Yesterday when writing about the takeover of the Dodgers by MLB, I said that action might be an omen for the NY Mets whose financial situation has the Sword of Damocles hanging over it. For the moment, the Dodgers are a mediocre team but they are not awful. The Mets have the potential to be financially strapped plus gruesome on the field. In the NY market, that is the Exacta of Death. Consider:
In basketball, the Knicks are on the improvement path and in the playoffs. The Nets stink. The Nets draw 5500 fewer fans per game and play to 20% empty seats.
In hockey, the Rangers are in the playoffs and the Devils are usually a playoff team – - albeit not this year. The Islanders are awful and are virtually ignored in NYC – - unless they are filing a lawsuit against someone for something, as they seem wont to do.
In football, the Giants and the Jets are relevant because both teams have been relevant on the field for the past several years. Back in the “Rich Kotite Era” or the “Bruce Coslett Era”, Jets’ tix were easy to come by; back in the “Ray Handley Era”, you could find Giants’ tix without “having connections”.
In baseball, the Yankees are always relevant in NYC and the only reason they will not sell out these days is the ridiculous pricing of their seats. The Mets on the other hand have the potential to see attendance crater if the team’s performance goes in the sewer. Moreover, since they are financially ailing already, cratering performance could be a disaster.
In the Mets’ first homestand for 2011, they played 7 games; their record in that homestand was 1-6. Just to clarify, that is not good. As of this morning, the Mets’ overall record is 6-13, which is the worst record in MLB. Their home record is a less than robust 2-8. Through those 10 home games, their average attendance is down 3,889 fans per game when compared to the first 10 home games of 2010 – - and 2010 attendance was down as compared to 2009. Playing in the huge NYC market in a new stadium, the Mets attendance this year is 15th in MLB.
Just this week, the Broadway show, Spiderman closed after millions of dollars went toward staging the show. The question for NYC baseball fans is simple:
Are the Mets going to be a bigger financial calamity than Spiderman?
Rather than leave this topic on such a gloomy note, perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel – - or is it a gorilla with a flashlight?
Perhaps the Mets as an organization chose to give up winning for Lent this year and will begin to play like a team where the average guy is making $4.2M per year starting on Sunday.
As the NBA ambles on through its playoffs and toward a work stoppage, the league announced that 22 of the 30 teams lost money this year and their combined losses exceeded $300M. Recall, this is pretty much what David Stern said back at the All Star Game about two months ago. In the recent pronouncement, Stern said that the NFL labor situation was “a mess” and the reason it was “a mess” was a lack of urgency to get a deal done. And with that logic, he announced that the NBA would soon be sending a new proposal to the NBAPA for consideration. Sounds good – - until you look at the calendar.
Two months ago, he said the league had teams losing $300M give or take a few bucks here or there. The players response was – put politely – Balderdash! Not much happened in the intervening two months save a few press releases/leaks and now the league says it will be preparing a new proposal for the players using the “loss of $300M” as the basis for their new proposal. Nothing has been done to change that “Balderdash Factor” – - and their CBA runs out on 30 June.
So, how is the NBA going to avoid “a mess” when its level of urgency seems to be about the same as the urgency level was in the NFL “mess”?
I continue to believe that the NFL will find a way to play its season in 2011. The idea that either side would be so intransigent as to jeopardize an annual revenue tsunami of $9B remains, for me, in the fiction section. The two sides there are not arguing over matters such as “financial survival” or “minimum wage jobs”; the argument there is over how big a swig from the trough each side is allowed to take.
Now the NBA, on the other hand, might indeed see a shortened season if the two sides dig in their heels. The NBA issues are more significant than the ones in the NFL. Yes, both leagues want their respective players to take salary cuts. The similarity ends there. The NBA wants a hard salary cap and the players – - never having had one and having found ways to use the flexibility of the NBA cap to their advantage want nothing to do with that.
The NBA situation is that teams – - not coerced in any real way – - have come to pay benchwarmers huge guaranteed salaries:
Rip Hamilton will make $25M in the next two seasons playing part-time.
Hasheem Thabeet could make $11.6M over the next two seasons if the Rockets exercise their team option in 2012/13.
Luke Walton will make $11.8M over the next two seasons.
The “stars” of the NBA earn their huge salaries because they are the focus that generates revenues. No offense to the three players I cited above – - and believe me, I can find others but do not have the interest to go looking – - but those players will never generate anything near that kind of revenue for their team or the league. Yes, the team owners and GMs made those offers without a gun to their heads. That does not change the profitability picture and that is a key element of the NBA squabble with the players in this round of negotiations.
The NFL labor situation truly is “a mess” simply because they have not found a way to resolve it yet. The NBA labor situation is “a worse mess” because the underlying economics are not so positive.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald in response to the age-old question, “What’s in a name?”
“The new Strikers used to be the failed Miami FC Blues before the name change and makeover. Not sure that’s a panacea, though. Reminds me of the time I briefly changed my byline to Joseph Pulitzer Jr. and found it didn’t make me any better.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………