Division of Labour: Sports Archives
August 01, 2013
Confusing Costs With Benefits

A few weeks back the WSJ ran a piece by Rachel Bachman on schools that are allowed to award fewer football scholarships than normal because of NCAA sanctions. Penn State, for example, has lost the right to award 90 football scholarships (spread over several years). Bachman multiplies each school's average tuition to obtain a cost of the NCAA sanctions. PSU's cost is supposedly $3.15 million (90 scholarships @ $35,000).

Bachman has it all wrong. Not being allowed to award scholarships actually saves the institutions the expense associated with the scholarships. The true cost to the schools is the lost rents they obtain from players. By having to limit their scholarships, the schools lose the revenues they obtain over and above the cost of the scholarships they award. These revenues are substantial--estimated to be more than $1 million for a premium college player.

UPDATE: Forgot to link the story; link now added. Sorry. BTW, this isn't the first instance of a WSJ writer making this mistake--here's another from Mark Yost:

While the penalties against Mr. Bush and USC are a nice gesture, they're indicative of the problem with the penalties typically handed out by the NCAA. Namely, they're never enough to deter future bad behavior. The school lost 30 scholarships, valued at about $50,000 each. That's $1.5 million. Last year, the participating teams in the five BCS bowl games—Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar and BCS National Championship Game—each received $18 million. If you were a coach or athletic director, would you risk a $1.5 million fine in a loosely enforced system to look the other way on illicit contacts with an agent, fudge a transcript or pressure a professor to change a grade in exchange for a payday that's 12 times what the penalty would be?

The "fine" isn't the $50k per scholarship--it's the rent that could be extracted from players that would hold those scholarship slots in the absence of NCAA sanctions.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:45 PM in Sports

December 23, 2012
Worst Business Projection Ever

Here's something I found while looking for something else. Is this the worst business projection ever?

From the Associated Press, Jan. 3, 1951:

Four of the nation's biggest athletic conferences will lead a fight against live television of football games at the NCAA convention in Dallas next week.
They are the Big 10, Eastern College Athletic Conference, Southwest, and Southeastern. ...
Ralph Furey of Columbia, chairman of a committee set up to study the effect of television on sports attendance, reported to the ECAC general meeting:
'Live television of sports events presents a threat to the institution of
intercollegiate athletics.'
A special television committee or the powerful Big Ten reported:
'Live television has an adverse effect on athletic attendance, particularly
The Big Ten banned live telecasts of conference games last year. ... The Southeastern Conference voted unanimously to bar direct telecasting of its football games. ... "

Apparently, somewhere along the line people with a bit more vision and sense of the possibilities got involved.

Posted by Brad Smith at 12:35 PM in Economics ~ in Misc. ~ in Sports

August 11, 2012
Olympic Crowd Out

From yesterday's WSJ:

London's sports venues, with a few exceptions, have been packed during the 2012 Olympic Games.

That's not the case with the city's luxury-retail sector, which has been deserted. The locals have decamped to their country houses. The jet-setters are either at Olympic Park or somewhere like Ibiza. Which means a regular person can get some decent service in shops and a table at places that usually are jammed.

This illustrates one of the pitfalls of the economic impact analyses that boosters throw around in support of sporting events or venues. The analyses often do not account for the crowding out of locals, that is for economic activity that would take place even if an event such as the Olympics does not come to the host city.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:51 PM in Sports

July 30, 2012
On (the Lack of) Persistent Employment Effects from the Olympics

The abstract of a new paper by Arne Feddersen and Wolfgang Maennig:

Using the data of the 1996 Olympic Games, this paper analyzes the economic impact of a mega-sporting event. Earlier studies are extended in several ways. First, monthly rather than quarterly data are employed. Second, the impact is analyzed for 16 different sectors. Third, we use a nonparametric approach to flexibly isolate employment effects. Hardly any evidence for a persistent shift in the aftermath of or the preparation for the Olympic Games is supported. We find significant positive employment effects exclusively during the Olympic Games. These short-term effects are concentrated in the sectors of “retail trade,”“accommodation and food services,” and “arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:04 AM in Sports

April 30, 2012
On rooting c. 1912

From the April 28, 1912 NYT:

Dr. George E. Howard, Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska, speaking before the conference of physical education and hygiene here last night, bitterly denounced organized "rooting," particularly during intercollegiate games.

"Partisan cheering," he said," is a singular example of mental perversion, an absurd and immoral custom. From every aspect it is bad. It robs the athlete of his due meed of honest praise. Morally it is on the level with the `jimmy' and the `toe hold,' the stuffed ballot box or the campaign canard. It reaches the limit of perversity when used as a `jimmy' to unlock the emotions of the audience at an intercollegiate debate."

Dr. Howard held that as now conducted intercollegiate sports of all kinds were becoming a menace to higher education. He said there was urgent need for the strict enforcement of the "low of competition" and the "law of amateurism."

Well, he was on the wrong side of history.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:20 PM in Sports

April 12, 2012
An unbeatable record? c. 1912

From the April 12, 1912 NYT:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - What is claimed to be a unique record in professional baseball was made here to-day in the game between Kansas City and Columbus when the ball tossed out by the umpire at the beginning of play was used throughout the entire nine-inning game, no other being required.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:44 PM in Sports

March 09, 2011
On the bid-ask spread c. 1911

From the March 9, 1911 NYT:

Charley Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox told someone the other day that he would not take $25,000 for Third Baseman Harry Lord. He wouldn't pay that much for him, either.

The same article reports statistics that are the dreams of Cubs fans:

The Chicago Cubs for the past five years have established a record unequaled in the history of baseball. They have won 530 games in that time, four pennants, and two world's championships. In 1906 the team won 116 games; in 1907, 107 games; in 1908, 99 games; in 1909, 104 games, and last season, 104 games.

The same article reports on Shoeless Joe Jackson in a scene reminiscent of The Natural:

Joe Jackson, the young Cleveland outfielder, who hit for .387 in twenty games last season and was placed at the top of the American League list has arrived at the Naps's training camp, at Alexandria, la., with a brand new bat. The first time he used it he got three hits out of four times up. Jackson made the bat during the Winter. He got a rough piece of ash from a bat manufacturer and shaped it to suit himself.

Posted by Craig Depken at 12:16 PM in Sports

February 28, 2011
On basketball tournaments in Charlotte

I was cited in this Charlotte Observer article about the economic impact of the CIAA basketball tournament.

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:44 PM in Sports

Yankees in Athens c. 1911

For the second year in a row, the New York Yankees took spring training in Athens, Georgia (the center of all that is right and good in the universe):

Harry Lee, trainer of the New York American League Baseball Club, arrived in Athens to-day to prepare for the coming of the team. Manager Hal Chase and the regulars are scheduled to reach here on March 14.
I spent nine wonderful years in Athens and never once heard about Yankees in Athens other than the Stoneman Raid.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:54 AM in Sports

On betting in baseball c. 1911

From the Feb. 28, 1911 NYT:

"Betting is one of the greatest evils which can come into baseball," said President Johnson [of the American League] to-night. "We can and do prevent it at our ball parks. Whether we can do anything than cast our influence against it if outsiders start it, is something yet to be determined. One of the promoters of this enterprise spoke to me about the matter when I was in Cincinnati recently, and I urged him strongly against it, pointing out the evils which might result. I hope the followers of baseball will cause the scheme to fall flat by refusing to wager."
Eight years later, President Johnson's warning would seem to come home to roost.

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:45 AM in Sports

February 27, 2011
“It’s just adding zero to zero”

That's JC Bradbury in an AJC story on the economic benefit that would come from building a new, open-air, stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Dennis Coates, Brad Humphreys, and others are also quoted.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:31 PM in Sports

February 14, 2011
On the "terrific pace" of basket ball c. 1911

From the Feb. 14, 1911 NYT:

One of the finest games of basket ball that has every been played in the Columbia gymnasium was contested there last night, and after an uphill fight the Morningside quintet defeated the Pennsylvania five by a score of 17 to 15. Fully 2,500 persons witnessed the game, and the stands were jammed with graduates returning for Alumni Day, who wildly applauded each of the Columbia tallies, which finally chalked up a victory for the Blue and White.

The game hung in the balance until about the last three minutes of play. At that time the Quakers were three points in the lead, and from the terrific pace they were setting, it looked decidedly dark for the home team. Things changed when Kindl caged one of his few successful shots from the foul line....

Immediately below that story is a very brief recap of another game which would seem to have had an even greater pace:

The basket ball team of St. John's College of Brooklyn defeated the Colgate University five in a fast and exciting game last night in the St. John's College gymnasium by the score of 31 to 20.

