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Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps

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Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps

How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in History

Kaplan Publishing,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Much more than a game: How National League Football became a high-scoring business.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Background
  • Concrete Examples


Baseball may be the Great American Pastime, but professional football is America's passion. With revenues in the billions of dollars, massive TV audiences thirsting for its product and merchandise flying off the shelves in thousands of stores, the National Football League is a textbook example of how to build and maintain a thriving pro sports league. While professional baseball, basketball and hockey have all experienced labor strife and endured difficult financial times, the NFL has largely avoided such crippling problems. That's mainly because of its salary cap and a revenue-sharing system that benefits teams in smaller media markets as well as teams in major metropolitan cities. In the NFL, owners and players consider themselves partners in an enormously successful enterprise, rather than operating as greedy adversaries trying to squeeze every penny from each other. Like any other multi-million dollar corporation, the NFL succeeds because of smart management and foresight. getAbstract believes that both the casual fan and the rabid NFL loyalist will appreciate author Mark Yost's expert examination of the league's economic infrastructure and behind-the-scenes politics. Highly recommended.


"On Any Given Sunday"

One reason sports is so fascinating is that the outcome is never guaranteed. Sometimes, David defeats Goliath. In fact, it happens several times each week in the National Football League. Competitive balance is one key to the NFL's success over the past half-century. In 2005, for example, the NFC and AFC championship games featured the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. None of those teams are from major metropolitan cities. The league's highest-paid player, quarterback Peyton Manning, plays for the Indianapolis Colts, whose market ranks only thirty-fourth in the country.

The little guy has always had a place in the NFL, thanks to former Philadelphia Eagles owner and football commissioner Bert Bell, whose brilliant visionary proposal at a 1935 owners meeting essentially revolutionized sports. Bell was the first to suggest a "draft" system enabling lesser teams to compete for talent. After seeing the Bears, Giants and Packers rule the league from 1927 to 1935, Bell understood that heavyweight teams' long-run dominance was a dangerous trend. The issue wasn't entirely financial; NFL teams already had shared...

About the Author

Mark Yost has written about the business of sports for two decades. A former bureau chief for the Dow Jones Newswire, he also worked for The Wall Street Journal, where his work still appears. He has also written for The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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