All is not well in the Sports World

Over the past few years, considerable mention has been made regarding hockey’s continuing losing battle in the United States with football, baseball and basketball, and the debate has led me to speculate: how are the other sports doing? Is hockey clearly the only inept sport or are the other sports in a state of mismanagement? Also, if the sports have problems, how are they staying ahead of hockey? My research and observations have shown that the whole sports world needs a new direction, not just hockey.

This is what I’ve noticed the past few years in the various sports, seperated one by one:

BASEBALL: Problems: Everyone knows that baseball is a mess from the top down. Major League Baseball is run almost like the National Hockey League is, with no salary constraints of any kind and a mediocre, if any, revenue sharing plan. The same teams keep winning, year in, year out, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in sight. What’s worse, baseball has concocted a “contraction plan” to solve their economic woes (by deleting two teams) rather than fix the problem with revenue sharing and a salary cap. Commissioner Bud Selig says that he wants to reach out to more fans, all the while intending to delete some by eliminating cities. Baseball has had salary problems for the better part of two decades, and the disparity was just like today’s baseball world even with 28 teams, the number Selig wants to contract to. It is very similar to the way the NHL runs it’s own affairs, with band-aid solutions instead of long-term ones (e.g. the peanuts the Canadian Equity Plan generates as opposed to what full-fledged revenue sharing would generate), and, with Selig’s contract extended, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Also, U.S. Congress didn’t believe Selig when he presented baseball’s problems, twice reminding him that he’s under oath, after saying that baseball lost, collectively, $519 million. As Toronto Star writer Richard Griffin wrote, “if they’re willing to pay Carl Pohlad (the Minnesota Twins’ owner) and Jeffrey Loria (the Montreal Expos’ owner: both Montreal and Minnesota are considered prime targets for contraction) $500 million, why don’t they pay that with extra money thrown in to cover the losses?” Just another example of how baseball went wrong. Why it is ahead of hockey: Tradition. It is still “America’s Pastime” but their hold remains tenuous at best. People in the U.S. seem to still enjoy baseball and can’t get away from it even if they’re disgusted with the conditions, similar to the attention Canadians seem to give hockey: Canadians seem to still enjoy hockey even though they’re disgusted with the conditions.

BASKETBALL: Problems: There is instability within the National Basketball Association and they’re continually having problems with scoring, almost like how hockey does. Previously, Commissioner David Stern had been keen on keeping the Vancouver Grizzlies in Vancouver, but he relented last year even when Vancouver groups popped up. Now the Charlotte Hornets are threatening to move to Louisville, Kentucky, and it’s anybody’s guess who will be next. Now that Stern has relented, he’s no longer looked upon as a strong leader and his hold has started to crumble. What’s worse is the fact the NBA’s rule changes allowing zone defence (similar to hockey’s trap) and other minor alterations have only led to Shaquille O’Neal saying he hates playing in the NBA, like how Mario Lemieux said before he retired the first time around that he hated the NHL, and scoring is still sub-par. Mouthy youngsters like Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby haven’t helped the NBA, only presenting it as an immature bunch that, after a while, no one will care about. (Side note: at least hockey players are down to earth. Sure, Thereon Fluery doesn’t act admirably on the ice, but he doesn’t rant in the media like Iverson does) Why it is ahead of hockey: This can be attributed to the flashy youngsters. They’re out there in the media, like it or not, and that is what keeps the NBA on the national scene, even if the NBA looks childish. Also, a basketball dunk, it could be argued, is more exciting than a hockey goal, but hockey fans like you and I would vehemently disagree.

FOOTBALL: Problems: First, the National Football League’s economic structure has meant that it is almost impossible to have a dynasty anymore. Last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, barely squeaked into the play-offs and are nowhere near last year’s team. The change in teams have almost be nauseating, and fans are starting to catch up with that. Also, the NFL has a barrage of rules that lead to World Wrestling Federation head Vince McMahon calling it the “No-Fun-League” when announcing the XFL, the “Xtra-Fun-League”. No other pro sport cracks down as much as the NFL does on celebrations, including a “taunting” rule that is almost laughable (think about it: here are big, tough football players and we’re worried about their feelings?). Celebrations aren’t what they used to be, and NFL players are clearly not having any fun. Granted, there has to be a morally-accepted line (that sack celebration by a Minnesota Viking by posing as if he’s urinating on New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Aaron Brooks went beyond the pale), but the NFL has simply gone too far. Why it is ahead of hockey: If nothing else but parity. Any team can win any given game. Such is the mark of revenue sharing, instituted back in 1963. The NFL’s economic model should be followed by other sports, even if it means producing “mediocrity” like Jim Rome once said.

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