Waiting for the other cleat to drop: Promoting relegation in U.S. sports
After this Sunday’s 42-10 drubbing by the Kansas City Chiefs in Wembley Stadium, Londoners must be thinking the Detroit Lions will be relegated at the end of the regular season. (“Relegation” is what typically occurs in most European football/soccer leagues, where last-place clubs are dropped from their respectives leagues while first-place teams in the next-to-highest leagues move up. A boon for smaller town, a bust for bigger cities.)
Imagine that for a second! Losing franchises from each major-league sport in the United States being forced into the semi-pros—for sucking. Humiliated, this year’s Lions, Ravens/Browns and Titans lose their NFL birthright and kick off 2016 in the FXFL or NEFL (or, the other NEFL). California shatters as the Fresno Grizzlies move up to the majors while the Oakland A’s are demoted to Triple-A. The Calder Cup-hoisting Manchester Monarchs join the NHL while Buffalo meets the AHL, where the Sabres might actually win a period.
Basketball would make the most sense as a pilot, as the NBA and D-League are effectively the same brand and corporate parent. (Though, don’t automatically assume last season’s 35-15 Santa Cruz Warriors would cruise to victory past the 16-66 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Warriors may have won the D-League finals, but they aren’t an NBA team for a reason.)
So, my U.S. friends, would you ever go for this? Even Major League Soccer won’t demote its cellar dwellers to lower-tier soccer leagues like its global counterparts, as MLS perennially battles for market share and mainstream acceptance. But if you’ve remotely paid attention to the surging fan bases and overall popularity of minor-league soccer alone across the United States, the economics of relegation across all U.S. sports merit a closer look.
Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Kerry Lannert via Flickr.