And a final story:

Before a crowd of nearly 2,000 spectators the Sheltering Guardian Orphan Asylum basket ball team defeated the Bedford Athletic Club team of Harlem yesterday afternoon by a score of 25 to 15. Feuerstein shot four of Sheltering Guardian's goals from the field and caged the ball seven times on fouls.

I wonder exactly how long today's television viewer would stick with a game that ended up with a 25 to 15 score?

Posted by Craig Depken at 11:13 AM in Sports

February 03, 2011
On wrestling c. 1911

From the Feb. 3, 1911 NYT do we see the birth of modern-day wrestling?

HARFTORD, Conn - A bill to legalize limited boxing bouts in Connecticut was introduced in the legislature to-day...In wrestling no strangle hold will be allowed or any holds which are liable to injure a contestant.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:07 PM in Sports

December 25, 2010
Raising rivals' costs c. 1910

From the Dec. 25, 1910 NYT:

The project of a third major baseball league club for Chicago would be seriously affected by an ordinance passed by the City Council last Monday, designed to insure the safety of baseball crowds.

The ordinance passed almost unnoticed, but was brought into prominence by the stock yards fire Thursday, in which Fire Marshall Horan and twenty-three others were killed.

The amended section of the building ordinance forbids the erection within the fire limits of any wooden grandstand or bleachers with a seating capacity of more than 5,000. Wooden grand stands already in existence or under construction may be repaired or enlarged providing no part of the structure shall be within sixty feet of any other structure. [emphasis mine]

All wooden grandstands must be treated once each year with fire retarding paint or solution. Before a permit can be issued for the building of a new grandstand written consent must be obtained from the owners of a majority of the frontage on both sides of the street or streets bounding the structure.

Promoters of a third club in Chicago would, under the ordinance, be compelled to build a fireproof plant at large expense before playing could begin. [emphasis mine]

Actually, the last paragraph is not correct, I believe. Couldn't the third team play, but just in a park smaller than 5,000 people - or in a park with no grandstand. Of course, a team playing in such an environment would likely have a hard time competing and surviving.

Posted by Craig Depken at 05:17 PM in Sports

December 14, 2010
Premium Seating, Elizabethan Style

From Bill Bryson's Shakespeare (p. 139):

Spectators [at The Blackfriars Theater] could, for an additional fee, sit on the stage--something not permitted at the Globe. With stage seating, audience members could show off their finery to maximum effect, and the practice was lucrative ...

I wonder if Elizabethan theaters also sold personal seat licenses.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:29 AM in Sports

December 03, 2010
Yale vs. Harvard c. 1910

From the Dec. 3, 1910 NYT:

The football that was kicked and carried about Yale field by the Harvard and Yale players on Nov. 19 and which failed to cross the goal post bar at either end of the field is practically an outcast or a "dead ball" as far as the two universities are concerned, as neither team desires it as a trophy of the scoreless game.

The ball still reposes with Referee W. S. Langford of Trinity, although it has been a subject of a pleasing interchange of letters between Capt. Withington of Harvard and Capt. Daly of Yale. Capt. Withington wrote his Blue-legged opponent that in consideration of "your splendid and unexpected stand against us we feel that Yale ought to have the ball," and Capt. Daly replied that Yale could not accept the ball as a gift.

What would it be worth today?

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:57 PM in Sports

November 13, 2010
PR Department: Vend It Like Beckham Edition

The paper on David Beckham's attendance effect that co-blogger Bob, his former student Kate Sheehan, and I published in the IJSF (available here) is blurbed in today's WSJ. Our paper is also cited in this book on celebrities.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:40 PM in Economics ~ in Sports

November 09, 2010
Words of wisdom: Follow through

Useful in almost all settings - politics, economics, friendships, love, and, of course, sport:


Posted by Craig Depken at 02:13 PM in Sports

October 01, 2010
Bad idea #13424 c. 1910

From the Oct. 1, 1910 NYT in an article describing changes to American Football rules in Connecticut:

The most radical innovation is in the system of scoring. Four teams will be in the league and, in order to prevent tie games a new system was adopted. If a team carries the ball to its opponent's 15 yard line and loses it there, or if time is called the offense will score one point. If the pigskin goes to the 10 yard line two points will be chalked up and, if the ball is carried within the five yard line, the offense will score three points. If the ball is carried over the line for a touchdown only the regulation number of points will be scored. This rule will make it possible for a team to score a touchdown and keep its opponents from the goal line and yet lose the game.

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:57 AM in Sports

September 15, 2010
Boise Bashers and the Boise Bus

After Virginia Tech's loss to James Madison, there is no way Boise State will play for a national championship. There are a couple of bowl teams on their schedule, but with the exception of Oregon State, pretty much everyone left (Wyoming, New Mexico State, Toledo, San Jose State, LA Tech, Hawaii, Idaho, Fresno State, Nevada, and Utah State) is in the "teams the BCS elites schedule as glorified warm-ups" (and yes, Louisiana Tech beat Alabama not once but twice while I was an undergraduate, in 1997 and 1999). Is Boise State legit? Are the "a smurfed-out version of Ole Miss," as I heard or read a few weeks ago? Would they be a contender, or would they struggle to win six or seven games a year playing in a BCS conference?

There's no way to know right now, but there are a few ways to find out. First, Boise bashers should recognize that their scheduling woes aren't entirely their fault. It isn't as if they've turned down invitations to the Pac-10 or Big 12 so they can stay in the WAC (or move to the MWC, as they will do next year, I think). The BCS elites could silence them by agreeing to play them and beating them regularly.

At the same time, Boise should recognize that there's no way they are going to get a one-for-one home-and-home with an Alabama or a Texas. They're going to need to be flexible, and I've wondered if the best use of some of their BCS money might not be to offer to subsidize their own trips to play Alabama, Texas, USC, Nebraska, or Ohio State. Offer a three-for-one series with one or two of these schools: agree to play at Alabama three times in exchange for one return visit. Fair? Possibly not. Realistic? Also possibly not--even with a sweetheart deal, the Alabamas and Texases of the world stand to gain next to nothing by playing Boise State and stand to lose quite a lot. It's something that might be worth exploring, though.

Posted by Art Carden at 09:01 PM in Sports

August 18, 2010
Bobby Thomson's Passing and Sign Stealing by the 1951 NY Giants

Much of the news coverage of Bobby Thomson's passing earlier this week has mentioned that the 1951 NY Giants were stealing signs during the second half of the season. For example (emphasis added):

More than a half-century later, it was revealed the Giants during the season had used a buzzer-and-telescope system to steal signals from opposing catchers. Helped by the inside information, the Giants overcame a 13½-game deficit to the Dodgers, won 37 of their final 44 games and forced a playoff.

Just one problem--there is no evidence that the sign stealing actually helped the Giants win. In fact, my recent paper in the Atlantic Economic Journal found that the Giants' runs per game decreased after they started stealing signs. An excerpt from that paper is below the fold (the third paragraph is lightly edited).

Read More »

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:19 AM in Sports

August 16, 2010
To paraphrase Mark Twain

The rumors of the Cincinnati Reds death have been greatly exaggerated.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:54 AM in Sports

July 20, 2010
A Headline for the Ages c. 1910

A headline that would have been interesting to experience in real-time, from the July 20, 1910 NYT:

Cy Young Wins 500th Victory
The story goes on to describe how Cy pitched a complete game, 11 inning, four hitter for the victory.


Posted by Craig Depken at 02:50 PM in Sports

June 26, 2010
World Cup Knockout Round: EFW Bracket

A few weeks ago I ranked World Cup participants by EFW score.. Here's how things will shake out in the knockout round if the high-EFW team wins every match:

Round 1:
S. Korea d. Uruguay. N. Koreans never learn about it because they hear of Great Leader Kim Jong Il's exploits scoring fifty goals per game as goalkeeper in leading his team to victory.
US d. Ghana.
Holland d. Slovakia.
Chile d. Brazil.
England d. Germany.
Mexico d. Argentina.
Japan d. Paraguay.
Spain d. Portugal.

Round 2:
US d. South Korea.
Chile d. Holland.
England d. Mexico.
Japan d. Spain.

Chile d. US.
England d. Japan.

Chile d. England.

Posted by Art Carden at 11:03 AM in Sports

June 12, 2010
World Cup Participants Ranked by EFW Score

Looking for a way to decide who you're rooting for in the World Cup? Or do you need a tie-breaker for games in which your home country isn't involved? Here are World Cup participants ranked by their scores in the Economic Freedom of the World Index. Index rankings in parentheses.

