FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – All the posturing about an NFL lockout in 2011 is just that -- posturing.
There won't be a lockout. If there is, Roger Goodell should be institutionalized, examined by a team of psychiatrists, removed from office and replaced by Pacman Jones.
Starting today -- with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith's Super Bowl press briefing and culminating with Goodell's Friday address -- you're about to be inundated with stories about a looming lockout.
Ignore them. The owners -- and their paid mouthpiece, Goodell -- are not nearly as stupid as they'll sound and look over the next year.
Yeah, they hired the genius attorney, Bob Batterman, who oversaw the "successful" NHL lockout that helped make professional hockey more irrelevant. Yes, the NFL negotiated TV contracts that pay the league even if there is no 2011 season. And, yes, there are a handful of owners -- Buffalo's Ralph Wilson, Jacksonville's Wayne Weaver and Minnesota's Zygi Wilf -- too incompetent to turn a large profit in a league that prints money.
But short of Wilson, Weaver and Wilf executing an assassination plot of Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, Paul Allen and most of their other peers, there is zero chance of a lockout.
You don't hit the eject button at the very moment the league is about to land on the moon.
That's the message Goodell should be and will be communicating privately to the owners whining about the "bad" collective bargaining agreement his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, and Smith's predecessor, Gene Upshaw, struck in 2006.
Whatever discomfort billionaire NFL owners might have with sharing more than half of their total revenue with millionaire players, the owners will get over it when Goodell explains what their partnership with players has wrought.
The popularity, TV-ratings-driving and cultural-influence distances between the NFL and Major League Baseball and the NFL and the NBA have never been wider.
The Pro Bowl -- the most worthless sporting event known to man, a game ditched by 40 percent of the roster this year -- garnered massive ratings on ESPN. The NFL is a force of nature right now.
No way it does anything to slow its momentum. No one -- not the owners, players or television executives addicted to NFL ratings -- is pumping the NFL brakes. Not now. Not when the league has a finite number of years to ride the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady-Brett Favre gravy train.
Guess when David Stern locked out NBA players? Months after Michael Jordan's second retirement.
An NFL work stoppage in 2011 would be the equivalent of baseball shutting down midway through the summer of 1998 (McGwire-Sosa) or the NBA calling it quits just before Magic and Bird met in the 1984 NBA Finals.
You don't pull the plug on Manning and Brady, the most compelling reality TV stars this side of Jon and Kate.
Major League Baseball certainly doesn't have a competitor for Manning and Brady or Brees and Favre or Romo and Roethlisberger or (Eli) Manning and McNabb or even Rivers and Rodgers.
Tom and Peyton Plus Eight -- my nickname for the NFL's 10-pack of marketable QB stars -- trumps Derek Jeter and Steroid Cheaters .
The NBA would like to think that Kobe and LeBron can compete with Tom and Peyton Plus Eight , but Kobe's Colorado baggage, LeBron's tattoo sleeves and childish behavior undercut their transcendent mainstream power to make America stop what it's doing to watch them compete.
One man was a bigger star than Manning and Brady individually and collectively, and that man, along with the National Enquirer, his Swedish wife, a slew of attention-starved bimbos, a poorly positioned fire hydrant and TMZ, torched his reputation Thanksgiving night.
If Manning and the Colts win Sunday's Super Bowl, he officially supplants Tiger Woods as our most revered and influential athlete. The NFL is already preparing for this eventuality. Colts owner Jim Irsay has vowed to redo Manning's contract this offseason. A signing bonus eclipsing $50 million is likely.
And you think a lockout is a possibility?
The NFL has been working toward this moment for two decades. The league has geared its rules to make as many of its quarterbacks superstars as possible. There's a reason a defender can't hit a QB without first raising a hand and asking a ref for permission. There's a reason John Madden and every other Madden wannabe spent/spend so much time hyping Favre, Manning, Brady, Brees and all the rest.
Quarterbacks move the needle. They have to be healthy and putting up big passing numbers to push ratings. The NFL figured out a long time ago it works best as a QB league rather than an RB league.
Favre and Manning can play for decades and never miss a game. They're always in the playoffs.
Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson -- the five best running backs of the Super Bowl era -- combined to play 53 seasons, and in those seasons they appeared in 29 playoff games, won 10, rushed for 100-plus yards six times and William "The Refrigerator" Perry has more Super Bowl TDs than all five of them.
Should we compare the great running backs to the great QBs of the Super Bowl era -- Elway, Montana, Brady, Manning and Favre?
The numbers are stupid. Elway alone has 22 playoff games, 14 postseason victories, four 300-yard passing games and six postseason RUSHING touchdowns.
It's a quarterback league. And now the NFL owns the biggest star (Manning) and brightest stars ( Tom and Peyton Plus Eight ) in all of sports.
There's no Jordan, Magic, Bird, Tyson, Tiger, Gretzky or Bonds to steal attention away.
The NFL is going to ride Manning, 33, until the wheels fall off. If it doesn't, Goodell will go down in history as an incompetent leader whose claim to fame was keeping strip clubs safe from Pacman Jones.
You can e-mail Jason at BallState0@aol.com or follow him on Twitter .