When we last left compulsive nugget-teaser Peter King, he wrote this:

One of the player reps in the talks, U.S. superstar Landon Donovan, said last night: “The moment we — me and some of the guys in the league who were a part of the negotiations last year — saw George (Cohen) was going to be the mediator for the NFL, we all said basically the same thing: that we think the league and the players will get a deal done.”

And so it came to pass! Wait, what’s that? A deal didn’t get done? The negotiations blew up and everyone called in their lawyers? Well, dammit man! THE SOCCER GUY SAID THIS THING WAS A DONE DEAL! If you can’t trust Landon Donovan on labor law, who can you trust?

So what about this week? What did Peter see in the Harrah’s parking lot vending machine? Will Jim Trotter write something in the column so I have something good to read? And how quickly can we get a Starbucks out to the tsunami victims to begin the healing process? Doesn’t seem like Japan is going to have a happy ending, that’s for sure! And that’s so weird, because you’d expect Asian people to know how to supply happy endings. READ ON.

Maybe it’s because I’m an optimist.

Maybe. POSSIBLY. Am I an optimist? I hope I am!

Maybe it’s because when I left the Westend Bistro on the edge of Georgetown just before midnight Thursday, union board member Jeff Saturday and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were deep in discussion in the bar, and not very happy to have been seen.

“Shit! It’s King! He’s gonna want us to buy him a goddamn steak. You’ll never get him to shut up about how much he likes Andrew Sullivan. AVERT YOUR GAZE.”

It’s bad now. We all know that. It’s in the hands of the lawyers, and it could be for months, and there’s a scenario under which games will be lost this year. But it’s not Olbermann-O’Reilly bad, or LeBron-Cleveland bad.

Well, thank God it isn’t Olbermann-O’Reilly bad. I mean, when two vacuous TV personalities bicker at each other from afar in a cheap attempt to boost ratings, you’re talking some seriously fucked up badness right there. That’s badness that Patrick Peterson will never get near, if I have anything to say about it.

Anyway, let’s check our badness meter to see just where this current labor dispute resides.

King-Westin bad? No. No, that’s too severe of a rift.

Jim Johnson-Sun bad? Obviously still too high.

Starbucks-Peet’s bad? Now we’re making some headway.

And it’s way too early for doomsday.

PETER KING TWO MONTHS AGO: This may be the last time you see the NFL until you are 87years old, people! Mark my words! The owners mean business this time!

PETER KING NOW: I saw Roger Goodell eating with people! PARADISE IS JUST AROUND THE BEND.

Opening weekend is 26 weeks away, and after leaving Washington on Saturday, and talking with people from both sides over the weekend, I believe the players and owners are closer to a deal than anyone thought Friday night.

Oh, that’s good!

I said closer than anyone thought, not close.

Oh well, thanks for THAT. “I think they’re closer than ever! Also, that means NOTHING.”

And don’t read this to mean that I think there will be a new collective bargaining agreement done this summer.

Don’t assume that my optimism is at all rooted in fact or legitimate speculation! Ignore it! Quickly! Go hide in a well, far away from it! It’ll only give you false dreams!

But the league moved a lot Friday. Not enough, but a lot.

GOODELL: Peter, I know you did a really good job for us earlier in the year by sounding all ominous and stuff. But now I’d like you to come about, and shift over to a softer, gentler take on this. Let people know how much we “moved”. Tell people you’re “optimistic” about a deal getting done. That way, public sentiment moves against the players. Can you do all that for me?

KING: Sure thing. Want some Gatorade?

Look at what’s in this deal:

The probable end of the cockamamie 18-game regular-season idea — unless the players resuscitate it… Goodell got it. Just like that, it’s gone.

Such is the power of Roger Goodell. He can push for an 18-game season for months and months and months, and then relent in the face of violent opposition, when it’s too late to prevent decertification. This man has a gift for listening.

