I have a bone to pick with the heads of the "Big Four" professional sports leagues: How is it that you guys have so many teams and still can't figure out which markets do and don't work?
Some folks wonder why Los Angeles doesn't have an NFL franchise. There's 31 of them, after all. At one point, there were two pro football teams in LA. There are two baseball teams, two basketball teams, and two hockey teams, so why can't the people in the country's second-largest market support America's biggest sport?
Simple: Too many teams, not enough talent.
Charlotte is a NASCAR town, but has grown big enough to support an NFL team, an NBA team, and a Stanley Cup-winning NHL team. Of course, Charlotte is on its second basketball franchise, after the Hornets couldn't hang and moved to New Orleans...only to be chased to Oklahoma City by Hurricane Katrina...where I think they draw slightly more fans than calf-roping and storm-watching.
The Grizzlies once played in Vancouver, where the NHL's Canucks have become the only show in town. Now the Griz play in the veritable sports Mecca of Memphis, Tennessee... wasn't that Elvis I saw in Row 3 last night?
Hockey is my favorite of the "Big Four" sports, but the NHL has more teams than it can support. My Dallas Stars relocated to Texas from Minnesota and won the Stanley Cup in 1999. Hockey is kind of funny that way: Carolina won the Cup last year, and Tampa Bay won it the year before the lockout. Keep in mind that Tampa was an expansion squad, while the Hurricanes used to be the Hartford Whalers.
Gary Bettman may have done some good things in growing the NHL, but the league should probably be capped at 26 teams... you could ditch Phoenix, Columbus, Florida, and one other franchise. The Pittsburgh Penguins can't get a new arena and might move, and the fabled Edmonton Oilers have been up for sale for years. Houston has been trying to work out a deal there; at least then the Oilers wouldn't have to change their name.
Anyway, I think you get the point: There are too many teams in all the "Big Four" leagues, and some cities are still making the pitch (so to speak) for new franchises
And yes, I'll even bash my favorite sport: NASCAR. The season could be shortened to 30 races without upsetting the fans. I'm all for tracks bidding on events, too. In recent years, deals have been made to shift races from older tracks (usually owned by the International Speedway Corporation) to newer ones (generally run by Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc.), which benefits drivers and fans alike.
Remember that NASCAR has gone from being a Southeastern niche sport to a nationwide phenomenon, and is still looking to expand to new markets in New York City, Denver, and Seattle. Existing facilities in Kentucky and Nashville have had to resort to hosting Busch Series and Indy Racing League events, but legal proceedings may bring Nextel Cup Series races to the tracks. Then there's the new venue Rusty Wallace helped design and build in Iowa...
No more! No more new races, no more new teams. The new markets are questionable at best. Memphis? Columbus? Vegas even? Most of the leagues lack the talent pool to deliver a high-quality product as it is even the NHL, with its genuinely international flavor.
Pro sports have reached that point at which ticket prices are making fans stay home, and player salaries are making owners cry uncle. Eventually, the supernova is going to collapse back upon itself: Fans are going to refuse to pay gate fees, and teams in untenable markets are going to end up on the auction block.
The only real solution: Four teams need to be surgically extracted from each league.
And still, Los Angeles wants a new NFL franchise.
Somebody please... splain that to me.