Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cuban Wants To Challenge NFL With New League

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is the newest member of the "Billionaires With too Much Time and Money on Their Hands Club."

Cuban is part of a group considering formation of a football league that would compete with the NFL for players drafted lower than the second round.

The league, still very much in the preliminary stage, would play its games on Friday nights. The NFL does not play then because of the potential conflict with high school football.

On his blog, Cuban explained how the new league, dubbed the UFL, would actually be good for the NFL.

"The NFL wants and needs competition," Cuban wrote. "They have grown so big and powerful that every move they make is scrutinized by local or federal officials. A competitor allows them to point to us and explain that their moves are for competitive reasons rather than the move of a monopoly."

Time to wake up Mark. Reality check please.

Going up against the NFL is fruitless. They are a monopoly, a juggernaut if you will. Just ask the WFL, USFL and XFL if you don't believe me. The XFL even tried to use sex to sell its league and couldn't do it.

Football as a market is saturated. It was easier for the AFL to challenge the NFL back in the 60s because they were the only ones competing. Today, you have the CFL, Arena, Arena 2 and NFL Europa. People can get a football fix in winter, spring, summer or fall.

Cable TV has expanded the reach of the sport. Back in the day, you had the Big Three networks, period. Cuban as a business owner should know what happens to an organization that comes into a over-crowded market with a dominant player already established - you lose. It's the nature of markets.

Playing on a Friday is not a great idea either. High school football is more popular than ever and people really don't want to stay in after going through the work week. Friday night is the time when many go out to eat, catch a movie and things of that nature.

I admire Cuban for his confidence and tenacity, but just as Donald Trump and Vince McMahon have learned, the NFL is a league you don't want to go up against. Football, in particular the NFL, is our national pastime and it has been for a long, long time. Individuals fear change. They like to stay in their comfort zones. The National Football League is one of those zones.

Even if Cuban can get some of the star players away from the NFL, will it really matter? The USFL had Jim Kelly, Steve Young and Herschel Walker and the league folded in three years. A kid grows up dreaming of playing in the NFL, not the USFL, XFL or the soon-to-be UFL.

The National Football League is in the public consciousness, and once inside, it's almost impossible to remove. Just ask Pepsi in its long battle with Coke. Pepsi may taste better, but Coke is still number one.

The NFL is experiencing the same problem with the Europa League. The league hoped it would establish a significant presence in Europe and cut into the viewership of soccer. No such luck.

Soccer is Europe's number one sport and nothing can compete against it. That's a lesson that Mark Cuban and the rest of the new UFL will have to learn - the hard way.

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