A significant improvement in post-football health care. The devil might be in the details on this one. Currently, vested NFL players with four years of service or more can retire and get five years of free post-career health care. In the proposal, vested players could receive lifetime health care after the five years expire, simply by paying an annual COBRA-like fee.

Now that was written by someone who has never had to pay for COBRA in his entire life. Vested players could get lifetime healthcare, provided they pay a mere $20,000 a year in premiums!

Last week, the league offered to have a third-party auditor go over every one of the 32 teams’ financials for the past five seasons and report to the NFL and the union how much each team had made each season. The players said no.

Because the players are so MEAN! How dare they reject a proposal that every labor lawyer and financial adviser told them they would be wise to reject!

But if the NFL showed an auditor the redacted books, and allowed the auditor to say Team X has a line item of $2.7 million for private-plane travel and Team Y paid $100,000 to fly private that year … and if Team X had sharply declining profits, wouldn’t logic say that maybe Team X should be flying commercial? Now, such an intrusion into the private business of teams is totally objectionable to many, and I understand.

KING: I understand that many of you fans out there might be horribly offended if the union were allowed to look at line item finances of each team.

YOU: What? What are you talking about? I don’t give a shit.

KING: Shhhh! Calm down! It’ll be okay. I understand. You’re hurt and angry about this.

I think this will find its way back to mediator George Cohen’s auspices, regardless of the legalities.

Oh, thank God for that! They can’t get it back to Soccer Guy fast enough. If I’m an NFL fan, I see George Cohen’s name, listen to Landon Donovan praise him, and then I sit back and pop open the bubbly.

Yes, it could still blow up and cost the NFL games this year. But it just seems too close for that. We’ll see.

Could it happen? MAYBE. Was everything I just speculated on completely worthless to you? POSSIBLY. Would I like Anchor Steam if I tried it? ONE CAN ONLY IMAGINE.

A quick update on NFL Films czar Steve Sabol: He’s still resting and progressing in a Kansas City hospital after suffering a seizure before a March 5 banquet in Kansas City. His prognosis is good. I thought the readers of this column and those who’ve grown up on NFL Films (that means you, Larry Johnson, and so much more of the football world we all follow) would want to send along well-wishes to Sabol. If so, e-mail him at Sabol.NFLFilms@NFL.com. He could use your support.

The last thing you want for a sick person is for them to receive an email from Larry Johnson, I assure you.

FROM: LJ2000

RE: U B SICK?! FA RILLY?!

Canz I haz yo munny if u die? LJ haz kidz an shit. FUK YOO GON DO WIF IT IF U AIN’T B ROUND?

/in my mind, Pacman Jones and Larry Johnson talk the same way

What would you say if I told you that Tiki Barber, in his last three years of football (at 29, 30 and 31) was more durable and more productive than Adrian Peterson was in his past three years (at 23, 24 and 25)?

ZOMG! NO WAY! You’d think he was in his prime back then or something!

It’s true.

And what if I told you that Tiki is a natural on camera? You should see how much CNN he watches.

Barber carried more times, for more yards and more yards per carry (5.0 for Barber, 4.6 for Peterson) in those respective periods.

My point is not that Barber, who turns 36 next month, would be a success coming out of retirement after four years away from the game.

Hey, here’s a stat about Tiki Barber! I have no point to make.

As a city to have fun in, we underrate Washington.

And here’s your horribly constructed PK sentence for the week. As a sentence to read with, we vastly overrate it.

The problem with Washington as a place to visit over the years as an NFL writer is pretty simple: You rarely stay in Washington. You’re either out near Dulles Airport if visiting the Redskins’ practice facility, or you’re in the Maryland burbs if covering a game at FedEx. That has to change.

It MUST change. For the good of America, NFL writers should not be forced to navigate the windswept moonscape that is Prince George’s County.

Tweet of the Week II

“Love how one person close to talks just put it to me: ‘Hoping for a Hail Mary, preparing for Thelma and Louise.’ ”
–@SI_PeterKing, me, at nearly the same time Thursday, with the two sides one day away from running the talks off a cliff.

