The Last Word on the economic problems facing pro sports
Jonathan Last, writing in The Wall Street Journal, asks, "Are Pro Sports Too Big to Fail?"
As our economy continues to falter, professional sports leagues and teams are starting to get hit in the gut. The long-held notion that sports is "recession proof" is being shattered. Teams are laying off front-office staff, revenues are declining and sports sponsorships are drying up.
"America's obsession with sports has created a nearly continuous 90-year boom. There have been down moments, but neither the NFL nor MLB has ever contracted, i.e., eliminated, a team -- the ultimate sign of failure. The National Basketball Association hasn't eliminated a franchise either, since it took on its modern form in 1976. Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist says that the success of pro sports 'has been linked to the underlying success of the economy. As the economy falters, that will tend to drag down pro sports.' But Mr. Zimbalist doesn't see any of the Big Three franchises going under, although he allows that the National Hockey League could be in danger of losing a team or two."
Fox Sports Radio host Steve Czaban offers a more grim view. If things get really bad, Czaban wonders, "The U.S. government is buying banks, major retailers are going under, and a half-a-dozen newspapers are folding up shops. Why is it we think this could never happen to sports?"
In my opinion, teams that will get hit the hardest will be the ones in mid-market cities reeling from our economic free fall. Also, probably not good times for owners who took on large debt loads to buy teams or build new stadium cathedrals.