Game-changers in sports
Baseball's "arms race" cools off.
You'd think they'd learn, right? Baseball owners often complain about how much salaries are getting inflated each year, but there seems to be no end in sight to the rising cost of signing star players—particularly when a star agent's last big deal is consistently outclassed by their latest negotiation. Well, this year the world of baseball salaries gets a little reality check: While the headlines from the local sports page will continue to evoke big contract signings, the money involved will be less than expectations.
During the playoffs this past fall, we heard all kinds of chatter about the LA Dodgers possibly looking to offer pitcher Clayton Kershaw a deal in the area of $300 million. And that's reportedly what New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano wants out of a deal. Well, here is where general managers around the league will draw the line. There will be no record-setting mega contracts this year. Owners and management will finally figure out that the economics don't make sense. They'll try living within a more well-rounded and reasonable budget, like the rest of America is doing with their own family finances. Yeah, I'll likely be wrong. Let's face it, there's no such thing as deflation in pro sports, right?
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The NFL takes brand expansion to a whole new level.
It's already the most popular sport in America. And now it's going to get even more reach. The National Football League has already inked a deal to be a content partner with Microsoft and its new Xbox One game console. Football fever is now going to be even more Next Gen as content goes even further into the world of video games, home entertainment, smartphones and tablets.
I'll admit, I'm a part-time gamer. I've been known to occasionally dabble in a little "Grand Theft Auto" or "Assassin's Creed." Maybe even some "Call of Duty." But it's been ages since I've played a "Madden NFL" game. I bought the 25th-anniversary edition, not necessarily because I was that addicted to the game but because if you preordered it on Amazon.com, you got a full season of DirecTV's Sunday Ticket NFL package for free! The promotion let you put the application on your smartphone, tablet or PC without even having to be a DirecTV subscriber.
My local barkeep is probably sad, since I no longer go out to watch my hometown San Francisco 49ers play. I can now watch it from the comfort of my own couch on my iPad. Expect to see more of these kinds of deals signed this year. I, like so many football fans, would definitely pay to have access to just the DirecTV NFL Sunday ticket as a tablet-only subscription. That is what the NFL is counting on.
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Soccer makes a huge leap forward in the US.
It's no secret that football, as the world knows it, has been growing rapidly in the U.S. But this year it's going to go parabolic. Between the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this coming summer and all the momentum behind watching English Premier League (EPL) soccer, which is televised regularly now in the U.S., a whole new generation of soccer fans will find a reason to get a kick out of the game. Get ready for a lot more English soccer, World Cup and Major League Soccer games to make it into television time usually reserved for U.S. major sports.
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Honorable mention: Tiger Woods wins at least one major this year.
People say it every year, and eventually they'll likely be right. Tiger won his fair share of tournaments last season, but another major still eludes him. This will be the year. No, really, it will be the year. And it's going to happen at the U.S. Open on Pinehurst #2 … but don't take that to the bank.
—By CNBC's Dominic Chu. Follow him on Twitter @TheDomino