The impulse to transform what’s special into what’s normal doesn’t make special the norm. It makes special less special.
Heavy metal bands with Cookie Monster vocalists discover that loud loses its effect when not juxtaposed with quiet. Brats who enjoy Christmas morning every morning find that they don’t enjoy Christmas morning. When dessert becomes the meal, eaters enjoy neither dessert nor the meal.
Mark Cuban sees something similar at work in the NFL expanding its fall schedule to include Thursday night CBS games, and a few late-season Saturday contests, atop Sunday night NBC games atop Monday night ESPN games. Demand for the NFL stems from its short supply. The league plays one-tenth the number of games as Major League Baseball. Instead of a game every night of the week, as the NHL and NBA offer, the NFL presented fans a Sunday slate of match ups, with Mondays eventually added as a topping. The message? This is special. Savor Sunday it while it lasts. We’re not like other leagues.
That’s the formula that crowned King Football. America’s game dethroned America’s pastime not by imitating it. The NFL’s success stems from the basic laws of supply and demand. The league’s owners may not have planned it that way. The roughness of football doesn’t exactly allow for a baseball-like schedule. Nevertheless, the limitations on play necessarily led to an expansion on profits. Yet, Roger Goodell and the 32 NFL owners tempt fate by oversaturating America with its product. Mark Cuban, who knows a thing or two about business, envisions an NFL collapse.
“I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion,” Cuban remarked Sunday evening after the Mavericks game. “I’m just telling you, pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way.”
The NHL learned that this year. An annual outdoor game became a semi-weekly affair in January. By the time Kiss laced up the platform shoes for the Dodgers Stadium intermission show, NHL executives looking on hopefully learned a lesson in how novelties wear thin. College football deluging December with bowls undermines interest in the games. Half-empty stadiums and anemic ratings demonstrate the folly of rewarding 7-6 teams with postseason play. And NBA fans grasp that regularly rewarding losing teams with playoff berths devalues the worth of the the regular season.
But owners with dollar $igns for eyeballs don’t always see this. They’ll kill the goose that lays the golden egg if they can get an extra dollar today–and not even think about the lost $20 tomorrow. Surely the drive to turn a $10 billion league into a $25 billion one by next decade has compelled NFL owners to consider more than a few harebrained schemes. Expanding the playoffs from twelve to fourteen teams–when does the first 6-10 team reach the postseason?–or adding two games to the already grueling sixteen-game season remain the two most glaring examples of football attempting to slaughter that golden goose. Cuban compares NFL games on television four nights a week to ABC inundating viewers with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” during its heyday. Appointment TV became something one could afford to miss because it was always on.
“They put it on every night,” Cuban recalled. “Not 100 percent analogous, but they handled it the same. I’m just telling you, pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”