1. New Zealand (#3 in index, Hong Kong & Singapore are 1 & 2)
2. Switzerland (4)
3. Chile (5)
4. USA (6)
t-5. Australia (t-9)
t-5. UK (t-9)
7. Denmark (12)
8. Netherlands (t-20)
9. Slovakia (26)
t-10. Japan (t-28)
t-10. Honduras (t-28)
12. Germany (29)
13. South Korea (32)
14. France (33)
15. Spain (39)
16. Portugal (45)
17. Greece (52)
18. South Africa (t-57)
t-19. Italy (t-61)
t-19. Uruguay (t-61)
21. Slovenia (t-64)
22. Mexico (68)
23. Ghana (71)
24. Serbia (84)
25. Paraguay (91)
26. Nigeria (97)
27. Argentina (t-105)
28. Cote d'Ivoire (108)
29. Brazil (111)
30. Cameroon (123)
31. Algeria (131)
32. North Korea (Not Ranked)

Posted by Art Carden at 12:10 PM in Sports

May 16, 2010
Hot Air About Altitude

Today's NYT has an article on upcoming World Cup matches that will be played at high altitudes. Two snips:

The 32 teams participating in the World Cup from June 11 to July 11 will be faced with tactical decisions about altitude as well as soccer. Matches at 7 of the 10 stadiums in South Africa will be played at elevations ranging from 2,165 feet in the agricultural hub of Nelspruit to higher than a mile in Johannesburg.


But things could be worse. At least the World Cup is not being held in Bolivia, a hellish place for visiting soccer teams at an altitude above 11,000 feet.

“It’s not La Paz,” Bradley said thankfully.

Now here's the abstract of recent Journal of Sports Economics paper by Rómulo A. Chumacero:

This article uses several econometric models to evaluate the determinants of the outcomes of the World Cup Qualifying matches played in South America. It documents the relative importance of home-field advantage and other factors. Contrary to popular belief, altitude appears not to be an important factor behind the outcome or score of a match.

While altitude affects athletes, the NYT's worry about team strategy for dealing with altitude and the quote about about La Paz (which, if I remember correctly, was part of the motivation for Chumacero's article) are not supported by evidence.

Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:22 PM in Sports

May 11, 2010
Web gem c. 1910

How great would it be if we had footage of this baseball play, reported in the May 11, 1910 NYT:


Grant, Magee, and Bransfield made a triple steal in the first, Grant purloining home plate.

I have seen double steals, but a triple steal? There isn't even a youtube video (that I can find) showing how it might go down.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:47 AM in Sports

May 02, 2010
Empty Statistics

Ever since reading Michael Lewis's Moneyball, I've been interested in the media's obsession with minimally-informative statistics like wins and RBIs. Here's a case in point. Kyle Lohse is 0-1 in three quality starts.

Posted by Art Carden at 08:59 AM in Sports

April 20, 2010
New working paper

Open Market Valuation of Player Performance in Cricket: Evidence from the Indian Premier League

with Ramakrishna Rajasekhar

This paper investigates the final bid prices for players during the first three seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Although the IPL imposes a salary cap and other labor-market restrictions, it is anticipated that final bid prices reflect the aggregate value of player productivity statistics, potential leadership skills, and auction characteristics. The empirical analysis follows the methodology used to investigate wage determination in other professional sports. We find that cricketer salaries are influenced by player characteristics and that the marginal values have not been changing during the first three years of the league. We find little evidence for systematic wage discrimination against players who are not Indian nationals. We also find little evidence for systematic differences in average salaries paid across the eight franchises in the league.

Available at SSRN

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:00 PM in Sports

April 15, 2010
On the first pitch c. 1910

From the April 15, 1910 NYT:

The opening of the American League season in Washington to-day between the local and Philadelphia clubs was a most auspicious one, President and Mrs. Taft, Vice President Sherman, and many other notables being present, and the Nationals won by the shut-oue (sic) score of 3 to 0. For the first time on record, a President of the United States tossed out the first ball, and what was more he sat through the entire nine innings and seemed greatly to enjoy the contest. The attendance broke all records, 12,226 paying admission, while fully a thousand more were invited guests of the club.

Taft didn't throw from the mound, but if he had I wonder if he would have thrown more like Vice-president Biden:

Vice-president Cheney:

President Bush:

or President Obama?

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:08 AM in Sports

April 05, 2010
Technology in sports c. 1910

The April 5, 1910 NYT reports on a meeting held by the National League's President Lynch for the umpires of that league. During the meeting, evidently, a number of rules were discussed and Lynch urged the strict application of several. One, of which I was unaware, is rule 75,:

which says that the diamond shall be cleared of everybody except the players taking part in the games. This will bar the energetic photographers who swarm on the field to snap pictures of exciting plays. The umpires have always been afraid that the photographers would get in the way and cause a mix-up, so they have decided not to take any chances with them.
Today, of course, we have television technology that allows us to zoom in from on-high to the play which removes the need for the photographer on the field of play. Moreover, the still photographers have similar zoom technology that allows them to do wonderful shots from the edges of the field of play.

How crazy must that have been - having a photographer, or perhaps several, trying to catch the very moment the ball hit the first-baseman's mitt.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:30 AM in Sports

March 24, 2010
New working paper

I have recently finished a new working paper focusing on the impact of NCAA tournament and NIT participation on home regular attendance. The paper has been accepted for inclusion in a collected volume so I will just post the abstract rather than the entire paper.

Is March Madness Contagious? Post Season Play and Attendance in NCAA Division I Basketball

Using data describing Division I men’s basketball from 1990-2009, this paper presents empirical evidence that participating in the NCAA tournament or the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) generates internal benefits in the form of increased future attendance to a team’s home games. These impacts are in addition to those generated by team winning percentage and other institutional characteristics. The evidence suggests that having more conference members in the NCAA tournament generates external benefits in the form of future attendance, although there do not appear to be similar impacts associated with the NIT. Finally, there appear to be no greater internal benefits but lower external benefits for Big Six conference members, relative to members of smaller conferences. Thus, if the NCAA tournament selection process is biased against smaller conferences then their members face two levels of costs: they receive lower distributions from the NCAA basketball revenue pool and also enjoy lower attendance than they otherwise would.

If you are interested in the paper, email me and I will forward you a copy (cadpi - at - yahoo - dot - com)

Posted by Craig Depken at 07:49 PM in Sports

Suits over Suites

From this story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Cowboys Stadium LP, an entity controlled by Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, has filed 17 lawsuits in Tarrant County, and the "largest one is against the Dallas Center for Cosmetic Dentistry." The suit indicated that the center "signed 20-year leases for six suites with an annual fee" of $2.1M. Cowboys Stadium LP is suing for $42M, "what the dental group would have paid over the course of the leases." The suit said that the group "paid only $210,000." The Cowboys are "suing for full payment of the 20-year leases," a total of $113.8M under current terms. Baker notes the team "collected $711,500 in down payments from those leaseholders, but they should have paid" $3.2M by now. Cowboys Stadium LP attorney Levi McCathern said that the lawsuits "affect only a fraction of the 300 suites that were leased." But McCathern added, "Signing up for multimillion-dollar luxury suites is big business; they knew what they're doing."

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:10 PM in Sports

New working paper

I have a new paper with co-authors Dennis Wilson and Jason Berkowitz investigating fan interest in NASCAR:

When Going in Circles is Going Backwards: Outcome Uncertainty and Fan Interest in Nascar

Using data from the 2007, 2008, and 2009 NASCAR seasons, this paper shows that the uncertainty of outcome hypothesis pertains to both race attendance and television audience, with the former only responding to race-level uncertainty and the latter responding to both race-level and season-level uncertainty. Of the other contributing influences, the price of gasoline and the unemployment rate were both unrelated to race attendance during the sample period, counter to conventional wisdom expressed during the declining attendance and ratings of the 2009 season. We also find that NASCAR broadcasts lose audience when competing against other big-interest sporting events and that declines in both television ratings and audience size during the NASCAR season were not unique to 2009, again contradicting conventional wisdom. Overall, the empirical evidence suggests that declining competitive balance might have been the common factor that reduced both television audiences and race attendance during this period.

Available at SSRN. Comments always welcome.

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:08 PM in Sports

Amazing view behind the curtain

The Iron Curtain, that is. Several pages from the in-the-works memoir of sportswriter Paul Zimmerman before his recent stroke.

His descriptions of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow read like George Orwell's 1984.

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:02 AM in Sports

March Madness - Starting Salary Bracket

Payscale.com has created a bracket based on starting salaries

Duke, Cornell, Georgetown, and Vanderbilt comprise the final four.

Duke wins.

Posted by Craig Depken at 09:40 AM in Sports

March 19, 2010
Minnesota gets ready to walk the plank?

Having spent a lot of money on the new Target Field for the Twins and a new football stadium for the Minnesota Gophers, the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota seemed to have learned a lesson and publicly stated that there was no money for a new Vikings stadium and that they might have to make do with the Metrodome.

