance deal, for example; and the owners a win in thwarting the players' hopes for their share of mammoth TV revenues.

If the settlement is ratified by the union rank-and-file - imagine talking about the 20th century's gladiators in that way! - its effect on hiring and firing could alter the games people watch in the future. Maybe by then the figures on the tube will stop looking like little dollar signs running around.

Perhaps that old coach went too far when he said winning is the only thing. But at least he didn't say dough is the only thing.

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