Daniel Gross writes in Slate:
The Austrian-born economist Joseph Schumpeter—a tennis player, not a soccer fan—developed the concept of creative destruction, the touchstone of American-style capitalism. Schumpeter famously likened the elites of a society to a hotel, one in which rooms are always occupied but by an ever-changing roster of guests. The hotel concept almost precisely describes the soccer leagues of Europe. Every year, the worst-performing teams—three in England, four in Italy—check out. Relegated, they must play the following year in the next-lower division. Meanwhile, ambitious upstarts who have succeeded at lower levels check in. They are promoted.
This constant cycling has enormous financial consequences for the teams and their owners. ... (Imagine what would happen to attendance at Shea Stadium if the New York Mets had to play AAA opponents this year.) Relegated teams release or sell off highly paid players and instantly face a renewed fight for survival. ... By contrast, the American professional leagues are like a Marriott Residence Inn—once you're allowed to check in, you never have to leave. There's no great punishment for consistently propping up the standings year after year. Yes, the market value of losing teams often suffers in comparison to those of winning teams. But once you're a member of the cartel, there's a floor under the price.
In America, someone who wishes to start a major-league sports team, or who wants to upgrade a minor-league team into a major-league one, is essentially out of luck. ... In other words, the European system rewards ambition and ruthlessly punishes sloth and incompetence. At the beginning of each year, every owner places every dollar of investment on the line.
More than one American sport sets limits on how much a team can pay its player, sets limits on the minimum amount players can be paid, transfers money from the richest to the poorest teams, etc. If the government tried to do this to any other industry, people would be infuriated — but if the sports industry does it to itself, that’s OK. The anger with the first scenario wouldn’t be due merely to the use of government force; no, it would be in large part due to the perceived limitations on risks and rewards. Why, then, is it tolerated in professional sports?
Maybe Americans aren’t quite the anti-socialists and pro-capitalists that they imagine themselves to be. They seem quite willing to accept socialism in some circumstances, don’t they?