Indeed, a proposal was floated a few weeks ago to sell the Metrodome to the Vikings for a single dollar in order to give the team a millstone around their neck which would encourage them to stay in the city. The team wisely (from their point of view) turned down the offer.

Today, however, comes a story about the Vikings seeking some public money for a new artifical turf for the Metrodome and some remodeling of old Twins ticket boxes, etc.

That in-and-of-itself is not so surprising and probably not even a poor investment, although it seems the team doesn't want to pay. However, that's not really my point. The story contains the following short paragraph:

Vikings VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley said team officials have had "excellent discussions behind the scenes" with state leaders over a new stadium for the team. Bagley: "The governor has stepped up and is engaged with his staff on a solution." Bagley added that among the funding solutions being discussed are "using taxes generated by the Vikings and economic activity around the stadium, and creating a Vikings-branded state lottery"
So state leaders are having back-room negotiations with the team? That's what happened in Arlington (albeit the mayor did the secret negotiations). Bad precedent.

How about the funding options?

1. Taxes generated by the Vikings might be used to pay for a new stadium? Taxes on what? Tickets? Okay, but there is not enough money in ticket taxes to fund a new stadium.

2. Economic activity around the stadium? More and more research is finding that the economic activity in the area immediately around the stadium is relatively low and events at the stadium might actually decrease taxable activity throughout the host city.

3. A state lottery branded with the Vikings image/logo? This would set up a (albeit voluntary) tax on the entire state to pay for a stadium in one city. L

It is tough to see how these three funding sources would be enough to generate enough money to pay for a new stadium. Arlington's debt service on their $325 million contribution to Cowboy's Stadium is approximately $20 million per year for the next thirty years. Is it safe to predict a similar level of debt service being covered by a state lottery, local taxation and taxes on tickets?

Another story contains the following paragraph:

If the Vikings manage to insinuate themselves into this legislative session, it likely will be with a bill to build a new stadium on the current site of the Metrodome, the team said Thursday.

Beware secret negotiations between local/state/federal "leaders" and private business, and beware attempts by private companies to "insinuate themselves into the legislative" process. We know how this works out.

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:09 PM in Sports

March 17, 2010
NCAA Picks by Econ Dept Ranking

If Econ Department Rankings determined winners in the NCAA tournament, the Final Four would be Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and UC-Berkeley, with Berkeley beating Minnesota in the Finals.

Posted by Art Carden at 10:55 AM in Sports

March 16, 2010
Perks? What Perks?

From the Dallas Morning News comes a story about the pending destruction of Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys moved to their new stadium in Arlington last year and the old stadium is being imploded to make room for new development.

The story points out that to witness the event in one of the adjoining parking lots will cost $25 per car. That's one way for the city to make some coin on the end of the stadium's existence.

Years ago I suggested that the city of Irving should have auctioned off the right to push the detonation button (or perhaps auction it off to a number of people who might or might not push the actual button) - figuring that some NY Giants or Washington Redskins fan would pay a lot of money to push the final button on the stadium. Alas, my suggestion seems to have been ignored.

However, in an interesting twist of how politicians enjoy perks from their position when it comes to sports and publicly funded stadiums, the story has the following paragraph:

Under an exit agreement between the city and the team, those items can't be sold for 10 years. The proposed policy would allow Irving City Council members to give five pairs of seats and 15 turf memorabilia pieces to whomever they choose.
So, City Council members get to take five pairs of seats to hand out like lollipops? That's a perk I hadn't seen before.
Posted by Craig Depken at 04:38 PM in Sports

March 13, 2010
Markets in everything: shade edition

The Florida Marlins are going to charge an additional $5 for seats that are in the shade.

Many teams seek public funding for a stadium with a retractable roof. In the case of the Marlins why go through the hassle of building a roof when you can price discriminate based upon sun tolerance.

I predict a class action lawsuit against the Marlins as the additional $5 might price some folks out of the market for shaded seats and into the sun, with increased probability of contracting skin cancer, etc.

HT: Chris J.

Posted by Craig Depken at 02:49 PM in Sports

March 12, 2010
Cat out of the bag?

In today's Sports Business Daily (gated) is an interview with Jerry Jones, Jr. of the Dallas Cowboys:

Q: You won't really know the answer to this for a year, but I'm wondering if hosting a Super Bowl helps sales overall, or if it's more of an intangible benefit?

Jones: Does having a Super Bowl commitment help you in building a new stadium and getting it financed? Unquestionably, yes. It's a flagship event, and knowing it was going to be played in our building's second season was and is certainly impactful and helpful as far as getting commitments for sponsorships and suites. Otherwise, I think it is more of an intangible. It creates excitement in the community and for our fans.

Hosting the Super Bowl helps to secure (partial) public funding for the stadium? Check.

Hosting the Super Bowl helps the team to secure commitments for naming rights, advertising and so forth? Check.

Hosting the Super Bowl is an intangible for the host community? Ch...Wait, what!?!

That's not the normal tune sung by team owners and event promoters. Hosting premier events like the Super Bowl are supposed to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy (says the NFL) or tens of millions of dollars, if any at all, (say the economists). Now we hear from the Dallas Cowboys that hosting the Super Bowl helps them make money but generates "excitement" for the local community?

Is the level of excitement in Arlington worth $325m in stadium construction costs?


Posted by Craig Depken at 12:40 PM in Sports

February 26, 2010
$170 million community center?

From today's Sports Business Journal:

The $170 million speedskating facility is exactly what the International Olympic Committee has called for in Olympic venues. It’s an environmentally sustainable building that earned LEED Silver status from the Canadian Green Building Council, and it will be converted into a community recreation facility after the Olympics, thereby guaranteeing it won’t become an unused white elephant.
This paragraph describes the speed-skating venue in Vancouver.

A couple of quick comments. LEED status is not necessarily a good thing. There have been no compelling studies, at least of which I am aware, that suggest that LEED status of SILVER, GOLD, PLATINUM actually pay for themselves. Indeed, an aborted study I worked on a year or so ago suggested that, at least in the US, the probability of LEED status of SILVER, GOLD, or PLATINUM was much higher if the building was built by the public sector or was a bank branch (don't really know how to explain the latter).

Second, LEED certification is a combination of actually impressive architectural feats and a bunch of (potentially) silly issues. For instance, one building can achieve a specific level of certification points by having a water reclimation system and a geo-thermal heating system, both of which might be very impressive and potentially money-saving for the builder and tenants. However, another building can achieve the same certification score by having any number of bike racks out front - an outcome that is not necessarily going to contribute much to "green" behavior (whatever that really means).

Third, to claim that turning the venue into a community recreation center ensures that the building will not become a "White Elephant" is not guaranteed at all. Indeed, how many community centers do we see in disrepair and unused? How many cities would EVER build a $170 million community recreation center?

It gets better:

The result is a community center that will feature eight gyms, two international-size ice rinks, a 200-meter running track and 21,000 square feet of additional training space for martial arts, yoga and other activities.

"I expect this building will easily attract 1 million visitors a year," Johnston said. "That’s unheard of in terms of what other Olympic ovals have done post-Games."

That seems like a lot of space for a relatively small community. One million visitors a year? He "expects"? Hmmmmm.

Recent history (Athens and Beijing especially) suggest that the venues are not used as much as predicted (shock) and can move into disrepair much faster than anyone anticipates.

Good luck to Vancouver. I don't think any sports economist wishes bad upon any Olympics host but it always seems to be an uphill battle to justify the expenditure on Olympic venues and events.

Potentially gated story here

Posted by Craig Depken at 01:04 PM in Sports

February 24, 2010
Admiral Ackbar for Ole Miss Mascot?

Best. Idea. Ever. And if it goes through, I would want the JumboTron Operators at Bryant-Denny Stadium to show the clip of Admiral Ackbar saying "we can't repel firepower of that magnitude!" every time Alabama scores on them.

Also, I wonder how powerful informal norms are: what would it take for students to adopt Ackbar as an informal mascot even if the University doesn't?

Posted by Art Carden at 09:28 PM in Sports

February 22, 2010
Think about how bad it could have been

Proponents of hosting sporting mega-events run into a buzz-saw of empirical evidence from economists that suggest that the events are not the economic windfall they are advertised to be. This is not to suggest that the Super Bowl doesn't contribute to the host-city's economy, economists readily admit that it does. Rather, the impact is about 1/4 to 1/10 of what proponents claim.

In the face of the empirical evidence that spending in the local economy doesn't surge as anticipated, proponents often fall back on the non-monetary arguments for hosting the event: city image, advertising to potential firms, advertising to potential tourists, advertising to potential migrants. Economists generally scoff at these claims because it is not clear exactly how hosting a Super Bowl in a city that, almost by definition, is among the top 20 cities in terms of size, tourism, etc.

