Forbes lists the Dallas Cowboys as being worth $3.2 billion. Which is silly. I just don’t know which side of silly.
Forbes says the Cowboys’ value has risen 36 percent over last year, which I assume is related to the Los Angeles Clippers’ recent sale to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. The Clippers were valued at under $1 billion last year by Forbes, so clearly, the business news organization doesn’t have a solid handle on the value of sports franchises.
Basically, it’s all artificial anyway. Selling for $2 billion doesn’t mean anything is worth $2 billion. And declaring something to be worth $3.2 billion doesn’t mean it would sell for $3.2 billion.
But the value of franchises is going up. Sports franchises are a precious commodity. They can’t be replicated or multiplied. There are only so many to go around: 32 in the NFL, 30 in Major League Baseball and the NBA.
Forbes’ numbers aren’t particularly interesting. But Forbes’ rankings are. The Cowboys rank No. 1 because of Tex Schramm’s great marketing 40 years ago and Jerry Jones’ great marketing the last 25. Jones gets a ton of grief for his failures as a general manager, and deservedly so. But Jones is a world-class owner.
He built a magnificent stadium with civic help — but no civic overruns. And Jones has kept the Cowboy brand flourishing even while the Cowboys’ on-field performance has dallied below average since the mid-’90s. The Cowboys remain a marquee NFL franchise and that isn’t likely to change.
Being valued at $3.2 billion helps with lines of credit — which were important when Jones was building JerryWorld and will be again anytime Jones has a major project that needs financing. But it’s not particularly relevant otherwise. Jones isn’t likely to sell. He’s developed a family legacy, and his children, Jerry Jr. and Stephen among them, appear set to retain control of the Cowboys even after Jerry’s death.
Forbes’ rankings are more prestige than anything else. The Cowboy brand trumps the Lakers, the Yankees and all the NFL’s many mighty brands. The Giants, the Packers, the Steelers, the Patriots, the Bears. The Dallas Cowboys are an impressive testament to American commerce.
Now, if they could just rise above 8-8 in the NFC East.