Don’t ask me what prompted this entry. Its not like there are any labor negotiations going on in sports right now. Its not a timely entry – it’s just something that struck me this morning.
I think it was the NFL’s Plan B Free Agency that brought it home to me personally. I grew up being a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Like all major league sports, football had been one of long-standing dynasties. Even if a team didn’t dominate the league for years, there was a dynasty of personnel. You could count on the fact that Harvey Martin, Ed “Too” Tall Jones, and Charlie Waters would be on the team for years. You could count on the fact that Mel Blount, Rocky Blier, and Joe Green would be there to battle against them.
Sure, the owners were ripping off the players and I don’t condone that. The problem wasn’t that players couldn’t move, the problem was that there wasn’t enough competition in terms of other leagues. Major League Baseball was given a monopoly protected by Congress. Without this unfair advantage, other leagues would have popped up and forced MLB to increase the value to the fans, and raise salaries. It worked for the AFL.
The NFL-AFL merger is what shouldn’t have been allowed. IT was a monopolistic move. The player’s unions were formed out of opposition to these types of heavy-handed control. Even after being given their monopolies, both the NFL and MLB could have protected the game when the player unions stepped in. Simply giving the players a guaranteed percentage of revenues could have make the monopolies work… once again greed took over and the only group that suffered were the people paying the bill – the fans.
So who is to blame for ruining professional sports? The owners proved to be too greedy and forced the players to unionize. The unions pushed back harder than was good for the game or the majority of their members. It is my contention however, that the blame fall squarely on the weak shoulders of our elected officials.
Politicians have a long history of giving lip service to things and then taking cash to ensure the opposite happens. Allowing these leagues to form monopolies surely put money in the pockets of people who could have done something to stop them.
Regardless of who ‘broke’ professional sports – they are indeed broken to me, and that is why I am such a huge fan of high school and college sports. Sure they have their problems too, but I will take an action-packed gridiron battle with a stadium half-full of kids, parents, and the band, over 40,000 screaming fans paying fat-cat owners for $8.00 soft drinks, and $30 tshirts so they could pay the salaries of spoiled, lazy, arrogant, and rude “superstars.”