If there was any doubt as to how valuable the NFL is, all you had to do was flip to ESPN on Thursday night. The cable network ran an hours-long, special lockout edition of SportsCenter following news that the owners approved a proposed collective-bargaining agreement. From a ratings standpoint, it probably wasn’t that hard a call: the prime-time program the network broke into was a softball game between the U.S. and Czech Republic, which got bumped to ESPN2.
The NFL players still have to ratify the deal, and have until next Tuesday to do so. If they sign, free agency and training camp would begin on July 27, not soon enough to salvage the Hall of Fame game. One clear loser in this whole lockout situation is the city of Canton, Ohio, which according to Fox Sports Midwest, will lose out on millions of dollars of economic impact. As I thought about the broader implications that the four-month lockout has had on the country’s most lucrative professional sports league (the NFL brings in $9 billion of annual revenue), I fired off some questions to sports economist Dave Berri, who was kind enough to offer some quick responses.