Let’s move off of baseball and (gasp!) football for a second and focus on another professional sport, or, more accurately, a “professional” sport. Why throw up dick fingers around professional, you ask? Simple.
The NHL and its union are in the middle of another labor battle, the second in eight years. The league has already canceled games through November, and, since the league and the union can’t even agree to meet with each other (each side has stated that they are willing to meet but blamed the other for not wanting to – how is that possible?) more games will certainly be canceled, possibly the entire season.
But here’s the problem: Nobody gives a shit. At least, nobody in America gives a shit, and that’s all The Machine cares about (suck it, Canada). Seriously, no one cares. The Machine’s willing to bet if you ask 10 regular Americans their thoughts on the NHL lockout, 6 will have no clue there is one, 2 won’t even know the season should’ve already started, and the other 2 will have heard about it, but still wouldn’t be able to tell you who won the Stanley Cup last year.
Complicating matters is the fact that players have other options. Unlike the NFL, there are other professional leagues players can turn to. There are over 140 NHL players currently playing in other professional leagues. And not just scrub NHL players…names like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Daniel Briere, Zdeno Chara, Jaromir Jagr, the heavyweights of the NHL. That poses a big problem. Since the risk of injury is so high, these players run the risk of damaging their NHL careers by playing in smoked filled arenas in Moscow, which in turns runs the risk of watering down the competition when (read: if) the labor fight ends.
But I digress. Another, perhaps bigger, problem is there is no pressure to get a deal done. The owners, you know, the rich, old white guys that buy sports franchises for fun, are already rich as shit and thus will not sign a deal just to sign a deal. The players, unlike the NFL, have other, good paying jobs to seek refuge to. And, to top it off, the public by and large doesn’t care (contrast this with the NFL last year, when people went ape-shit after the Hall of Fame pre-season game was canceled). All of this combined leads to no incentive to get back on the ice anytime soon.
Hey, if there’s any professional athlete that deserves to make bank, it’s an NHL player. These guys risk their lives every game. If you’ve ever been to an NHL game (watching it on TV doesn’t really do it justice) you see firsthand the speed, power, and bone-crushing hits that define the NHL. It’s an amazing contrast of finesse and force.
However, that alone won’t get you paid. Size matters, and in professional sports, the size that matters is the size of your TV deal, endorsements, merchandise sales, and ticket sales. And, in these areas, the NHL is light years behind the rest. The NHL ranks fifth in total revenue, behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, EPL (that’s English Premier League, America); just above perennial last place league the MLS).
Bottom line: get your asses in a conference room and get a deal done. Shit, go to any city in Canada where you will actually feel pressure from the public to end this. Two lockouts in eight years is unacceptable for any sport, and even more so for a sport with fleeting public interest and low revenues.
And while the league and the union continue to blame each other, here’s something they both can take credit for. A Tuesday Teabag.