NFL fans shouldn't be losing faith in there being football this season.
The future? That's a different story.
The 2011 season is certainly in jeopardy, especially after war was declared when the players' union decertified and the league locked the players out. Neither side is happy with the other, and though both express a desire to continue negotiating, it's clear that neither expects the other to concede any ground in discussion.
The labor crisis is in the right place for a full 2011 season, however. The union's decertification makes a lawsuit imminent and makes federal judge David Doty the key player, just as he was in 1987 during the strike. If he rules on behalf of the players, as expected, he'll force the old CBA to be put into effect, and the 2011 season will commence as scheduled.
It's if he sides with the owners that will give the lockout court backing and really make the confrontation a mess. But historical precedent suggests that won't happen.
The present would therefore be settled. The future, however, could be compromised.
We'd face this situation again next year, only with increased bitterness. The owners, already a stubborn bunch, would be even more ardent that they need the cash, having worked an additional season under a CBA they disagreed with in the first place. The players, whom everyone expected to be the weaker side going in, would be even more confident and even stronger with a court victory under their collective belt.
We'd again go through venomous negotiations, possibly without extensions this time. It would be two sides absolutely convinced they are in the right. Labor discussions would resemble a tug-of-war between the cliched unstoppable force and immovable object.
Of course, we could see an agreement before all this happens. But if this lockout has taught us anything, it's that when rationality's involved, take the field.