Life without the Big Four possible in 2011, beyond | NevadaAppeal.com

Life without the Big Four possible in 2011, beyond

Justin Lawson
jlawson@nevadaappeal.com

If Sunday’s Daytona 500 was an indication of what we have to look forward to in 2011, maybe it’s time to pick up you’re own personal copy of “Lacrosse, Technique and Tradition,” or as lacrosse coaches lovingly call it, “The Bible.”

In about a year’s time we could be looking at life without Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL (does it even exist?) and worst of all, no NFL. The respective collective bargaining agreements for the Big Four major sports are set to expire almost simultaneously and, so far, tension between players and owners does not look to be on the mend in any of them.

The latest tipping point came out of the NBA’s All-Star weekend where the discussion between the Players’ Association and the league were so heated that the NBA reportedly tore up its own proposal that called for a hard salary cap and reduced revenue devoted to player salaries.

This exchange comes on the heels of a proposal from the NFL owners to cut the players’ share of profits from the current 59 percent level to just 41 percent. The NFL was unable to come to an agreement for the 2010 season, which officially begins March 5, and thus will play an uncapped year in which many expect owners will tighten their wallets rather opening them.

Allegations flew wildly recently when NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith all but said the NFL is hoping for a work stoppage because it would still make $5 billion from its network television deals even if no games are played in 2011.

If the CBA is not renewed by the end of the 2010 season, it is highly likely that we will not see a NFL game in 2011.

Major League Baseball’s CBA is set to expire Dec. 11, 2011, giving us at least something to watch when the NFL stops playing. But with the MLB’s history of strikes and lockouts (eight combined since 1972), a work stoppage is very likely. The issues at hand are reveunue sharing (mainly the Yankees and Red Sox giving money to teams like the Marlins), a salary cap, drug testing, draft slotting and draft pick compensation.

A salary cap is desparately need in baseball, but with the heavy influence that comes from the Yankees’ wallets, it’s hard to say that we will see one anytime soon. Many teams are content collecting free money rather than chasing championships, but as baseball fans we deserve better – even if you’re a Royals fan.

The NHL knows all too well what a work stoppage means. The league has struggled to regain the footing that it had just a few years ago prior to a lockout in 2004-05. But even with that knowledge, the league appears to be headed to another player-owner fight. The Phoenix Coyotes are in financial peril and they aren’t alone. Normally players – and the general public for that matter – don’t show pitty for wealthy owners, but in order for the league to survive either wages need to be cut or the league needs to reduce the number of teams in order to ensure financial viability for all teams.

There also lies a potential for the professional sports landscape to get another jolt. No one would be surprised if mixed-martial arts fighters took the fight out of the octagon and to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the primier MMA promotion company. Players in the Big Four have nothing to gripe about compared to UFC fighters when it comes to salaries. UFC 100, the highest-grossing MMA event ever, sold a record 1.6 million domestic pay-per-view buys in 2009 at $54.95 a piece. That equals to just short of $88 million from PPV buys alone, not including gate money and sponsorships.

Of that money, headliner Brock Lesnar received about $500,000 including bonuses from UFC. Considering Manny Pacquiao earned about $22 million when he defeated Miguel Cotto in an event that only earned about $70 million in PPV buys, the purses hardly seem favorable to MMA fighters.

So while the Big Four, and perhaps UFC, are wrangling over a few million dollars, fringe sports like Major League Lacrosse, slamball and even NASCAR are hoping they will become the new “it” sport to help get people by.