Rand: Mavericks' Cuban says greed could cripple NFL

  • Updated: March 24, 2014 - 11:38 PM
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This year’s Super Bowl was another rousing success for the NFL, but Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the league could ‘‘implode’’ in the next 10 years if it gets too greedy and continues to overexpose its product.

Photo: Mark Humphrey • Associated Press,

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had some rather hot sports takes outside of the basketball world Sunday when he talked before a Dallas game with reporters.

The conversation reportedly shifted to the NFL, specifically the league’s much talked-about $275 million Thursday night broadcast package in 2014.

“I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. ... Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way,” Cuban reportedly said. “I’m just telling you, when you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule number one of business.”

Cuban, of course, knows about business. He rode the wave of the dot-com boom to a massive fortune, then smartly grew his wealth to a net worth of more than $2 billion.

Cuban, of course, also has a horse in this race. The demise of the NFL would presumably be good for a league like the NBA, which is competing for the eyeballs and dollars of fans.

His remarks weren’t based on any sort of short-term evidence, at least. A Harris Poll a couple of months ago showed the NFL is still by far the most popular sport among U.S. sports fans; 35 percent of poll respondents said the NFL is their favorite, while MLB was a distant No. 2 at just 14 percent. The NBA? Six percent.

That gap doesn’t figure to shrink in any meaningful way anytime soon. Ten years from now? Probably not. But a generation from now? At that point, Cuban might be onto something, but oversaturation of the product won’t be the only reason.

Some of it will be a case of what goes up must come down, but it’s more than that. The combination of the sport’s concussion problem, a gradual boredom with fantasy football and our increasingly short attention spans will not be the death of the NFL, but they will cause a decline in the league’s popularity over time.

And yes, I agree with Cuban that more chances to watch the NFL does not equal a good thing. Sunday is sacred. Monday is a nice bonus. Any other day is casual.

But is the NFL being greedy, as Cuban suggests, by slurping away at the trough while the league is at a high level of popularity? Maybe. But the profits reaped now will help cushion the league through any period of decline.

That seems to me like good short-term and long-term business, but I’m not a billionaire NBA owner.

MICHAEL RAND

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