How about South Florida's "image" after hosting the Super Bowl earlier this month? Nothing changed:

The Miami market received no measurable image boost among television viewers for hosting Super Bowl XLIV, according to a report to be released today by Competitive Edge Research & Communication.

Let us repeat - NO MEASURABLE IMAGE BOOST. Yet, using the current-day logic, the boosters might retort that Miami's image would have been that much worse if not for the Super Bowl. In other words, the Super Bowl might not improve your city's image but it might just save it.

Here is graphic of image effects of the Super Bowl:

Not so impressive.

locked story here

Posted by Craig Depken at 10:54 AM in Sports

February 19, 2010
On the skedaddle effect c. 2010

In the debate surrounding the economic benefits of hosting mega-sporting events such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics, economists have been toiling away at the data to see if the economic impacts are as boosters and promoters advertise. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we haven't found much support for the grandiose claims that occur before the event occurs.

I have spent countless hours thinking about this discrepancy (and I am not the only one) and in the past month or so have spent several hours talking with reporters about the expected impacts of the Super Bowl in South Florida, the 2010 NBA Allstar game and 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington and Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Olympics in Vancouver. I point out that I am not the only one thinking about these issues, co-author Dennis Coates, Victor Matheson, Robert Baade, and Phil Porter (to name a few) have also made great(er) contributions in this area of research.

In a soon-to-be resubmitted paper looking at the net impact of sporting events on taxable activity in host cities in Texas, Dennis and I outline four reasons for the disparity between ex post estimates and ex ante predictions (all abstracting away from principal-agent problems that present themselves in ex ante predictions):

1. Tourist substitution: some tourists choose not to visit the host city during the event and are replaced by other tourists. Whether replacement tourists spend more per-capita per-day or more in aggregate is not immediately clear.

2. Participation of locals: locals might participate in the festivities associated with the big event. Some locals might spend their leisure money on attending the event rather than on other local leisure activities, which would contribute nothing new to the local economy. Some locals might transfer future leisure spending to attend the event, thereby perhaps reducing spending in the host city in the future (for example, an individual might spend $600 to attend a World Series game but not spend on greens fees for the next six months). In aggregate the spending might not change over the course of the year, but the impact on the golf sector might be non-trivial.

3. Locals sit out the event - This effect I term the "hunker down" effect. Locals might choose not to go out and about during the event, perhaps not choosing to visit their favorite restaurant, because of the perception or reality of facing huge crowds. If, for example, an individual doesn't visit their restaurant during the event and they are not replaced by a visiting tourist, this might harm the local restaurant because it is unlikely that the local will visit the restaurant twice immediately after the event. The "hunker down" effect therefore introduces a negative influence on local spending during and perhaps immediately following the event.

4. Locals leave the city - This effect I term the "skedaddle" effect. In this case, some locals leave the city entirely and spend money in a different city during the event. This introduces yet another drain on local spending during the event.

The upshot is that even if ex ante predictions were not biased they are likely incorrect because the traditional input-output approach to economic impact studies abstracts away from these potential drains on local spending during the event. On the other hand, ex post studies look at the actual data in "reduced form," that is, ex post studies look at NET effects rather than GROSS effects.

The recent streams of research suggest that the ex ante predictions might be anywhere from 8 to 10 times larger than the ex post estimated net effects. The ex post studies likely miss some spending associated with the event, most likely because it is not possible to know what the relevant geographic market is: is it the host city, the metropolitan area, the general area of the state? However, one reason to focus on the host city, rather than the region, is because generally the host city fronts the expenses to host the event (such as police, fire, bomb squads, stadium construction, beautification efforts). Thus, even if the ex post studies are somewhat off, they are not likely to be 8 to 10 times off.

I like the tags "hunker down" and "skedaddle" because most reporters and students can recognize them and they are somewhat easy to remember. However, there is always a lurking question: just how big are these effects? Just how many people hunker down? Just how many people skedaddle? It is impossible for us to know at this point, there haven't been any studies that I am aware of that have tried to measure any temporary diaspora associated with big-time sporting events.

Anecdotal evidence appeared during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta hundreds (if not thousands) of people rented out their houses during the games (to the chagrin and consternation of the USOC) and planned to leave town during the games. Unless only those who rented their house left town, the skedaddle effect would seem to be non-trivial as well.

During home football games in Athens, Georgia, there are a large number of student apartments close to the stadium/campus for rent during the weekend. During the same weekends there are several houses for rent that are a bit bigger and a bit further from campus. Student apartments are generally not for rent during the basketball season, suggesting that students are willing to forego the weekend of football related activities. I am not sure if the only people leaving town during a football weekend are those who rented their apartment.

I admit that the possible magnitudes of these effects are currently the focus of thought experiments, butI am confident that future research by myself and others will continue to flesh the effects out in more detail and help us contribute to the public debate in a meaningful (and helpful?) way.

Given my thoughts in this area and the work of others who suggest similar substitution effects associated with big-time sporting events, it was reassuring to read this post by George Washington University professor Lisa Neirotti at Sports Business Daily:

Based upon informal conversations, it appears half of the population considers the Games an expensive inconvenience and are leaving town — newspapers report approximately 250,000 residents flying the coop — with the other 50 percent excited to welcome the world.

50% are leaving town? Now that might introduce a huge drain on local spending relative to a normal February, thereby reducing the net impact of the games on the local economy. Moreover, because tourists generally stick to "touristy" areas and do not necessarily frequent those establishments that the locals know and love, the impact of the Olympics can be very disparate throughout the city. Some restaurants and bars are jammed to the gills while other restaurants across town are severely worse off than they normally would be during a February.

I love economics - more right than wrong, notwithstanding recent navel-gazing by some economists.

Posted by Craig Depken at 03:57 PM in Sports

For the car lover c. 2010

My buddy Dane P. sends me a heads-up about an upcoming exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta called the "Allure of the Automobile." Here's the line-up of the cars in the show:

  • 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
  • 1934 Packard Twelve Runabout Speedster, formerly owned by Clark Gable
  • 1935 Duesenberg JN Roadster, formerly owned by Clark Gable
  • 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster
  • 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe
  • 1937 Delage D8-120S, Surbaisse, formerly owned by Louis Delage
  • 1937 Hispano-Suiza H-6C "Xenia" Coupe
  • 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C2900B Touring Berlinetta
  • 1938/39 Porsche Type 64 Coupe replica
  • 1953 Porsche 550 Le Mans/La Carrera Panamerica Coupe
  • 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR "Uhlenhaut" Coupe
  • 1957 Jaguar XKSS Roadster, formerly owned by Steve McQueen
  • 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
  • 1961 Ferrari 250 Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta, "SEFAC Hot Rod"
  • 1948 Tucker Model 48 Torpedo
  • 1954 Dodge Firearrow III Concept Coupe
  • 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
  • 1959 Chevrolet Corvette "Bill Mitchell" Stingray Prototype
  • That line-up might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    More here

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:07 AM in Sports

    February 10, 2010
    On running up the score c. 1910

    The Feb. 10, 1910 NYT also reports on a rather non-PC sports score:

    Cathedral College basket ball team yesterday scored 103 points to 11 against Bryant High School Midgets
    I, of course, do not endorse such language but that is what was published in the paper. It seems Cathedral might have run up the score because the paper reports another score:
    Mackenzie School defeated Irving School of Tarrytown at Dobbs Ferry in basket ball yesterday by the score of 29 to 8.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:37 PM in Sports

    On potential moral hazard c. 1910

    I returned from a teaching stint in Hong Kong on Monday evening and I am still trying to get my internal clock back on Eastern Standard Time. That said, I was able to get to the February 10, 1910 NYT to see this little gem:

    The life of Eddie Smith, who will referee the Nelson-Wolgast fight, has been insured for $10,000. In the event Smith dies before the fight comes off each contestant will receive $5,000.

    I wonder why Smith was so important - was there no one else to referee the fight? Did Smith arrange a contract specifying that only he could referee the fight? One wonders if announcing the insurance policy was itself an insurance policy.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:34 PM in Sports

    January 19, 2010
    Score one for the good guys?

    Vic Matheson, Phillip Porter and I were cited in this reasonably balanced Miami Herald story concerning the net economic benefits of hosting the Super Bowl, especially in the case of South Florida.

    It is somewhat telling about who declined to be interviewed for the story (economic impact study authors) and the "arguments" offered against the increasingly large number of academic studies showing ex post how little net economic impact the biggest sporting events seem to have on local host economies.

