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Commentary: Please make the expansion stop

By Josh Bogorad

Wednesday October 31, 2001

Next season, the NFL will expand once again, welcoming its 32nd member, the Houston Texans. While I'm sure there are plenty of excited fans in Houston right now sporting old, tobacco-stained Warren Moon jerseys, I am not so sure expansion is good for sports.

There are already a number of teams that people would not miss if they were replaced. Relocating one of these teams would make more sense than expanding. If it's necessary to move into new areas, move one of the less successful teams.

In fact, I just heard this weekend that the Detroit Lions are still playing. Good for you, guys. Don't let that 0-6 record get to you. I'm sure the glory days of being 8-8 again are just right around the corner. You troopers hang in there.

Major League Baseball teams like the Twins and Expos are facing the possibility of folding because of poor revenue and more consecutive unsuccessful seasons then "Cop-Rock."

It is strange to think how expansion - which consists of moving into uncharted territory and broadening the spectrum of a sport - can be the main ingredient to the demise of that very sport. It is strange, yet true.

In theory, expansion is a great premise. It helps the league grow, gain interest in new areas and adds more teams, making the percentage of teams that reach the postseason fewer.

Yet, in reality, what expansion actually does is open up the game prematurely to those who are not quite ready to play it at the highest level.

Simply look at the mathematics involved - there is no doubt in my mind that expansion is bringing down the caliber of sports.

A hockey team consists of 26 players on its roster. Since 1998, the NHL has expanded into four different cities. That means that this season, over 100 men, who three years ago were asking, "You want fries with that?" somewhere in Manitoba are now competing for the Stanley Cup. Is it any wonder that scoring is noticeably down?

The same holds true for basketball. Each expansion team in the NBA costs pro teams in Italy twelve of their future All-Stars. It's no shocker that these days you see a NBA game where both teams score over 100 points with the frequency of a lunar eclipse.

If you are curious as to why the average major league pitcher's earned run average is higher then an ultimate Frisbee team at a Phish concert, you can once again point a finger at expansion. With teams using five-man rotations, all of a sudden a team's fifth starter, who can find a way to lose during a rain out, gets a promotion because of expansion.

Football opens the floodgates more then any other sport because of its 60-man roster. However, with All-Pros being charged with murder every other Wednesday, it's probably not such a bad idea to have reserves lined up.

I'm not suggesting that we go back to the days where there were only 10 teams in a league and you played the same team 20 times a season, but when does it end? It is time for pro sports to draw the line.

Don't let any schmuck with a couple hundred million dollars buy a team and then run it into the ground like Wayne Huizenga did in Florida.

In the '90s, Huizenga bought baseball's Florida Marlins and the NHL's Florida Panthers, and, within five seasons, they both reached the finals of their respective sports because he bought winning players with huge contracts in an attempt to gain popularity for his new teams. Shortly afterwards, he went bankrupt and started selling off his players like they were stock in 1929.

Now, both of these teams are at the bottom of the standings in their sports, and I heard the latest asking price for the Marlins was a loaf of bread and 5 dollars' worth of food stamps (which is still too much). As for the exposure of these Miami teams, their fans wear paper bags over their heads to games and are more embarrassed then a person admitting they have a degree from Arizona State.

It is time for sports to say enough to expansion. There are enough teams, enough exposure and the talent pool should no longer be depleted.

However, if it does keep up, I was the third-string right fielder on my high school baseball team - someone give my number to George Steinbrenner.


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