NFL money boggles the mind

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

The numbers are so staggering you almost have to sit down to read them. American network NBC will pay $600 million to broadcast 17 NFL Sunday night football games in 2006. Cable channel ESPN will dish out $1.1 billion to show Monday Night Football games.

In total, the NFL will make more than $4 billion in television revenues that year and each NFL team will get $125 million before it even plays a down.

Not a bad figure when you consider the NFL's salary cap was around $85 million last season and there is no such thing as a guaranteed player contract.

It's very easy to see why the NFL is the most successful pro sports league on the planet and conversely it's simple to see why the National Hockey League has always been a flop in the United States.

No exposure.

If and when the NHL ever returns to the ice, it will begin a not-so-lucrative TV deal with NBC that netted the league a grand total of $0. At the same time it will have to renegotiate a TV deal with ESPN, the network that is $1.1 billion poorer this year than it was last.

All this might be a reminder to the NHL Players' Association that there is a reason why other leagues have more money than theirs does. There's a reason why athletes in other leagues make more money ... it's all tied to higher revenues and general interest in the sport in the big markets.

While the NFL's gravy train continues to look more like a speeding bullet, the NHL's has completely derailed and it's time for the players to deal with it.

Take what you can get and hit the ice before it's too late.

SAVING IT FOR SHEFF: A fan got smoked in the head with a foul ball last week at a Red Sox game in Fenway Park, causing him to juggle his beer. The fan was said to be uninjured but angry that the beer didn't get spilled on Gary Sheffield ... While fans should definitely stay out of the way of players during a game, it's pretty hard to believe that police are going to charge that Red Sox fan for taking a borderline swipe at Sheffield. Next to the NBA standard for fan-player brawls and the flare-throwing soccer fans in Italy, that looked like a sissy-boy slap party ... Marion Jones, a once-great American Olympian with a shady performance-enhancing past, looked like half the woman she used to be at a recent track meet in the U.S., finishing dead last in her heat with a time that wouldn't have won her a high school race. On the bright side, Jones should have no trouble convincing the world that she is not currently on steroids ... There's nothing like getting the longest-suffering fans in Canada all geeked up before the season even starts. The way Roy Shivers and Danny Barrett are talking, the Saskatchewan Roughriders already have the Grey Cup locked up and that has banjo pickers everywhere in a tizzy. Like in every other season but two in the team's hapless history, this one has heartbreak written all over it ... By the way, does the term The Gap refer to Saskatchewan or Roy Shivers' gigantic mouth?

BOORIING: Here's a storyline we haven't heard often (tongue firmly planted in cheek): "No progress in labour negotiations, but more talks planned." Could have been a standard headline in this newspaper 50 times this year ... Toronto sports and communications magnate Paul Godfrey still believes Hogtown is in line to get an NFL expansion team after Los Angeles. Now all they need is another new stadium and a few flying pigs ... Man, no replacement players in the NHL? There goes Sun hockey writer Ken Wiebe's plan for next season ... Much was made about golfer Darren Clarke asking "Where's the beer?" moments after a Van de Veldian meltdown cost him a tournament title last weekend. Truth is, Clarke would have asked the same question if he had won. He's Irish for Pete's sake ... While Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Danny McManus can't be too happy about the team's plan to sign Doug Flutie, he is looking forward to being referred to as the young backup ... Kudos to Shaw TV for their coverage of the Brandon Wheat Kings-Calgary Hitmen WHL series. We've come a long way since the days of the Two Sports Guys haven't we? ... Sorry folks, but like we said earlier this season, if Winnipeggers don't get excited about the Manitoba Moose now, they are never going to. Right now, it doesn't look good.


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