Just before 5:00 PM on Friday, March 11, the NFL players union officially decertified, legally reinventing itself as a professional trade association in preparation for an NFL lockout.
Having enjoyed relative labor peace since its last lockout ended in 1987, the NFL has prospered greatly over the past two decades, generating huge profit margins and effectively supplanting baseball as the new national pastime.
But as the millionaires and billionaires of the NFL prepare to face off in a court of law, I’m left wondering if football’s loss might not be baseball’s gain. Could the seemingly unstoppable profit machine of the NFL inadvertently buoy its direct competition through an extended labor strike?
I think the question is particularly interesting if framed in the context of Baltimore, where an entire generation of sports fans have foresworn Orioles baseball in favor of Ravens football. So much so, that at this particular point in time, it’s almost hard to imagine the Orioles laying legitimate claim to an equal share of the city’s affection.
While the meaning and purpose of the NFL lockout will be debated by fans, players, and management in the weeks (and likely months) to come, the longer it goes on, I believe the greater the chance it might induce interest in baseball and other sports. Could an extended NFL work stoppage open the door, if only slightly, for the Orioles to regain some of their downtrodden fan base?
I think it actually could.