Since 1972, only two MLB franchises have moved cities. In the past two years, three NFL teams have moved or filed for relocation. With the announcement that the Oakland Raiders will move to Las Vegas in 2020, the NFL proved to fans that sports are indeed a business, despite how maligned the cliche has become.
With the Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Rams and now–Los Angeles Chargers showing such blatant disregard for the culture of their old cities, it’s clear that fans across the NFL are getting fed up. Along with relocation running rampant, the NFL is dealing with stark political divisions among its players, fans and executives. With a clear link that football can lead to brain trauma, the NFL will quickly need to address player safety if it hopes to sustain a steady flow of players in the next generation.
The NFL’s issues are part of the reason the NBA is quickly growing in popularity and may eventually take over as the most popular sport in the U.S. Similarly, MLB has undergone slight, but needed, changes under commissioner Rob Manfred, and it is poised to retake the younger fan base that has argued the game is boring.
But without a consistent presence in cities across the country, fans would not care either way. There is a reason the popular “Madden NFL” video game franchise features relocation as an option in its “franchise” mode, where users take control of a team’s roster and finances, and “MLB The Show” doesn’t have the feature. In baseball, unless a greedy owner like Jeffrey Loria takes over a franchise, as he did with the Montreal Expos in 1999, there is little chance a team will be moved due to antitrust protection and local governments willing to support teams.
For a time, there were talks that a team would make the move back to Montreal — but now, it’s looking ever more likely that the league will expand into more cities. MLB last expanded in 1998, when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays were added to the league, and since then, both teams have gained devoted followings.
The consistency of baseball, from its long schedule to its longtime broadcasters, is what kept the old generation of fans. And now, it might just be what brings in the new generation.