    There is one interesting paragraph in the story:

    Advocates of the Super Bowl as an economic engine dismiss its academic skeptics as using complicated formulas to obscure the obvious. And they note that the reports bashing NFL figures bring the professors coveted media coverage as the big game approaches.

    This is an interesting argument. First, it is possible to paint the OLS estimator as a "complicated formula" but it is immensely more elegant than the strained assumptions and calculations that go into the generic regional economic impact study. Rather than making assumptions about what will be spent, in what sectors money will be spent, and what multipliers to assign to these dollars, the ex post studies (by myself, Dennis Coates, and Vic Matheson, to name a few) look at tax revenues, taxable activity, hotel occupancy rates, and so forth, all after the event takes place. This is a vital distinction and does not make us skeptics.

    Indeed, I think most of the sports economists I know would be happy to find the magic formula that turns sporting events into big impact events. Without sporting events, stadiums, leagues and franchises, sports economists have very little to talk about. We are "skeptics" only to the extent that we investigate the impact of the events ex post and let the data speak rather than imposing our priors onto the results.

    As for "coveted media coverage," I didn't seek out the reporter, he called me. Do I like spending 1.5 hours discussing the findings of myself and other economists? Sure. Do I care if I make into a newspaper story in the process? Not really. I get no raise from my college, I get no free coffee at the local gas station, and after being mentioned in over 75 articles in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Newsweek to Bloomberg, the marginal "press coverage" is no longer coveted.

    The more lucrative approach would be to find evidence that the NFL Super Bowl generated $500 million or more dollars for the host economy and sell that peer-reviewed research to the NFL in exchange for tickets to the game.

    I probably read too much into such nameless accusations, but I wonder if such accusations come from others projecting their own "coveting." It is dangerous to claim knowledge about the motivations of others, although there is no shortage of people willing to do so. In my case, the accusation is unfounded and mistaken. I hope, in the end, such accusations come across as fairly weak and the reading audience sees them that way.

    Outside of about thirty (or slightly more) macro-economists who have a hot-line to the White House or Congress, it often feels that most of us (economists) have little impact on public policy and the public debate. However, in the case of sports economics and the stadium game, my sense is that we are are having some success in alerting the public to the true costs and benefits of building stadiums, hosting franchises, and bidding on events.

    Does this imply that sports economists do not want Miami to build a new stadium for the Dolphins? I can only speak for myself and say, I don't really care what they do. I do care, however, that the public debate (at least about this little corner of the collective sandbox) be based on, as much as possible, accurate measures of costs and benefits. Once that is done, the actual outcome of the public choice experiment is of little concern to me.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:14 PM in Sports

    January 13, 2010
    Markets in everything: Bobby Cremins Edition

    The College of Charleston beat UNC Chapel Hill in basketball last week. Given that this is likely the biggest win in the program's history, the CoC has come up with an interesting fund-raiser: auctioning off the seat of head coach Bobby Cremins.

    I get no finder's fee, but here is the link if you wish to bid on this historic perch. Deadline is (at the moment) January 20.

    Current bid (8:58AM) is $400.

    Surely they can get more than that.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:00 AM in Sports

    January 12, 2010
    Big Mac

    So Mark McGwire took steroids. He was my favorite player from the time he broke into the league until the time he retired. I'm disappointed, but I think the real question is this: what business did Congress have asking McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and others what they were putting in their bodies?

    Update: Steve Horwitz sends this along.

    Posted by Art Carden at 02:24 PM in Sports

    Watching paint dry c. 1910

    From the January 12, 1910 NYT:

    Yale opened the basket ball season to-night by a defeat at the hands of Trinity, 17 to 16. All the way Trinity led and had a safe lead when the first half closed by the score, 12 to 4. Yale's spurt in the second half was unexpected and came within 1 point of tying the score. Gildersleeve and Cook starred for Trinity, while Goodwin's goal-throwing and Eames's defensive play featured the Yale game.

    Goals from the field: Gildersleeve, 3; Abbey, 1; Carroll, 1; Goodwin, 5; Finnessy, 2.

    Goals from the foul - Cook, 5; Eames, 2.


    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:43 AM in Sports

    January 11, 2010
    Markets in everything: BCS Grass Edition

    From Saturday's "Sporting News Today":

    Get your BCS sod

    Parts of the Rose Bowl turf from Thursday night’s Texas- Alabama BCS National
    Championship game will be sold in freeze-dried, encased three-inch by three-inch squares for $99.99, Sports Business Journal’s Don Muret reported.

    Stadium Associates, Major League Baseball’s official licensee for selling authentic
    sod from big-league parks, planned to cut 75,000 pieces of turf from the two end zones and 50,000 pieces from midfield and sell them.

    The end-zones of a football field are 30ft x 160ft each for a total of 9,600 ft-squared or 1,382,400 inches squared. This area would be equal to 153,600 nine-inch squared pieces of sod, more than enough to provide the 75,000 pieces advertised. The rest of the field is 300ft x 160 ft for a total square footage of 48,000 ft-squared or 6,912,000 inches squared. There is plenty of sod available for the 50,000 pieces to be cut from midfield.

    Let's start with what we know: If all pieces are sold then total revenue will be (75,000 + 50,000)x99.99 = $12,498,750 in total revenue.

    Let's start making some assumptions (for illustration purposes):

    Let's assume that the used field was purchased for $5 million.
    Let's assume that the marginal cost for preparing each piece is $10.

    These assumptions yield an average fixed cost of $40.
    These assumptions yield an average total cost of $10.

    Given the assumption of MC=$10 and the factual $99.99 price, the price elasticity of demand (e) for the sod-selling monopolist would this be:

    1/|e| = (P-MC)/P

    1/|e| = (99.99-10)/99.99 => 1/|e|= 0.0.8999 => |e| = 1.111

    This would suggest that sod from the game is (barely) a luxury good (duh, thanks to Mark S. for the pointer) barely price elastic. I would buy that if the marginal cost is relatively close to zero.

    The average total cost for each piece of sod is $50 and total profits (assuming all 125,000 are sold) would be $6,248,750. This would represent a total profit margin of approximately 100% (profit is 99.98% of total cost).

    If the sod-selling monopolist is only going to use 125,000 of a possible 768,000 3x3 inch squares, what do they do with the remaining sod? Perhaps they have to pay to dispose of it. If that costs another $500,000, this would reduce the profit of the enterprise to $5,748,000. Still not bad for a little bit of effort and creativity.

    What if the Rose Bowl committee negotiated for a higher fixed price for the field, perhaps to provide additional monies for scholarships or whatever sounds good. How high could they push price before driving the sod-selling monopolist to zero accounting profit?

    (P-ATC)Q = 0 => ATC = P => AFC + 10 = 99.99 or an average fixed cost of 88.99 or a total fixed cost of 88.99x125,000 = $11,123,750.

    What if the Rose Bowl committee were to charge a price for the field that would allow the sod-selling monopolist a "reasonable" return of, say, 10% gross profit instead of nearly 100%? This would reduce the price to nearly $10 million. I doubt (but have no proof) that the price of the used sod was remotely close to this.

    Rather, let's go the other direction and assume that the the field sold for only $1 million. If we still assume a $10 marginal cost per piece, this would reduce the average total cost to $18 and increase total profit to (99.99-18)x125,000 = $10,248,750!! If there were still $500,000 in disposal costs, the profit would be $9,748,750.

    So much for the supply side. Is this an example of a monopolist putting their customers over a barrel and extracting unwarranted monopoly rents? Relative to a perfectly competitive market, perhaps, but such a market couldn't exist in this case. That said, there is likely to be considerable consumer surplus in this market, especially for Alabama fans. What that consumer surplus equals is impossible to calculate on the back of an envelope, however it is likely to be positive and, as such, this "emergent" market will make any number of college football fans better off than they would have otherwise been.

    I wonder how many men-on-the-street are willing to celebrate that?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:32 AM in Sports

    January 06, 2010
    Normative vs. Positive c. 2010

    Sports talk radio/television is generally a bit more entertaining for me because, ultimately, the hypotheses that are rendered by pundits or the guy who changes your oil are equally testable (most of the time). I actually harvest many paper ideas from listening to sports talk radio (as I also do by listening to C-SPAN and politicians make heroic claims).

    However, there are times when even the greats in sports talk fall on hard times. Perhaps this morning was a slow news day, or perhaps I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and was just a bit sensitive, but as I was watching Mike and Mike in the Morning they seriously debated the following question:

    "Should fans be superstitious before games?"

    Here's a scratchy screen shot taken with my iPhone

    Now, the positive question of "Do fans become superstitious before games?" is rather easy to answer. The answer is yes and for no good reason other than the fans gain some utility in thinking (seriously or not) that their superstitious behavior somehow influences the outcome of their favored team's game. Is that a bad thing? Only if animals are being harmed (ala Bull Durham) or other laws are being broken. Is it worth debating? Is it worth debating gravity?