This week Tweet of the Week is from ME! Look at how clever it is, then run back and read that profile of Goodell I did for SI magazine. I think a lot of you may have missed some good nuggets there.

I think I still can’t believe Blaine Gabbert will go number one. Well, maybe I can…

God, that’s just so perfect.

I think I could feel Robert Kraft’s consternation, through a very hoarse voice from Israel, on Saturday. He’s been the most optimistic owner of them all, even though most often he’s had nothing to be optimistic about.

Maybe if he dined at the Westend Bistro, he’d have more reason to be cheerful.

Imagine how Kraft will feel when he reads the antitrust lawsuit that will forever become known as Brady v. National Football League. It’ll make him sicker than he already is.

Awwww, poor Bob Kraft! Think of what he must be going through. IMAGINE it. The Anne Frank house wasn’t half as moving.

I think if the players and owners go back to the mediator in Washington, George Cohen, I’ll be conveniently on vacation then.

Let Jim Trotter do all that REPORTING business. Sucker.

That’s really fun stuff, standing outside for nine hours on a sidewalk in 42-degree wind chill.

OH NOES! A 42-degree wind chill! You might have to wear GLOVES! Gahhhhhhhh!!!! Please America, don’t make Peter stand out there in such extremely mild conditions, forced to actually do his job! THAT SHIT AIN’T RIGHT!

Love NCAA Tournament geography this time of year. Temple, in Philadelphia, and Penn State, in central Pennsylvania, meet in the first round of the tournament, 2,300 miles away in Tucson. In the West Regional.

Who knew college teams traveled to play games? BIZARRE.

Good for Newark.

Indeed. Kudos to you, Newark! You’re the pride of Jersey!

If form holds — it rarely does, of course — the Prudential Center would host a super regional in a week and a half: Ohio State, North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky. Scalper’s paradise, given the fan bases of each.

Good for Newark, hosting all those teams. In other news, I AM STUNNED THAT KIDS FROM KENTUCKY ARE FORCED TO TRAVEL TO NEW JERSEY TO PLAY BASKETBALL.

You’re happy if you’re a Boston University Terrier this morning, to be sure.

WE AHHH TERRIAHS! WE HAVE SPUNK!!!

But then you look at the bracket and ask, “What are we, chopped liver?” Wofford, Bucknell, Belmont, Morehead State, Long Island and Northern Colorado all are seeded higher.

Higher than BU? The Boston University? How is that possible? BU is right up there with Kansas and Duke in terms of basketball heritage. Where the fuck does Belmont get off being seeded higher?

I always get a kick out of the NIT schedule.

Now there’s a sentence I never expected to read in my lifetime.

First at-bat of his Boston Red Sox career Saturday in Fort Myers, against the noted Josh Johnson: Adrian Gonzalez took the first pitch he saw and served it on a line onto the grass in left field. Have a feeling there’s more where that came from.

THIS JUST IN: Expensive free agent with great hitting record is still good at hitting!

Great, great lead in the New York Times SundayBusiness section story on Starbucks: “Raise your hand if you remember when Starbucks seemed cool. Anyone?”

God, so true. GREAT FUCKING LEAD. Totally dated and obvious observation. Completely lacking in news value. I’m hooked.

Claire Cain Miller is one heck of a writer.

As a writer to have read from, we underrate Claire Cain Miller.

She went on to pen: “During the depths of the recession, Starbucks nearly drowned in its caramel macchiato.”

Whoa hey! Stop, Claire! Now I’m the one drowning… in AWESOME COFFEE JOKES.

She said CEO Howard Schultz has a “trenta-sized ambition.”

Oh, snap! GIVE THIS WOMAN A PULITZER. That kind of lame punnage takes semi-Reillyesque guts.

Good job, Claire.

Well done, Claire! You could write this column one day!

I wish whoever invented the Thin Mint girl scout cookies had invented something else. Like Brussels Sprout cookies. Either that or come get them out of my house. I inhale those things.

I never would have guessed.