If you want to weigh risk and reward in professional sport, I'd say international cricket - specifically the Indian Premier League (#IPL) - is where it's at. For all those North Americans that scoff at cricket as "not a real sport" because they wear white and drink tea, ask Katy Perry what she thinks after performing at the opening ceremony.
The NFL is arguably the most popular league in the US - and one of the richest in the world. But no one really cares about American Football outside of North America, so really, the NFL has an audience of roughly 350 million (taking into account the US and Canada's combined populations and throwing in a few million Mexicans).
Then you have the IPL and India's love affair with cricket. India's population is estimated at over 1.2 billion - yes, I said billion. Even if only half the population cares about cricket (I'd argue that number is close to near a billion people that do) that's almost double the audience than the NFL.
Then there's the player's salaries.
Ever heard of Ravindra Jadeja? This 23 year old Indian cricketer was just signed by the Chennai Super Kings for $2 million dollars for the 2012 tournament. In North American sports terms, that may not seem like a whole lot of money, but when you factor in that the IPL season is 16 matches (without playoffs) over about a 6 week span, the financial strength of the IPL is staggering.
Put it this way:
At $2 million, Jadeja makes $125,000 a game. That's $333,333 a week for a total of 6 weeks out of 52 of the whole year.
Let's dare to compare Jadeja to LeBron James. In the 2010-2011 NBA season, LeBron's salary was $14.5 million dollars. Over an 82 game season, LeBron made $176,829.27 a game, or over the approximately 6 month regular season (let's round it to 25 weeks to keep this math simple enough), he made about $580,000 a week.
Now say Jadeja played an 82 game NBA schedule over the course of 25 weeks. At $125,000 a game, he'd make $10,250,000 a year.
Better yet, I'll use a better athletic comparison to the sport of cricket - baseball.
The baseball season is 162 games. If the Yankees signed and spent money like the Chennai Super Kings, they'd have to pay Jadeja $20,250,000 a year. A-Rod signed a $275 million 10 year deal with the Yankees in 2007 averaging out to about $27.5 million a year (yes, his salary isn't structured evenly over the course of 10 years, but this is just to provide an example). But with Jadeja you don't need to worry about Madonna or PEDs.
And here's the kicker: Jadeja isn't even one of the most popular/marketable players in the IPL. He's not the LeBron or Lin or Tebow of cricket in India. Introducing Sachin Tendulkar.
It's estimated that the IPL is the second highest paying league in the world, second only to the NBA. Over the course of a year, the average player salary would be about $3.95 million USD.
Time to get an IPL franchise, Toronto. Rogers already has exclusive rights to broadcast IPL matches in Canada, they might as well corner the "bat and ball sports" global market with both the Blue Jays and a professional IPL team.