    Unfortunately, the question was posed in a normative tone, "Should fans be superstitious?" which is not testable. When asked in this framing, the question invites solutions that require paternalism ("you shouldn't do that") or invites people to make inter-personal utility comparisons ("people who do that are silly").

    I will admit that this is not much different than the traditional talk radio/show format - host makes unsupported claims and audience either agrees or disagrees (ideologically) - but I like my sports talk straight-up.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:34 AM in Sports

    On stadium construction c. 1910

    From the January 6, 1910 NYT:

    President Hermann said yesterday that if the Cincinnati Baseball Company could buy the ground upon which League Park is now located, and a portion of the property back of the grand stand, the club would build a new grand stand, a set of bleachers, and enlarge the field next year. He is now conducting negotiations with the owners, and says he thinks arrangements for the purchase can be perfected. The grand stand will be built to accommodate 8,000 more people, and the bleachers 5,000 more than now. The club will then own its own home, and can afford to go to this expense.
    Let's see what was missing from the stadium proposal in 1910 versus a prototypical stadium proposal in 2010:

  • Demand for public subsidies or the team owner threatens to relocate;
  • Politicians, fearful that they will forever be known as the mayor/city council that lost the team, propose sales tax, hotel tax, rental car tax hikes to help pay for the stadium;
  • Local citizens are asked to vote in a referendum on the matter, proponents outspend opponents in marketing efforts by orders of magnitude;
  • Economic impact study is commissioned by city/team/league to show the public benefits of hosting the team;
  • League officials suggest that if a new stadium is built the host city will be able to host at least one big event, e.g., Super Bowl or All Star Game;
  • Environmental impact study;
  • Threats of eminent domain if private property owners don't go along with the stadium plan;
  • Stadium is built with hundreds of "luxury suites" in which the vast majority of those who pay for the stadium will never sit;
  • Team agrees to rent the new stadium which provides the team owner more flexibility in future relocation negotiations.

    That's my list in three minutes.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:12 AM in Sports

    Marginal Revenue Product

    Some snips from a USA Today story on Alabama football coach Nick Saban:

    Hired three years ago for a then-unheard-of $4 million a year peeving rivals and higher education watchdogs who complained of misplaced priorities Nick Saban has coached the Crimson Tide football team to an undefeated record, No. 1 ranking and shot at the school's first national championship in 17 years. Alabama meets No. 2 Texas in Thursday's Bowl Championship Series title game in Pasadena, Calif. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

    Saban took over a storied program that had fallen on hard times, delivered a first-year record of 7-6 and since has led Alabama to 25 victories in 27 games. But it's not just the Crimson Tide's winning percentage that has soared.

    The demand for tickets to Alabama's home games is so great that Bryant-Denny Stadium is adding about 9,000 seats, which will make it the sixth college facility with a capacity of more than 100,000. Donations to the athletic program are up. So is marketing revenue. And overall athletic profits have more than doubled at a time when barely a fifth of all major-college programs are generating enough overall revenue to turn a profit.


    The waiting list for priority-seating tickets requiring a donation atop the price of the seat has jumped from about 1,200 four summers ago to 15,000.

    The school launched its first capital campaign for athletics in 2002, with a goal of $50 million in five years. By the 2007 spring game, it had raised $70 million. The drive ended, but the flow of money has continued, and donations total $102 million.

    Alabama's take from its media and marketing rights contract with Learfield Sports and ISP Sports will jump $1.3 million this year, to $8.5 million, according to senior AD Finus Gaston, the school's chief financial officer for athletics.

    Football revenue jumped 16% in Saban's first two years from nearly $56 million before he arrived to almost $65 million in 2008 and the sport turned a $38.2 million profit in 2008. Gaston conservatively projects a $39 million profit for 2009 and, with the expanded stadium and ticket demand, says he expects the climb to continue.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:52 AM in Sports

    December 08, 2009
    Prediction c. 1909

    From the December 8, 1909 NYT comes an "oops" of a headline:

    Soccer is Dawning in American Sports

    Less Dangerous and More Open Football Becoming More Popular

    Yale and Princeton Also Giving More Attention Than Ever Before to Clean and Healthful Game

    The story discusses how Harvard and the other Ivy League schools are interested in promoting soccer to "the plane of major sports, including it in the category with football, rowing, baseball and track."

    Yep, that worked out.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:15 AM in Sports

    December 06, 2009
    So Many Bowl Games, So Few Bowl Teams

    The NCAA now sanctions 34 post-season football Bowl Games in the Bowl (ie. Division I) Division. That's room for 68 teams. 119 teams play Division I ball. To be eligible for a bowl, however, you have to win at least 6 games, at least 5 of which must be against Division I competition. This year, there are 71 such teams.

    So three eligible teams won't go to bowls this year. And there will be some pretty dull matchups. Go below the fold to explore the possibilties.

    Read More »

    Posted by Brad Smith at 10:39 AM in Sports  ·  Comments (2)

    December 02, 2009
    On the price of sports franchises c. 1909

    The Dec. 2, 1909 NYT reports on the sale of a minor league team:

    The deal transferring Little Rock's Southern League baseball franchise to Chattanooga was closed today. The price paid by Chattanooga was $12,000.
    The price is approximately $290,000 in 2008 dollars (according to eh.net). This team is renamed the Chattanooga Lookouts, my hometown team while growing up.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:06 AM in Sports

    November 25, 2009
    A Penalty Flag for Bad Analysis

    Yesterday's WSJ ran an article listing 10 teams that supposed achieved the "least with the most," as determined by having the lowest winning percentage over the past decade among teams averaging at least two players per year drafted by the NFL. The list includes PAC 10 teams Arizona (21 drafted players, .402 win pct), Stanford (30, .409), and UCLA (25, .525) and SEC clubs South Carolina (28, .508) and Ole Miss (22, .517).

    But here's the problem--basing this list on teams with at least two NFL draftees per year says nothing about the talent level of these teams' opponents. I haven't looked up all SEC or PAC 10 clubs, but Alabama had 35 drafted players over the past decade, LSU had 49, and USC had a whopping 61 (15 of whom were first-rounders). So instead of being teams with "a demonstrable history of wasting NFL talent," the teams in the chart may well have been outgunned by teams with even more pro talent.

    UPDATE: Pro-football-reference.com has a nifty tool that allows one to find all players drafted out of each college conference. Over the 2000-2009 drafts, there were 304 PAC 10 players drafted, an average of 30.4 per team. Hence Arizona, Stanford, and UCLA were all below the conference average of drafted players. As for the SEC, its 12 teams had 401 players drafted for an average of 33.4 per team. South Carolina and Ole Miss are both well below this average.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:32 PM in Sports

    November 13, 2009
    Football games c. 1909

    The Nov. 13, 1909 NYT reports the upcoming college football schedule. It is interesting to consider how important (and not) some of the following programs are one hundred years later:

    Fordham vs. Rensselaer Polytechnic
    Princeton vs. Yale
    Dartmouth vs. Harvard
    Michigan vs. Pennsylvania
    Chicago vs. Cornell
    Amherst vs. Williams
    Colgate vs. Syracuse
    NYU vs. Lehigh
    Virginia vs. Georgetown
    Bucknell vs. Dickinson
    Union vs. Hamilton
    Holy Cross vs. Worcester
    Wesleyan vs. Trinity
    Vermont vs. Brown
    Ursinus vs. Swarthmore
    Gettysburg vs. Indians at Carlisle
    Haverford vs. Rutgers
    Bowdoin vs. Maine
    Vanderbilt vs. Ohio State
    William and Jefferson vs. Pittsburg
    Penn State vs. West Virginia
    Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
    Illinois vs. Northwestern
    Denver vs. Haskell
    Drake vs. Missouri
    Idaho vs. Oregon

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:23 AM in Sports

    November 04, 2009
    On ticket distribution c. 1909

    The Nov. 4, 1909 NYT reports on high demand for Yale-Harvard tickets and the "problems" facing school officials in "allocating" tickets (as if the market couldn't do a better job) but the story admits, in the end, that the market is busy re-allocating some tickets to those who value them more but ignores the important question of why the teams aren't taking advantage of willingness to pay:

    Yale and Harvard football officials are staggered at the demand for tickets to their annual football game at Cambridge on Nov. 20. Seats are being distributed under the application system. To-day applications closed, and the managers are at their wits end to devise means to accommodate the alumni of the two institutions, not counting the general public. Long ago it was seen that football lovers outside the Yale and Harvard graduates would have to hustle for seats. Now it is certain that, even if the alumni can be seated, they will have to greatly curtail their family parties....There are 34,500 seats in the Stadium. Yale takes half, and Harvard the remainder, but Yale has for several years gracefully turned back to Harvard from 3,000 to 5,000 of Yale's half in order that Harvard alumni might all be accommodated. To-day's rush for tickets here makes it certain that Yale men have more than applied for Yale's share of the seats in the Stadium, and that, for the first time, Yale cannot help Harvard in filling the demand of the Crimson after the Yale graduates have been satisfied.

