Athens, GA (Dec 11, 2008) - If the Arena Football League (AFL) had suspended operations for the 2009 season (and who knows, they still might), there would have been quite a bit of trickle down effect felt by those working in sports media.
ESPN and the regional television networks would have had to find some inventory to fill the time slots that would have been used up by games. For ESPN, which is buying up sports properties right and left, this may not be as problematic as it would be for the regional networks. Perhaps it might signal the return of the national putt-putt championships, anchored by Billy Packer?
Photograph Copyright 2007 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Television crews would have lost a steady source of income. For production and technical crews who depend on freelance income, this would have serious consequences. On-air talent would also lose screen time, cutting into their revenue. Given that talent working on air for regional sports network do not get paid as well as those on national networks, this would cut into their wallets severely as well.
The AFL issued this two line release yesterday:
Despite rumors and reports to the contrary, the Arena Football League Board of Directors has not suspended the 2009 season at this time.
The Board met via conference call this evening. The Board will continue to meet regularly to examine any and all long-term structural improvement options for the AFL.
Can the smaller sports survive? The WNBA has already lost the Houston Comets, one of the original WNBA franchises. As Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post and ESPN's PTI wrote in a recent column, NASCAR teams have suspended off-season testing for December and January, and GM has severed its endorsement deal with Tiger Woods.
More telling is this excerpt from a Houston Chronicle editorial that Wilbon quotes:
"One wonders what is in store for the rest of the league if a franchise with the Comets' history -- in a huge market that has displayed as much interest in women's basketball as Houston did -- can't survive."
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees and New York Mets, on the heals of spending big bucks on free agents, are going hat in hand to New York City officials for additional public funding to complete their stadiums. Raycom Media announced draconian cuts at their television stations over the past couple of days (no news out of Raycom Sports to report as of now).
The times are changing, and sports, often seen as the nation's balm in times of trouble, is not immune.
Michael Wilbon: WNBA's Comets Flame Out