The View From Wisconsin
Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.
Friday, September 24, 2004
- Teams in small markets will, in all likelihood, never have the largest payrolls in any of the four team sports. No one who is a fan of a small-market team in MLB, the NHL or the NBA should expect to have the highest paid player in their sport playing for their team anytime soon.
- A bad baseball team is the hardest of all team sports to turn around. For example, it will probably take the Expos franchise anywhere from six to 10 years to become a respectable franchise, once the team is sold and moved to a new location. The next hardest is the NHL, then the NBA, and then the NFL.
- Salary caps are good ideas for team sports - in theory. As good as the idea of a salary cap is to team sports, it's virtually impossible to get it to work in the real world. The reason for this is simple: there is no honor among thieves. All of the major pro sports teams have only themselves as the bottom line, and therefore are always looking for a way to get around the rules to their advantage. Thus, show me a salary cap and I'll show you at least five ways of getting around it.
- Players do not make good owners. In general, if players are inclined to become team owners, your sport is not in good health. Players do not generally make very good owners (just as most owners do not make very good players – or coaches).
- The Designated Hitter is not going to go away completely. There may be talk of abolishing it, even if MLBPA says they don't mind it going away. However, there are too many financial reasons why there should be a DH rule. In fact, it is more likely that the rule will be changed, within a generation, to apply to all of baseball.
- Artificial turf won't be disappearing anytime soon, either. Though there has been limited success in growing grass indoors, there will come a point in time when it will be cheaper to put a safer, realistic, life-like surface down instead of constantly replacing dead or dying grass.
- Cities that don't currently have a major league franchise aren't likely to get one anytime soon. Each of the four sports are happy with the places they have their teams right now, and unless there are extenuating circumstances, they aren't going to move to a city that's never had major league sports.
- It is only a matter of time before advertisements appear on player uniforms. Revenue streams will be such a large part of a franchise's continued success that this one won't be ignored in North America much longer. Don't anticipate seeing the Addidas logo overshadow the NY and the pinstripes, however.
- Ticket prices will continue to rise until they meet demand. And when demand is met, teams will start moving in to smaller facilities to increase demand before deciding to lower ticket prices. Oh, and variable rate ticket pricing - based on opponents and/or days of the week - will more than likely be the norm within a decade.
- The Internet has had a dramatic impact on how fans follow and support their teams. A fan of the Miami Dolphins can follow his team's exploits in Anchorage, Alaska - and the growth of fantasy sports makes fans more knowledgeable about players on teams other than his or her hometown teams.
- Women's pro sports leagues cannot survive in the long term. Anyone who anticipates women's professional team sports, or women playing in existing male leagues, lasting for more than a short period of time is dreaming. Yes, people like Mia Hamm, Rebecca Lobo and Diana Taurisi are admirable in their performances. However, few people actually want to pay money to go see them play on a continuing basis.
- Viable alternatives to the existing major sports leagues are highly unlikely - thanks to Vince McMahon. The failure of the XFL basically ended any and all serious attempts at creating viable alternatives to the existing major pro leagues (MLB, NFL and NBA). The reason, of course, is that all of the major TV networks saw how the league's ratings eroded so quickly, making the televising of any similar endeavor seem suicidal. The WHA, which has yet to prove it can even sign players to play in its league, let alone start competing, doesn't really count at this point.
- No non-Major League team sport will retain its popularity for as long as the "Big Three" of baseball, basketball and football. As popular as NASCAR and golf are now, the cycle of popularity will eventually swing away from those sports to either the three sports that were first turned pro in the US, or to other sports.
- The only way that any Major League sport will go out of business is if people stop coming to games. The "SEW" principle is the primary reason why baseball came back from the strike, the NFL survived the player strike in the 1980's, and basketball has weathered its labor strife: if you decide to stop going to games, someone else will buy your ticket and go. Until such time as people decide, en masse, to stop going to games, there will be an NFL, an NBA, MLB - and even a NHL.
- It is a matter of time before one of the major pro sports leagues loses an entire season due to a labor dispute. And it's looking more and more like it will be the National Hockey League. Egos, stubbornness, and the sports mentality of "winning is everything" will do more than just cause a league to lose its championship game.
- Money can't buy you championships. However, put the money in the hands of people who know your sport, and it can move mountains. The equation is essentially money plus knowledge of the sport equals success. This explains the New York Yankees as much as it does the New York Rangers.
- The National Football League is in a class by itself in comparison to all other team sports in North America. No other team sport should even think about comparing itself to the NFL, whether it is for a salary cap, revenue sharing or other forms of business operations. The NFL is on a level that no other sport, save perhaps baseball in the first half of the 20th Century, has ever achieved in its existence in North America. There are so many exceptions and "onlies" surrounding their operations that it would be pointless for any other league of any other sport to try to be like them - completely.
- ESPN should be careful that they do not allow the "E" in their name to outweigh the "S". As the "Worldwide Leader In Sports" tries more original programming and movies, they are moving dangerously away from being a Sports network towards an Entertainment network. They should remember that the four major sports are the reason why they exist in the first place - or they won't make it to their 50th anniversary.
- Gambling will destroy a sport if it is allowed to permeate the game. The primary reason why players, owners, coaches and officials gambling on their sport is bad for the game is very simple: their own self interest of their wagers overrules the interest of their team or their sport. Even if a player is betting on his own team, it overrules the concept of being a "team player" because the player is trying to win more than just a game. Thus, it is for this reason and this reason alone that any athlete, official, owner or manager who is caught gambling on his sport should be suspended from the game indefinitely.
- The law of averages suggest that even the worst team in a given sport will eventually win a championship. Someday, the Cincinnati Bengals will win the Super Bowl; the Memphis Grizzlies will win the NBA title; the Phoenix Coyotes will win the Stanley Cup, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will win the World Series. It might not happen in our lifetimes, nor may it happen while the team is playing where they are now - but it should happen.