It's easy for fans to forget, but professional sports is a business, plain and simple. The owners of these teams invest millions in acquiring and developing talent, not only to win a championship title, but to draw more fans to the stadium, sell more merchandise and win more lucrative TV contracts. In short, winning pays!
Nothing cuts into an owner's profits like high player salaries. Players and owners have been butting heads over contract disputes for decades. In 1975, the Major League Baseball Players Association won the right to free agency [source: MLBPA]. When a player's contract runs out, other teams can bid for his talents, with the best players commanding millions of dollars a year.
Sick of paying outlandish salaries to prized free agents, the MLB owners devised a scheme to break the system. After the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons, the owners made a secret pact not to sign almost any free agents [source: MLBPA]. If no one started a bidding war, then the salaries wouldn't go up and more players would stay with their original team. For instance, following the 1985 season, only four of 35 free agents got contracts with new teams.
The problem is that it's illegal. The Players Association took the owners to court for collusion and won $280 million in damages [source: MLBPA]. Consider this one "conspiracy proven."