*Whether they won or lost on Sunday there is always a lot of sports commentary about how great a franchise the New England Patriots are. This talk usually revolves around their ability to remain a contender each year despite the salary cap demanding constant roster turnover.
First, it must be said that the Patriots’ success is to be expected on some level. When you have one of the best quarterbacks in history, and all of the rules favor quarterbacks, your team should do well. But the salary cap is an issue in professional football; and it is why the NBA has a better business model.
The NFL is at one end of the spectrum. There is a hard salary cap which dictates that teams cannot spend more on players that a certain amount. This is a problem because players who have enjoyed success usually get pay raises. Teams are successful usually because they’ve had several players who did great jobs and so deserve a raise. Teams can then take one of two roads, pay up or get rid of the players. Eventually, because of the salary cap, it always comes down to getting rid of the players because you always run out of money.
Major League Baseball is at the opposite end of the spectrum where there is no salary cap. While football franchises are forced to part ways with productive players because they can’t spend too much, baseball franchises often pay players that haven’t been as successful because there is no penalty for spending too much. Because of this poor decisions by teams have fewer consequences because they can always pay another player.
The NBA takes the correct approach to team spending and has a salary cap to force teams to make good decisions. But the NBA also allows teams to go over the salary cap and incur a financial penalty if they want to reward players who have helped the team be successful. On the other hand the financial penalty elevates every year so teams typically do not take the approach of trying to out spend bad decisions – that mindset would get expensive quickly.
MLB operates according to pure free market capitalism. So it isn’t surprising that there are very few teams that are from second tier cities (and therefore have second tier revenue) that are perennially successful. The NFL operates according to communism, which is why there are so many teams that are good one year and out of the championship picture in a year or two (Hello Carolina Panthers). The NBA has the best model because it operates from a socialist perspective – it allows for franchises to prosper, has revenue sharing, and prevents teams from stockpiling too many assets.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.