Donald Trump and Mark Cuban surely don’t think they have much in common. Observers of both would say they are alike in plenty of ways.
And they definitely have one thing in common: They don’t like the NFL. Possibly because neither has been able to secure membership in the most elite country club in America.
Cuban, who coined the “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered” line about the looming demise of the NFL, continues to throw darts at the league in which he doesn’t own a team, in an effort to support the league in which he does. (#asexpected)
“Our demographic keeps on getting younger,” Cuban said, via the Boston Herald. “The NFL and baseball, they keep on getting older. And I think what we’re doing with [the] NBA 2K is brilliant. And in the bigger scheme of things in terms of building fans for the future, what do you want your kids to play? I mean, of all the sports out there, do you want to go to a baseball game, or do want to watch your kid play basketball? Do you want to worry about him a whole football game, or do you want to watch your kid play basketball? [Editor’s note: Yes, because serious injuries never happen in basketball.] Do you want him to get healthy from running the court, or do you want to watch him play football and worry about collisions?”
Cuban believes that the NBA benefits from the fact that people know who who the players are.
“Tom Brady, [Rob] Gronkowski — how many other football players, if you saw them from the Patriots, would you know?” Cuban said. “Maybe [Julian] Edelman? . . . And that’s the thing. In baseball, of the 25 players, you might know two or three. Kids play 2K, watch a game, watch TV; you know every player. That’s a huge advantage because our players have brands. Our players have platforms. Our players have voices. LeBron [James] tweets, and more people see it than our politicians.”
But that supposed advantage has always been there for basketball. And there are really only two currently transcendent talents in the NBA — James and Steph Curry. One those players are gone, the NBA will be in the same boat that it was after guys like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan left the game.
“I hate to just keep banging on the NFL, but the saturation was a symptom of a bigger problem,” Cuban said. “That’s when I said that ‘pigs get fat,’ because you see how they handle controversy. They don’t know what to do, and the players can’t really deal with it. Here our players have a big enough voice that if we screw up, our players correct us. . . . I don’t think people realize that talent drives this game. Personalities drive this game. We are the only league where talent comes first, and that’s a critical distinction.”
I can’t fault Cuban for promoting his league, but football remains king. The NBA plays too many games, there are too many teams that have no chance whatsoever at competing for a championship, and most of any given game (even in the playoffs) is a back-and-forth exercise in target shooting, where the target is hit far more often than it isn’t.
My dad told me when I was five (or four) that if you watch any more than the last four (or five) minutes of a basketball game, you’re wasting your time. It was true then, and it’s true now.
For football, there’s always been a reason to watch the game from start to finish. And even though the NFL currently is dealing with some short-term challenges, there’s a reason football has consistently grown and grown and grown. The fact that the NFL continues to thrive even with so many blunders and bungles proves how strong the game is, and how strong it will continue to be.
Cuban knows it. And if he had an opportunity to buy an NFL team, he would.
Indeed, only seven years ago, Cuban threw a bunch of money down a hole by supporting the UFL, one of the more recent failed alternatives to the NFL.
“The idea of coming into the business of football and taking on the NFL, that’s about as exciting to me as you can get,” Cuban said in September 2010. (Less than four months later, he’d sue the UFL for $5 million.)
It would be even more exciting for Cuban to own an NFL team, but the NFL didn’t want Cuban, just like it didn’t want Trump. Which gives these two natural foes a common enemy.