"We Sell Fantasy"

Maybe I've just become a geek about this subject matter, but the following panel discussion which was captured on August 16, 2012 is, to me, fascinating. It was taken from the 2012 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and titled Federal Courts, Federal Law and Professional Sports: Emerging Trends in Antitrust, Labor and Intellectual Property. Sounds boring, I know. But below this video I mark a couple of significant times within the 80 minute long session as well as a couple of exchanges between the panelists, and believe me, this is compelling information.

At 13:08, Former Legal Chief Council and current President and Chief Operating Officer of MLB, Robert A. Dupuy, Esq. states: "We sell fantasy. We don’t sell reality. And we have grown men and women in costumes playing for millions of dollars, and more importantly enthralling tens of millions of people. And furthermore, we sell competition. Our teams and our athletes have to be bitter, bitter rivals and competitors on the field of play, but they’ve got to be partners off the field of play. And we need rules. We sell uncertainty of outcome, and so we need rules, both playing rules and frankly, we need economic rules."

DeMaurice Smith, current chief of the NFL Players' Union, then adds: "Isn’t the reality that it’s a business when owners want it to be a business and it’s a sport when they want it to be a sport and for a fan it’s—and I agree with you—it’s a fantasy."

At 26:48, the two have a similar exchange, as Smith states: "They sell fantasy; we work on the field." Dupuy quickly adds: "And if we didn’t sell fantasy, you wouldn’t work on the field."

At 35:18, the talk turns to the need of “competitive balance” and to keep people watching. This prompts Smith to ask, "So we’ve made all these exceptions to make fans happy?" Answering him is Alan Ostfield, former president and CEO of the Detroit Pistons and Tampa Bay Lightning, who replies: "It’s the foundation of our business."

Lastly, at 1:02:40, the moderator brings up the issue of the leagues' personal conduct policy & commissioner powers. He specifically asks Smith why the union didn't fight against including such provisions within the players' collective bargaining agreement with the NFL. Watch how Smith dances around answering, and how another panelist, Charles Grantham (former executive director of the NBA Players' Union) answers by saying that players would rather make more money than concern themselves with personal conduct.