Why the NFL Beats MLB and NBA...for Now!
Quick...Name the teams that recent Yankee acquisition CC Sabathia has played for? Bad example...Only three in seven years. How about Mark Teixeira...Not bad, probably four in seven years. How about Greg Maddux, five teams, and Moises Alou has played for seven teams in his long career.
What about the NBA? You could probably keep your shoes on to count the number of NBA players to stay with the same team for five-plus years, much less an entire career. Tim Duncan, Kobe, and maybe Dwayne Wade are the absolute exception...not the rule.
The NFL on the other hand has maintained a semblance of consistency in its ranks throughout the years. Superstars like Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Emmitt Smith, Edgerrin James, etc, etc didn't jump from team to team NBA style throughout their career. Their moves were normally to avoid end-of-career benching.
This has allowed the NFL fanbase to consistently grow while the NBA and MLB fanbases have eroded over the last 20 years. The problem being that fans can't tell you who will be playing point guard or shortstop for their favorite team from one game to the next. In the '50s and '60s baseball players lived, worked, and grew up in a community.
Curt Flood in 1969 and the removal of the Reserve Clause in 1975 changed the landscape of sports. Player trades were much more rare than today. Fans in a community sold cars to Hank Aaron, sold groceries to Willie Mays, and babysat Bill Russell kids.
While these actions stopped owners from taking advantage of players, getting rich off these athletes, and prevented ridiculous transactions like the "Curse of the Great Bambino", relationships between fans and athletes have never been the same.
I'm not saying free agency is "the devil", unfortunately it was a necessary evil like taxes...and marriage...I do believe it has evolved into something that hurts sports by not only devolving player/community relationships, but driving up ticket and concession prices to pay exorbitant collectively bargained contracts.
The owners as well as players will make sure to get theirs. We just keep paying the ticket prices and buying $10 Dodger dogs.
While player trades like Portis-Bailey and Roy Williams for ???? are rare, free agent moves like Drew Brees, Steve Hutchinson, and every Wednesday for the Cowboys and Redskins are becoming much more frequent.
You've even seen in-season trades in recent years, something never seen in the past. The "Rozelle Rule" and later "Plan B" greatly limited these moves by taking something of equivalent value from the gaining team and giving it to the losing team (normally draft picks).
This made teams think long and hard about not resigning big name free agents. However, the Player's Union (gotta love unions) took it to court (got to love government involvement in business) and called this anti-trust infringement.
There is a direct correlation between increased free-agency and declined fan support. Fans don't want to see players like John Smoltz, Tim Duncan, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Clinton Portis, Allen Iverson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, or Kobe Bryant playing in different jerseys.
Fans want to love, hate, cheer, or jeer the players they know. They want to watch them become superstars and know that next year...They'll be there to watch succeed.
Fans always see players they know and love as one of the best at their position. They support their teams and the players (good and bad) with revolving revenue. Players drafted and developed within an organization lead jersey sales league wide. So here's a thought...save a league...keep a player.
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