For the Record
AFL commissioner David Baker resigned last summer.
Marc Serota/Getty Images

The Arena Football League suspended the inevitable momentarily on Wednesday by not suspending the 2009 season. That doesn't mean the AFL honchos won't finally come to that sad reality on Thursday or some time next week.

Make no mistake about it -- the 50-word press release the league issued after a conference call was nothing more than a bandage placed on a hemorrhaging wound.

The conference call was simply a vote whether or not to suspend play "at this time." With "at this time," of course, being the key words. The league has yet to announce whether there will be a 2009 season, and it has yet to release the 2009 schedule or commence free agency despite the league tentatively slated to start play at the end of February.

There will be another conference call Thursday and a possible meeting next week to reach the three-quarters majority among the 16 league owners on a course of action.

The league's owners, however, are split among the "haves" and the "have nots." The "haves," such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, want to suspend the season; the "have nots," such as owners in Grand Rapids and Tampa Bay, want to continue. Now, this is no slight to small-market owners, but they are simply not thinking as clearly or as long term as Jones, Bowlen or Los Angeles Avengers owner Casey Wasserman, the CEO of the WMG talent agency and the grandson of Lew Wasserman, the head of MCA.

"It's important for the Arena Football League to think about the next 20 years," Wasserman said. "And the economic model, combined with the economic environment we're in currently doesn't allow us to take that perspective."

It's time that the Arena League realizes where it stands in today's current economic climate and understands that suspending the league for a season to regroup and restructure the league isn't a sign that the league is doomed. It's simply a sign of the times and a necessity to continue a league that has been around for 23 years, a longer run than all the football leagues outside of the NFL combined. 

While certain league owners in Arena hotbeds badly want to play a 24th season, there would be a very real risk that there would not be a 25th if they continue down a very dangerous road that has put a dent in leagues far stronger.

Sports, as we have learned over the past few weeks, are not recession proof. The biggest indicator of the current climate came Tuesday when the NFL, the most successful sport entity in America, announced that it was cutting 150 league jobs, or about 14 percent of its staff, over the next 60 days to reduce costs in response to the recession.

If the NFL, as well as the NBA, NHL, NASCAR and Major League Baseball, is scaling back, who would blame the Arena Football League for taking a 14-month offseason to regroup and come back stronger?

I'm guessing if other businesses could, they would take an extended time out until 2010 as well.


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