This offseason, NFL owners flirted with disaster by abolishing the salary cap, and are well on their way to destroying two decades of parity that have made the NFL America’s most popular and successful league.
Seventeen seasons after becoming the first major American sport to implement a salary cap, the NFL has made a meteoric rise in popularity. Over that span, 12 teams have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy compared to only nine MLB, nine NHL and eight NBA champions.
Because cap-conscious franchises are forced to be selective in retaining talented players, NFL fans know each season their team has a chance to win the Super Bowl. Interested fans buy season tickets, cable packages, etc., and everyone stays happy.
Without a salary cap, big-market teams with extravagant owners, a la Daniel Snyder in Washington and Jerry Jones in Dallas, will become giants like George Steinbrenner and his Yankees. Meanwhile, small-market teams like Jacksonville or Cincinnati will have nothing but slings, stones, hopes and prayers to slay their giant competition.
One fan and one dollar at a time the NFL will realize its mistake. I only hope for its sake – and their fans’ – that it’s not too late.