The MLB Side Of The NFL Lockout

The NFL is somewhere between an ugly disagreement and mild chaos after the NFLPA decertified, clearing the way for a lawsuit from NFL players, subsequently followed by the owners locking the players out. The unrest could, and probably will, last a while. Regular season games certainly are not in jeopardy yet, but they could be before a new agreement is reached.

Why do I bring this up on a baseball blog?

Well, first of all, I bet many of you watch some football. However, this is also baseball's business.

What blows my mind more than anything with the NFL lockout is the greed. The league is on top of America's sports world, and it isn't even close. Their supremacy is good for all parties involved in their league, yet here they are, embroiled in contentious negotiations.

Consider this: according to Forbes 2010 team valuations, the average MLB franchise is worth $491 million, while the average NFL franchise is worth $1.02 billion. Major League Baseball is the second-most lucrative sports league in America, so the NFL literally doubles up everyone else. Really, they are not just the top league, they dominate the sports landscape.

Slowly, the landscape has been shifting though. The average NFL team value is actually down 2%, the first time NFL values have sunk since Forbes started tracking them in 1998. Meanwhile, the average MLB team's value rose 2%, a notable feat given the down economy.

Furthermore, the NBA is in a world of hurt right now. Their economic model has flopped in the down economy, to the point where there are whispers of contraction. The Association may be headed for their own lockout this summer.

It is not that far-fetched at this point to suppose that both the NFL and NBA will be in the midst of lockouts at the MLB all-star break. Baseball already owns the summer, but they could really own it with a monopoly on American sports created by major problems in other sports.

I don't think anyone knows how the average American sports fan will react if/when the current NFL labor dispute drags on. It seems safe to say that the NFL will still be on top when it comes back, no matter how ugly their situation gets, given how far they would have to fall. Still, the MLB's 1994 strike crushed the league for several years. A majority of teams lost money for several years afterward, pushing the sport towards bankruptcy.

The NFL has all but guaranteed themselves noticeable losses this next year, and the question now is how bad it will sting. Meanwhile, MLB teams were already in position to grow more, and the growth could only accelerate if the NFL is conspicuously absent.

The gap between the NFL and MLB was already closing. As unfathomable as it might seem right now, Major League Baseball might be in position to compete with the NFL for the top spot in American sports in the next decade. Much of it depends on how the NFL resolves their current labor dispute, but already, they have opened the door wider than it ever should have been.