Dave Boling: Cuban could be right about NFL 'implosion'; he's wrong about time

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comMarch 25, 2014 

Apparently as a public service, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, issued a warning to the National Football League that it invites doom if it remains driven by greed and oversaturates the airwaves with its product.

Surely the hunger for money and national exposure has never motivated the billionaire Cuban, who dodges excessive public attention in all cases except for his steady television, film and media appearances.

While addressing media Sunday, Cuban reportedly said he thinks the NFL is 10 years away from an “implosion.”

His reference was to the suggestion that the NFL has flirted with the idea of adding to the regular Sunday, Monday and Thursday scheduling.

“I’m just telling you: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered, and they’re getting hoggy. ... When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. When you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule No. 1 of business.”

We should remind here that ABC, ESPN and TNT are scheduled to air 142 NBA games this season. So the NBA is always, always, always, always, always on TV.

It seems possible that Cuban is engaged in hopeful projection because, with the NFL’s choke hold on the nation’s sporting consciousness, it’s likely that any NFL broadcast, any night of the week, will kill simultaneous NBA offerings.

When the NFL moved its annual spring draft to weeknight

prime time, for instance, it clobbered NBA playoff ratings. Be aware, that’s the NFL draft, not even a competition, going against some of the most meaningful games on the NBA calendar.

Although Cuban’s assessment of the NFL’s future appears self-serving, he has a valid point. Somewhere, there’s a saturation point that will cool fans’ fervor.

No question, ticket sales have been an issue with some franchises, as have the condition of certain aging stadiums and sites that provide a substandard fan experience.

But mostly those seem specific to franchises with chronically struggling teams or mismanagement – not the fans shunning the league itself.

NFL owners greedy? Oh, of course. (Not unlike those in the NBA.) But most recognize the league is only as good as the quality of its product. And football players simply can’t play two games a week on a steady basis.

The league, in fact, is considering the expansion of the active roster from 46 to 49 for games outside the normal Sunday or Monday schedule.

Once they added Thursday night games, players were asked to come back on a short week and compete with less recovery time. Adding a few extra players is intended to provide some needed depth in those cases.

NFL players I’ve asked about the short week of Thursday games are fine with the scheduling because they get 10 days until they have to play again.

Some other issues the league is considering at this week’s owners’ meetings in Orlando, Fla., include some rules-tinkering about goal posts and extra points. Minor things that will not in any way alter the appeal of the game.

In the last couple seasons, some fretted that the concern for player safety caused rules to be enacted that would dilute the appeal of the game.

Well, the Seahawks proved that players can adapt to smaller “target zones” and contact restrictions and still fill the game with big hits and exciting plays.

And the league is absolutely spot-on, if somewhat belated, in the realization that the issue of player health could be a critical fulcrum on which the league’s fortunes turn.

Not only will fans sour on expanding news that the game is unduly crippling their favorite players, but the inevitability of expensive lawsuits by former players also could affect the business model.

Cuban is a successful businessman who admirably objects to group-think. His warning about a saturation point is fair and valid. His time frame is way off.

These piggies have plenty of time to fatten up further.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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