Well, Mark Cuban is at it again. Not content with going round-for-round with David Stern anymore, everybody’s favorite billionaire is now looking to move up a weight class and slug it out with Roger Goodell. Personally, I have mixed feelings about this venture…even if it doesn’t technically exist yet.
On the one hand, you need look no farther than The Donald himself to see what happens when a wealthy renegade tries to challenge the NFL. The USFL’s famous antitrust suit against the NFL, as well as the infamous ruling of $3 in damages awarded, is as convincing a cautionary tale as you could ever ask for. After that day, the USFL never played another game and the NFL continued (if anything, intensified) its domination of professional football in America. Oh, and if that wasn’t convincing enough…remember the XFL? Yeah, neither do I.
Then again, this is Mark Cuban that we’re talking about. If anyone in the world has the resources and more importantly, the sheer balls to challenge the NFL, it’s him. To be completely honest, I rejoice every time I see Cuban linked to a rumor like this. Remember when he was “interested” in potentially acquiring the Cubs? I don’t think a single person outside of Chigago hoped for that as strongly as I did. Can you even imagine Mark Cuban owning a team in a league without a salary cap? Not only would he have made sure that for the first time ever, George Steinbrenner couldn’t just outbid every other owner for talent, but he would have remodeled Wrigley’s famously shoddy lockerrooms to the point that Alfonso Soriano would no doubt have reported on Opening Day to find his jersey and spikes hanging inside some sort of high definition TV. But alas, it hasn’t happened….yet.
The proposed “UFL” is clearly still a scribble on the drawing board, but the idea seems to have some merit. Cuban appears to be playing things the right way and saying the right things. They’re not looking to take business from the NFL, so they say. Only to “offer competition” which would benefit both leagues. This indirect competition approach is something that can succeed, as the recent popularity of Arena Football can attest. Granted, comparing arena football to the more traditional NFL product is sort of like comparing gym-class whiffleball to the Fall Classic, but the point remains: a league offering a product that is pretty much football can succeed, as long as they don’t try to infringe on the NFL’s meal ticket.
We’ll just have to sit back and see what happens with this proposed league. Right now it’s an idea that’s long on rumor and short on feasibility. Once they have owners, cities, and players, (providing of course that any of those things ever actually happen) we can make a better judgment of how the UFL will stack up against the NFL. If that day comes, however, I’m pretty sure I won’t have to check ESPN.com to know. I assume that if Mark Cuban ever becomes the commisioner of a major North American sports league, I’ll be alerted by the sounds of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding down my street, harvesting the souls of my neighbors.