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If the NFL's collective bargaining impasse extends into the fall -- resulting in missed games -- then who stands to both fill and benefit from the sports programing void created by pro football's absence?
According to a report in the Washington Post, such is the increasingly non-hypothetical question facing sports marketers and league decision makers. With no NFL, how can we take advantage? Who is best equipped to play substitute teacher? Answers vary by sport. College football offers a similar product to that of the pros. Auto racing already has a traditional Sunday presence. Hockey um, well, people hit each other and create a lot of concussions.
That said, I think the entire notion of replacing pro football is misguided. A misapprehension of basic reality, actually. Fact is, the NFL doesn't prevent people from watching or caring about other sports they would otherwise spend time and money on. Oh, yeah, I'd be a huge Jeff Gordon fan if only Carolina-Cleveland wasn't kicking off at 1 p.m.!
No, what the NFL prevents is people getting on with the rest of their non-rooting lives. As such, it's the activities, institutions and business outside of sports which stand to benefit from a potential work stoppage. Sans pro football, I expect to see rises in:
• Lawn mower sales;
• Grocery store corporate stock;
• Leaf blower usage;
• Car wash profits;
• Church attendance;
• Dry cleaning revenues;
• ER visits related to light bulb-changing and storm gutter-cleaning mishaps;
• Time spent on phone conversing with in-laws;
• Divorce attorney billable hours;
• Suicide-prevention hotline calls.
Small wonder, then, that a fall without football is too depressing to seriously contemplate. No offense to hockey.