A week or so back, Forbes released its list of the sports franchises that are worth the most money. Per the norm, teams like Manchester United, the New York Yankees, and the Boston Red Soxs were all towards the top of the list. Teams you likely didn't see on that list are teams like the Indiana Pacers and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Money can make a difference in sports, that's why when a new collective bargaining agreement is made between the owners and players one of the first things you hear about is how it affects the small market teams. Now if you believe the party line, it is continually getting harder for "small market teams" (teams not based in the 5-6 largest cities in the country) to put a competitive team on the field or court. And to a certain extent that is true. Particularly in the NBA, none of the big name players get excited about a contract offer from Minnesota or Indiana. Not that either of the teams is a bad team (Pacers were the 3rd best in the east last year), but the players won't get the same kind of media coverage. That same media coverage is a big part of a teams revenue so, it becomes difficult for those teams to stay competitive.
Despite this perceived disadvantage, though, there are teams in small markets that year in and year out are competitive within their respective league. The question is why? Why are these teams with small media deals, in cities that don't draw as big of crowds, able to compete with the Yankees (Bankees) of the world? Because if money was the only thing that mattered teams like the Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates would not be in line for a playoff spot and the Boston Red Sox would be competing for the top spot in the league (which we all know isn't the case). The fact of the matter is that is more to putting a competitive team on the field than having a large bankroll, the difference is that small market teams don't have as much room for error. If the Yankees have a $20 million player on the bench, that's ok because hes probably a sub anyway, if the Tampa Bay Rays do, its generally catastrophic. Small market teams balance a better budget, and often will offer long term deals to younger players in an attempt to lock them down as a major part of their team for a long time. These teams realize they can't get into a bidding war with the Yankees or Angles (or for the soccer fans in the room Man U or Chelsea) and maintain a competitive team, so they make smart deals, they evaluate players differently (see Moneyball) and they make tough decisions (like watching Albert Pujols head to SoCal). This isn't an easy task and we see small market teams fail at this every year, but the good ones, the smart ones, they find a way, and are generally a better team because of it. What they lack in star power they make up for in versatility and youth. So today I want to applaud those small market teams that make it work. The ones that put a quality product on the field, the ones that do it for their fans.
And for all of you readers in "small markets" go support your team, even if this isn't exactly their year. Show them a little love, because they are fighting an uphill battle, but its a battle that's won every year, whether its the Cardinals winning the World Series, the Pacers pushing the Heat to the brink, the Rangers knocking off the Yankees in the playoffs or just an Opening day upset like Everton over Man U. These teams have the potential, so go support them
Have a great Tuesday,