I’m not at all comfortable with the glee some in the baseball world have had at the NFL’s labor issues. I mean, no, I really don’t care about the NFL all that much in and of itself and won’t miss it if it’s gone, but the situation is ugly there and I tend to think that when bad things happen in other sports that it’s bad for baseball in some way too.
Part of this is because I think the division between sports fans and non-sports fans is more significant than the division between baseball fans and, say, football fans. Because of this, I worry that if football’s ills turn people off, it risks turning them off sports, not just off football. Likewise, to the extent there is litigation between the NFL players and the league, it will likely have implications for labor relations in other sports too, so baseball fans do have a stake in all of this.
So no, my interest in the NFL’s labor situation has not been one borne of schadenfreude. It’s been more of cautious curiosity and at least a mild bit of trepidation.
Against that backdrop comes a thought-provoking article from Larry at IIATMS, in which he talks about how the existence of the salary cap is so central to the current NFL battle and how, if baseball had one like so many people want, it would likely make its labor problems worse, not better. It’s worth a read, especially if you’ve found yourself engaged in the salary cap wars over the past 15 years or so.
The larger lesson to take from this is that there really aren’t any panaceas in this world. Things that solve problem X always — always — lead to unintended consequence Y. Those consequences may be minor or they may be major, but the point is that anyone who says that any given course of action would cure all of a complicated system’s ills is pretty much full of it.