Marvin Miller won them all

November 27, 2012, 6:57 pm
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One of the odd but telling reactions to the death of Marvin Miller Tuesday is the way hockey fans said, God, if we only had him. Hed straighten this lockout up in a New York minute.Thats how much Miller mattered. He was a strong man at a time when strength was confused with bullying, and he broke the baseball owners resolve with a cool boa constrictors logic. He had decades of labor law, a united constituency, and short-sighted owners to fight, and he found the mismatches invigorating.RELATED: Former baseball union head Marvin Miller dead at 95
Of course he did. He won them all, simply by seizing onto the central point of whatever the argument was, and never letting go of it.Indeed, his acolyte Don Fehr, whose record against the baseball mavens was nearly as good, ended up as an occasional disappointment to Miller because he was in the end a pure absolutist. Right v. wrong, with rights greatest advocate being a cold Jesuitical logic that never backed up a step. It was the one threat the owners couldnt beat, and every time they tried, they made their own positions worse.Or do the words treble damages for collusion not have the same chilling ring at your house?Miller was, ultimately, respected for his indomitable will, and with the NHL well into its 11th week of refusing to entertain people, a lot of people who still care about the game want the business to be settled no matter who gets the thin edge of the wedge.So they see Millers passing, remember how he went umpty-ump and zero against the owners and wish he could snap his fingers, win the day, and open the rinks.Of course, it was never like that. Miller worked methodically, as Fehr has. He had the value of knowing his players would wait as long as it took to close the deal, but the owners were no less stubborn than the NHL owners are now. Fehr essentially has that set of dynamics now, although some players have groused a bit that he hasnt caved before now.But Miller represented power in a simpler time, and hockey fans seek simple solutions to a convoluted process that isnt designed to reach agreement. The philosophical turning point in this disagreement whether labor or management is financially responsible for the struggles of individual teams is much thornier than mere who-gets-the-last-slice-of-pie debates.RELATED: U.S. federal mediators to join NHL talks
So Millers passing, other than reminding us that the Hall of Fame is still one worthy candidate short of inclusion, also tells us that people want strong and winning personalities when an argument goes on longer than anyones endurance.And it tells us also that the NHL owners, as much as they demonize Fehr, are lucky they didnt get Miller in his prime. Hed have held a pillow over their faces until the thrashing stopped, just as an opening act.At this point, who could disagree with that plan of attack?Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images

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