Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lockout vs. Lockout

It's hard to believe that 50% of major American sports leagues are amidst a work stoppage, with owners locking the players out in both the NFL and the NBA. And it's certainly been a while since we've been able to look at the NHL and say, Wow, that might be the best-run league there is. As terrifying as it may be, we're staring down what could be an NFL and NBA-less fall and winter.

I, for one, am extremely unsettled by the presence of these lockouts. The NFL lockout means football could be cancelled, delayed, or marred by inferior quality of play. The NBA lockout means ESPN will give Chris Broussard even more airtime. I'm not sure which is worse.

Although both lockouts are surrounded by a similar aura of uneasiness, it's important to remember that there are many key distinctions separating the two work stoppages. Here are some of the most important differences between the NFL and NBA lockouts.

Team Financials - More than half of all teams in the NBA are losing money, and many believe the number is even close to 80%. For a league, this business model is not at all sustainable. The NBA needs to make fundamental changes, which typically means a lengthly lockout. NFL financials are more closely protected, but the number of teams losing money is usually in the 0 to 3 range.

Player Leverage - Players in the NFL are starved for leverage. There is no comparable league for players to turn to if the season is cancelled;  the UFL, CFL, and Arena League football can't pay anywhere close to NFL salaries. In addition, the average career in the NFL is three years. In a league with such rapid turnover, players who have not attained star status cannot afford to miss a season. In the NBA, players have more money (the average salary is around $6 million, with the veteran's minimum at $2 million) and they'll be able to play in Europe if the season gets cancelled.

Leadership - Roger Goodell leads the strongest league office in the sports world. David Stern is an idiot.

Benjamins - The NFL brings in $9 billion in annual revenue. That's some serious cheddar. The NBA brings in a little over $3.5 billion. Not bad either, but football has a lot more money to lose in the event of a cancelled season.

Predicted Outcome - The NFL will get a deal done. And soon. Probably at the end of July. There's simply too much money on the table, too much at stake for the players and owners alike. The NBA, however, needs to fix a lot. The salary cap is a sham, teams are hemorrhaging money, and the quality of play is deteriorating. There will not be an NBA season next year.

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