Monday, February 21, 2005

The gathering sports gloom

The fate of baseball may be foreshadowed in the outcome of the NHL strike. As many readers may be aware, the National Hockey League has called off its 2005 season because of a lockout. The issues on the table have included a salary cap and revenue sharing, among other things.

In Canada, hockey is the national religion. The NHL is the High Church of the Hockey Faith. The Church has lost the confidence of its laity.

Baseball is under much the same sort of strain. I sincerely hope that both the owners and the MLBPA are watching the NHL situation very closely, because if both sides do not reach a workable agreement on a reasonable salary cap and revenue sharing, baseball is headed to much the same fate as the NHL: National doom.

Canadians may be willing to forgive the NHL when there is a season next year (we hope there will be one, anyway). Americans are far less likely to be as forgiving of their national pastime. People here will merely take their time and their dollars elsewhere, and won't care to leave the Major Leagues to rot. I have to believe that both the owners and the players are well aware of this, and that another strike or lockout would be the sporting equivalent of a nuclear war with mutually-assured destruction. It may be that the prospect of Baseball MAD will be what prevents the owners and players from ever having another strike or lockout, especially after watching what has happened in the NHL. Don't you believe for a minute, however, that Bud Selig and Donald Fehr don't have their respective "nuclear footballs" at the ready, complete with launch codes.


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