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Conference Championship games featuring Chiefs, Bills, Packers and Buccaneers made possible by a salary cap

The NFL has always prided itself on parity. Without it, would the Packers, Buccaneers, Bills and Chiefs all be vying for a trip to the Super Bowl this weekend? Highly unlikely.

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Man, with Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay and Tampa—four television markets that aren’t New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and/or Philadelphia— involved in this Sunday’s conference title games, good luck getting viewers to tune in to see which two teams the NFL will send to Super Bowl LV, right?

LOL, just kidding. It’s the NFL, and three of the biggest names in the history of the league—Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes—will headline these matchups. Therefore, those ratings will be just fine.

That’s the beauty of a league with a salary cap and a network television package that is split evenly among all 32 NFL teams.

Can you imagine Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay and Tampa as the four markets vying for the right to go to the World Series? The answer is, you couldn’t. For one thing, Green Bay is too small to have a franchise in Major League Baseball, same for Buffalo, a city known more for being a minor league affiliate over the years to teams like the Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays.

As for Tampa, the Rays have been to a couple of World Series in their short history—including the most recent one—but they’ve never won one. Sure, they’ve been to the playoffs numerous times, but they’ve always been more “little engine that could” than actual championship contender. It’s true that the Royals made it to back-to-back Fall Classics in the mid-2010s and defeated the Mets in 2015 to win their first championship in three decades, but they had to blow the whole thing up after that, and now they’re back in their familiar role as one of baseball’s bottom-feeders.

The Rays will likely have to divert from their plan of stockpiling and developing prospects if they’re ever going to truly get over the hump. After that, they’ll have to blow the whole thing up. That much is true for every small-market franchise in Major League Baseball in the current environment of the haves vs. the have nots; that’s a shame since so much of MLB’s history was shaped by teams like the Pirates, A’s, Royals, Orioles, Reds, Twins and Royals.

Those franchises made it to several World Series from the late-’60s through the early-’90s and won a combined 14 championships. Unfortunately, only one of those teams—the aforementioned 2015 Royals—has won a title since I graduated from high school 30 years ago.

What happened? Unrestricted free agency and the explosion of salaries. What didn’t happen? A salary cap.

All of those baseball teams, along with the expansion Rays, are considered small-market franchises, while the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers, the team that vanquished Tampa in the 2020 World Series, are considered big-market teams with access to huge local television and radio deals.

Fortunately for professional football fans, the NFL—led by transformative commissioner Pet Rozelle way back in the 1960s—envisioned a league where all teams would get an equal share of the television pie. When the league finally relented and gave its players unrestricted free agency in the early-’90s, it made sure to include a salary cap as part of the agreement. Once again, everyone remained on equal ground.

How long do you think Mahomes would have remained with the Chiefs without a salary cap and revenue sharing in the NFL? Probably until the end of his rookie deal. Without those things in place, Kansas City would have had little-to-no chance of signing the former NFL MVP to the mega-deal he inked last summer. As for Rodgers, he would have left Green Bay—likely for the Big Apple or LA—a long time ago. And you could forget about the Buccaneers winning a bidding war for the GOAT.

Do you think Super Bowl XLV between the Steelers and Packers happens in a non-salary cap environment? Maybe one of those markets sneaks into the Super Bowl every once in a while, but no way would it ever happen in the same year.

The NFL is the greatest and most popular sports league in America for a reason. One of the biggest reasons is because all teams are treated equally.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Go parity!!!!!