Cuban's UFL: No Dumb Bet

Wanna make a dumb football wager? Then bet against Mark Cuban's new pro football league. I know, I know. It's insane. It's fool's gold. It's a pipe dream. It's egomaniacal. Rich people thinking they can do whatever they wish. Some sort of sporting equivalent of Paris Hilton's "Get Out Of Jail Free'' card.

But I'll tell you what (or who) else I know: I know Mark Cuban. And I wouldn't wager against him as a football owner. Nor would I wager against you as a football fan.

"I'm not worried,'' Cuban tells TheRanchReport.com. "If we get good ownership, the right ownership, it will be easy.''

Easy?

Cuban and I go back 14 years. And it was way back then when he told me about his broadcast.com idea, and I joked to him that he would need some luck trying to convince people to convert their $2000 computers into $20 transistor radios. Then came word that the business was about to be sold to Yahoo.com, and I scoffed about speculation that Cubes would become a billionaire. Then Mark confirmed to me that he planned to buy the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and when word arrived that he'd spend more than $250 mil to do so, I advised him that he'd be overpaying for such a downtrodden franchise in such a struggling league.

So you think now I'm going to joke? Or scoff? Or advise? Or bet against him?

The facts: Wall Street investor Bill Hambrect is gathering up some wealthy chums to compete with the NFL with something called the United Football League. Cuban will likely be an owner. Action to start in August 2008. Teams in available markets like Los Angeles, Mexico City and Las Vegas (where Cuban might be the owner). Games on Friday nights.

Conventional wisdom – and every newspaper columnist, TV foof, radio voice and blogosphere typist – is insisting it cannot work. For fun (and because in my time with Cuban, "conventional wisdom'' has rarely been applicable) let's take another tact: Let's discuss 10 reasons why it MIGHT work.

10) Each owner will put up $30 million to own half the team. No group ownerships. No divergent levels of commitment. One man. One team. Commitment.

9) The other halves of the franchises will eventually be sold to fans. Your shares will make YOU an owner of a pro football team. Tell me you haven't always wanted that!

8) Critics cite the failures of other pro football leagues (like the silly XFL). Many even cite the "failure'' of the Arena League. Newsflash: That is not a failure. I told Cuban I think a league competing on that level can succeed; he doesn't want that. He wants to shoot for the top. OK, but for now. … Arena League-level football during the NFL season in non-NFL cities is worth a shot.

7) Put it on TV, somebody will watch. We're watching Spelling Bees. We're watching dating shows. A few of us are kind of still watching hockey. In this day and age, TV makes events vibrant. Football on TV ALWAYS works. Oh, and by the way: Cuban owns HDNet. He already OWNS a TV network.

6) There is talent available. I'm around Texas high school football a lot. I was at an NFL-eligible free-agent camp the other day. There are a limitless number of athletes worthy of a look. (Which makes for a limitless number of stories to be told by the media.) And that's not even counting the guys who get a cup o' coffee in the NFL, or maybe even established NFL people who get the boot. Remember when the "scabs'' filled in? Was the level of football, altered or not, impactful in your watching habits? No. I haven't asked Cuban about the UFL's interest level in the Pacman Joneses of the football world, but. … that'd be good TV, huh?

5) If local teams are able to add local talent, the franchise will be immediately adopted by the home folks. It works on one level for LeBron James in Ohio. It works on another level for Gary Kubiak coaching not too far from College Station. It works even for Tyson Thompson playing in Irving. You put a Mexican player on the Mexico City team, and boom! That team is a marketing success.

4) It will make the NFL better. Competition IS better, right?

3) Do you have ANY complaints with the NFL? Salaries too high? Owners too invisible? Players' behaviors troubling? The NFL is, on many points like that, well past the point of no return. The UFL? Here's a chance for all those errors to be rectified in a giant football test tube.

2) As long as it's not MY $30 million, there's no reason NOT to try this … or at least not to encourage someone else to try it. I don't understand the venom directed at Cuban by some football fans. If you're a traveler, are you AGAINST the idea of a new airline? I have a Sprint cell phone. Do I get mad when "Jitterbug'' ads come on my TV? I like Target, but if Mom and Pop want to spent the money to put in their Original Mom-N-Pop-Mart across the street. … why would I get angry at them?

1) Football is, far more than the other sports, weaved into the psyche of the U.S. fan. And I don't mean the NFL (as much as I love most everything about it); I mean FOOTBALL, the game, not the sport. Come to Lewisville High School when the Fighting Farmers baseball team is playing a playoff game adjacent to Max Goldsmith Stadium, where the football team is practicing, and count heads: More people are watching the football practice!

If Major League Baseball disappeared, would hordes of Americans suddenly show up at Little League games, just because they need a taste of baseball?

Nah.

But if we didn't have the NFL, it wouldn't kill football. We'd watch more college. And if that was taken away, we'd grow addicted to high-school football. And yes, if it were the only way to get a fix, we'd buy tickets to Pop Warner games. Done right, to us, opening up another football league should feel like God opening up another source of sunshine, or oxygen, or maybe tapping another keg. Gotta have it. More is better.

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