If you've lost a loved one – either dramatically prematurely or over a long, harrowing process – you probably are familiar with the Kubler-Ross Model. It lays out the five stages of grieving.
I've had more than my share of pain and loss in my life. So much so, I call it the "Lissa Method" because I'm versed enough to the teachings of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to have such shocking familiarity.
Her method of dealing with grief comes in fives stages – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
Fortunately for me (I guess), I've shot to Stage 5 already. I'm making soup for the new Stage 5'ers as they arrive. Their numbers are growing every day.
My Stage 1 came in January. I wasn't used to being, for the most part, unemployed during the postseason. But, thanks to a 6-10 Vikings season, I got to watch playoff football with Vikings fans. For the record, I like observing Vikings fans, just not elbow-to-elbow with them watching Green Bay games. I was in denial. The Bears made it? What? Seattle? You gotta be kiddin' me?
Stage 2 came in February. As the schism (have to keep that one alive) between the owners and players escalated to glove-slapping one another in search of an answer to the manning-up question of whether they would duel with guns or knives, it became apparent there wasn't going to be the annual free-agent period greeting spring in the early weeks of March. As such, Winter Park would be effectively mothballed. I was losing out on story opportunities. I was pissed. Oh, wait. According to Lissa, I was "Angry." Call it what you want. I'll call it as it was.
March and April brought Stage 3. The NFL was still went through with the draft as usual, complete with Roger Goodell hugging full-grown men for way-y-y-y too long in front of thousands of face-painters and team-specific hooligans. There were labor talks ongoing. I rationalized that, after the two sides saw that the rope was getting tighter, they would back off. Right? Isn't that how bargaining – collective or otherwise – works? We got a one-day window. It worked! I had merely been going "Chicken Little" on the whole lockout situation. Right? My internal bargaining had worked. Right?
That window not only slammed down, but it slammed down on eight fingers I had plans on using. Enter Stage 4, Stage Left. As Bill Murray said 30 years earlier, "And then depression set in."
It became clear when the temporary forced re-entry of the NFL workforce was brought to a dead stop that this was going to be a war waged in the courts. Considering how notoriously slow "justice" is achieved (even on slam-dunk cases), my depression morphed into acceptance.
As we approach Memorial Day Weekend – the official advent of summer – I am at Stage 5. I'm accepting that we are likely heading into August (the dog days of summer) before we're going to have any meaningful progress toward long-term peace between the owners and players. As much as both sides claim they want to reach a middle ground, I get the feeling that this scenario will play out like a contract negotiation with a first-round pick. Unfortunately, for more than one reason, I fear that this battle may be similar to the Raiders trying to sign JaMarcus Russell. Lose-lose.
I'm "that guy" who, as far as NFL early reconciliation goes, has just asked the bartender to leave the bottle and save us both time. I've reluctantly been elected the Grand Poobah of my local Stage 5 chapter.
"Hey, Johnny. I've got the fourth pick in a fantasy draft this weekend. What do you think?"
If there was a transcript of my response, I can only imagine it went something like this: "What? (Long pause.) What the [expletive deleted] are you thinking? (Long pause.) Oy! Ummmm (Long pause.) You sorry bastard. (Long pause.) Homina, homina, homina. Got another call. Talk to you later [Boop! What used to be "Click!, but has been replaced by cell phones]."
In that Porky Pig-quality stutter, I realized that there are still a lot of NFL fans still at Stage 1. Sucks to be them.
Unfortunately, too many NFL fans are at Stage 1 and 2. Far too many. Until something positive happens, it's going to be an ugly summer, my friends. Hopefully, cooler heads with prevail … but I said that at Stage 3 in my own descent to acceptance. Welcome to Stage 5 when you get there. There's soup waiting on you.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.