That hooting-and-hollering you heard Thursday morning? Yep, that was us, celebrating the end of the NFL strike. Or maybe you didn’t hear it…over your own ruckus.
And why shouldn’t we all be thrilled the National Football League is back in action? Pro football is the ultimate viewing experience – edge-of-seat good, heart-thumping good, and as the season comes to its climax, epic-entertainment good. Frankly, over the past decade or so, the NFL has designed the perfect product, thanks to the leveling effects of the player draft and the distribution of TV revenue.
And that’s exactly why the NFL strike shouldn’t become the sports trivia factoid it’s destined to become starting, oh, as soon as next week, when a full schedule of well-refereed games puts the whole debacle behind us. Because the NFL strike offers a great business lesson. Not for the NFL, actually, but for every company with high market share, like, say, Apple, Google, Facebook, and most important, maybe for you.
Look, the NFL strike occurred, very simply, because pro football has become a virtual monopoly. When you need your football fix, there is no other serious major-league option. And as much as we love baseball, basketball and ice hockey, none of them offers the same superhuman theatrics, downright dazzle and consistent wow factor. That reality is a testament to the acumen of the NFL team owners and management, who have earned their dominant market share with years of continual innovation and exceptional execution.
But monopolies, and more to the point here, most companies approaching monopoly status because of sustained success, almost invariably become breeding grounds for arrogance, complacency and my-way-or-the-highway mindsets. That has to be what happened with the NFL’s ordinarily smart and savvy owners, who successfully settled their differences with the players in 2011 and later that same year signed TV deals worth some $27 billion through 2022. Otherwise, there’s no explanation for why the commish, Roger Goodell, and the owners to whom he reports took on the refs without a viable game plan, i.e., without a cadre of proven replacements.