The business model I floated a year or so ago (sadly on April Fool's Day) gives visiting teams a % of local revenue, based on attendance. (See http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-lewis040102.asp) That'd probably create a happy-medium between the two forces.
But more to your point, I'm starting to believe that the idea of a "big market team" in sports is something of a fiction. Instead, "big market" is synonymous with "historically and currently good team who doesn't go into debt." The last part creates some honestly _small_ market teams -- see anything team a dairy state -- but note how few true big-market teams there are, and what sets them apart: 1) The Lakers are clearly a big market team. The Clippers, who share a home-court with them, aren't. 2) The Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) were a regularly competitive team before the salary cap. The 76ers (NBA) and Phillies (MLB) were both considered failing, small market teams until recently. 3) The Nets play in the same complex as the Giants and Jets (NFL). 4) The Portland Trailblazers are considered a regular contender in the NBA. Portland is so small it has no football or baseball team, although it may have the latter in the future. 5) The Dolphins are a football institution. The Heat have been mostly competitive throughout their history. The Florida Marlins are the prototypical "poor" team. 6) No one would have a problem with a White Sox/Cubs world series, even though they're both clearly "large market" teams. 7) Detroit made the NBA finals three years in a row, pre-cap and pre- Jordan era (1988-1990), winning two. The Lions (NFL) and Tigers (MLB) are perhaps two of the worst teams in recent sports history. (The Pistons of the NBA, on the other hand, have been doing well over the last few years).
The idea that large markets exist seem more to be a function of the team than the city itself. So, if you have a dynasty, it'll draw eyeballs, _even if it's in the bumbles._
The best example is the Detroit run in the NBA. In their third year, they played Portland, with, if I recall correctly, better ratings than they had the two years before (versus the Lakers).
But more importantly, remember that these finals were projected (after game 2) to have the worst ratings since 1982. (As it turned out, they had the worst ratings since they've been recorded.) Who played in the '82 Finals? The Lakers beat the Sixers, 4-2. Note that the two teams had faced each other in 1980 with the same result (although LA had a different coach) and would face each other _again_ in 1983. In '83, the Sixers won 4-0, and the ratings were better.
The best explanation is that fan base has a significant lag time to it, especially as you get to smaller markets. Combine that with the fact that the one team that had been to the finals the year before (NJ) was a huge underdog and didn't put up much of a fight, and this series was doomed to lose to Joe Millionaire.
So, the problem isn't that we want to give small market teams a chance. The problem is that leagues dislike dynasties, but dynasties are good for them.
At 01:31 PM 7/10/2003 -0500, you wrote:
Playoffs between small market teams get low ratings, like the New Jersey Nets/San Antonio Spurs championship game. But a lot people inside sports seem to resent big market teams (Yankees, LA Lakers) consistently dominating the play-offs, although audiences seem to want dynasties from big cities.
Is there an inherent problem here? Is it inevitable that there is a conflict between people inside sports who want to see some diversity among the winners? Is big league team sports inherently biased towards the dynasty model? Are there viable business models for team sports that could produce a wider range of winners?