I feel like I'm stealing company time by blogging from work, but they aren't keeping me busy, so it's their fault. I'm also on my lunch break...
It was announced today that more disillusioned morons with money want to try and test their mettle against the NFL. An investment banker, a VP at Google, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have banded together to create an upstart United Football League. The idea? Actually compete with the NFL (a moment will be given to squelch any laughter).
My question for these fellows is why? Why even bother to try and compete with the NFL? It's not possible. It's not even plausible. It's certainly not probable. There are no more p-words to describe the money that will be lost in this endeavor. There are currently 4 major sports in the U.S (football, basketball, baseball, and either hockey or NASCAR, depending on if you live in the North or South). There are, by my count, 7 legitimate (read "air on ESPN") professional sports leagues (the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, MLS, MLL [lacrosse, people]). There's no more room for the UFL on ESPN, let alone in the landscape of American sports. And if you are crazy enough to start some upstart league, why go after the NFL, the king, the shah, the sultan, the Grand Poobah of all American sports?
Baseball and basketball are the NFL's closest competitors, and trust me, close is a very loose term. The NFL sold out every game in the first 6 or 7 weeks of the season last year. Even Arizona was enjoying sellouts for a while. Most baseball teams can't even sell out on opening day, and some teams have tickets left over during the playoffs. Basketball fares slightly better because it has fewer games and teams, but it still can't touch the NFL. The NFL steamrolls these leagues every year in TV ratings, merchandise sales, and the all important ticket sales. The most watched sporting event any year? Not the World Series. Not the NBA Finals. It's always the Super Bowl. Even when two teams who nobody cares about are in it, people still watch just to complain that the right teams didn't make it. So if people already care more about the NFL than the MLB and NBA, my next question becomes who is going to watch the UFL Bowl?
The fact that they are challenging the NFL is not even the most fatal flaw that the three investors are making in this costly endeavor. The worst idea they have had so far is that all their franchises will be based in cities without NFL teams. I give them an A for creativity, but an E for results. Going by their logic, they will have Los Angeles, and very little else. If a city does not have an NFL franchise, it is for good reason: the NFL does not want a franchise there (except LA, but they don't support their teams anyway). The NFL has the big markets covered: New York, New England, Washington, Bay Area California, Miami, Green Bay (just kidding). That leaves the UFL with what? LA. Mark Cuban wants to put a franchise in Las Vegas, and will receive no complaint from the NFL. The remaining cities have yet to be announced, but they must be somewhere along the lines of Memphis, Birmingham, Orlando, Portland, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City. These cities are definitely deserving of franchises, but also have NFL teams nearby to crush any UFL competition. Fans wouldn't abandon the Titans or Dolphins or Cowboys or Seahawks to root for lesser caliber teams in a lesser caliber league.
That brings me to my next point: think about who is going to play in this league. It will be full of NFL castoffs, college superstars who couldn't cut it in the real league, and average schmucks who want one last shot at glory. Who wants to watch that? That'll be like watching a high school reunion game or an old timers game. It won't be fast. It won't be fun. There will be very little scoring, and almost zero passing or defense. The players that end up in the UFL also have to be rejected from the mildly successful Arena League, which means they are truly of poor caliber. To recap, it's going to be crappy football played in cities that can't support teams by players who really should have other jobs. Well, let me set my Tivo (shut up, I know I don't have a Tivo).
Other people have challenged the NFL before. When was the last time anybody spoke about the World Football League, the USFL, or the XFL? All of these leagues folded in less than four years, and they had franchises in major markets. The UFL is making an unnecessary attempt to topple a giant that can't be toppled, using tactics that won't work, in cities where it won't happen. The UFL is slated to start play in 2008. Depending on which month it starts, I predict it will be in the annals of bad ideas by late 2008 or early 2009. I just thank God that Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, and we don't have the possibility of getting stuck with a UFL team.