    Prices for tickets this year are sure to reach figures before unknown. Already $50 each is offered here by a Westerner for three tickets. There seems no room to doubt that blocks of three tickets will surely bring $100 apiece long before the day of the game.

    $50 in 1909 is approximately $1,220.54 in 2008 dollars according to the good folks at EH.net. Today, prices on StubHub range from $18 to $67 apiece:

    The early 1900s is before big-money sports existed, notwithstanding the increased popularity and demand for spectator sports. Even for-profit sports franchises have uniform pricing (baseball tickets were all $0.50). However, the economics of sports (entertainment) tickets was no different then as it is today, and yet the response by event promoters seems to be the same - allocate the tickets by lottery and then complain that the secondary market pops up with "high" prices.

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:11 AM in Sports

    November 03, 2009
    On football c. 1909

    I have, from time to time, reported on the goings-on in American Football in the early twentieth century. Needless to say, the game was extremely dangerous and, despite reforms in the 1906-1907 period, in 1909 players were still being maimed and killed. Indeed, the cancellation of the 1909 Army-Navy game was announced on Nov. 3, 1909:

    [F]inal decision having been reached to-day by the athletic authorities of the Naval Academy to grant the request of the Superintendent of the Military Academy to cancel the game owing to the death of Cadet Eugene A. Byrne as a result of injuries received Saturday in the game with Harvard.

    Later in the issue is a letter to the editor on this point:

    We are told that football promotes alertness in the brains of the players, teaches them to make quick decisions, compels them to implicit obedience to authority, and holds them to strict training while the season lasts. The finer the men physically the better for them, it is said, is the moral and spiritual development they gain from playing this particularly perilous game.

    There is another side which many women and a few men see with clear vision. Is this sport or any other worth the death of young men just at the time when they are stepping into maturity? A few days ago it was a midshipman in the navy who died of a fractured vertebrae, and this morning is is a cadet at West Point whose death is reported of a twisted spine. Apart from the heartache to parents, the wound to love and the disappointment to circles of kindred, can the Nation afford thus to sacrifice the flower of its youth? If these boys died as heroes die, in saving lives, as firemen sometimes die, in the rescue of victims from burning buildings; if they died on the battlefield in a good cause, there might be consolation for the bereaved and added glory to the Nation whose sons they are. Simply to die in an athletic contest that is shockingly brutal is a waste to the Nation and a stab to the home that is without excuse.

    And another story discusses ending a program:

    SCRANTON, Penn - Announcement was made to-day by the Faculty of St. Thomas de Aquinas College that the football schedule for the remainder of the season had been canceled, owing to the numerous fatal accidents which have occurred. It was also stated that the college would not be represented by another eleven until the game is modified.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:33 AM in Sports

    October 31, 2009
    Cavalcade of Miscellany: Overcoming Bias in College Football Edition

    1. I <3 the modern world: blogging from the front porch, passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. FWIW, Starburst "GummiBursts" are pretty good. Shannon chose our Halloween candy well. We also have bite-size Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Milky Way bars. My prior is that due the complex array of subsidies in agriculture, junk food is much cheaper than it would be in an unregulated market.

    2. I'm a big fan of Robin Hanson's blogging at Overcoming Bias, and I think there's an excellent opportunity to learn a lot about bias by studying college sports and, in particular, sports coverage. An announcer just said something about USC being the "best one-loss team in the country," and my question is "by what standard?" Judging from the quality of the loss, they aren't even the best one-loss team in their own conference (Oregon lost to unbeaten Boise State and USC lost to 3-5 Washington, but they're about to settle this on the field). Since there's so much randomness in sports, team superiority isn't transitive. Houston beat Oklahoma State and UTEP beat Houston, but I'm pretty sure UTEP isn't better than Oklahoma State.

    I trust rankings like Matt Ryan's Gus Rankings and Sagarin/ELO-CHESS a lot more because while they aren't perfect, they rank teams according to their on-the-field performance rather than their brand name, and they consider an entire season worth of information rather than one game. According to the Week 8 Gus rankings, Iowa is #1. No argument there, the Northern Iowa game notwithstanding. The Gus Rankings also suggest that Oregon is the best one-loss team in the country--and that Oregon is better than Boise State based on the quality of the teams they've vanquished. USC is #13 and the sixth-best one-loss team in the country, with two-loss Virginia Tech and two-loss Ohio State ahead of them.

    Obviously, there's no perfect way to do this, but if I had a vote in the polls I would use the Gus rankings or something similar to cast my ballot.

    Posted by Art Carden at 07:38 PM in Sports

    September 29, 2009
    On Art's Football Letter

    I was at ground zero for the Arlington Cowboys Stadium debate (while on staff at UT Arlington). There are a number of reasons I don't live there anymore - and the stadium is one of them. Likely if I had stayed in the Metroplex I would have relocated to another city - more on principle and concerns about the opportunity costs of the stadium than the actual out-of-pocket expenses.

    I agree that, in general, the development gains from new stadiums are generally overblown, but I think the jury is out on this stadium (and perhaps a few other ones such as new Yankee Stadium). As Mark Rosentraub has documented in his new book "Major League Winners" there are a few (just a few) examples of stadiums/arenas yielding some gain (I am reading it for review at the moment).*

    Whether there are gains, monetary or non-monetary, is somewhat a question of fact and somewhat a question of ideology, especially when it comes to the measurement of quality of life compared to the opportunity costs of the stadium.

    I admit to fighting the good fight against the taxpayer's of Arlington (at least) paying for a portion of the stadium, actually drawing some attention to myself as I howled in the wind. However, the stadium referendum passed (relatively overwhelmingly 55-45) and I ended up taking a new position at UNC Charlotte.

    From my contacts with those still in Arlington, the general spirit is one of optimism concerning the stadium - perhaps there is no other way to feel about the stadium at the moment. .

    However, I have strong evidence (N=6) that the Arlington Cowboys Stadium did provide third-party benefits for myself and two co-authors. Using the stadium debate and the Arlington referendum, we were able publish two ground-breaking papers (one in Contemporary Economic Policy and one in the Journal of Urban Economics). I know that those two publications helped in my tenure bid at UNC Charlotte and likely ended up translating into some permanent increase in my income. In the end, this is perhaps the strongest evidence I have found of third-party benefits of a new publicly built stadium in Arlington Texas.

    We have more projects underway concerning the Arlington stadium so we will see in the next few years (decade?) whether this particular stadium can be grouped with Rosentraub's "Winners" or with Rosentraub's "Losers."

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:05 PM in Sports

    And so the streak begins c. 1909

    Of course, in the fall of 1909 no one really knew it was a streak, but the headline is telling for those of us around 100 years later:


    As mentioned before (half tounge-in-cheek) when the Cubs let their 1908 World Series flag fly away upon being displayed, the baseball gods were none-to-pleased.

    Still aren't evidently.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:52 PM in Sports

    September 22, 2009
    Yes, Virginia, it did sometimes happen

    From the Sept. 22, 1909 NYT is the following headline:

    "Cy" Young Beaten by Boston
    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:34 PM in Sports

    September 02, 2009
    To guarantee or not guarantee? That is the question.

    In my disgust at the Cincinnati Bengals Bungals latest draft choice debacle, a question occured to me.

    Andre Smith, the team's number one pick fat lazy bum from that school in Tuscaloosa, had some $21 million of his $42 million contract guaranteed. Whilst not uncommon for top NFL draft picks to have some guaranteed money, most NFL player contracts do not have much if any guaranteed cash. For the typical NFL player, if you get hurt and don't play, you don't get paid.

    In contrast almost all MLB player contracts are fully guaranteed. Players can get paid for years even after career-ending injuries.

    My question is why the difference? In football the risk of injury is largely borne by the players, while in baseball by the owners.

    Is this because baseball is less risky and players have longer average/median longevities (I don't even know if this is true)? Is it because evaluating baseball talent is easier than football talent? Is it because of differences in the bargaining strengths between the respective leagues and players' unions? Is is just some kind of random path dependency?

    Comments open (for a short time only).

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:58 AM in Sports  ·  Comments (5)

    August 10, 2009
    The Use of Billboards for College Football Recruiting

    From the AJC we see another margin on which colleges are competing for the rents generated by unpaid athletes:

    Joey Harrington’s 10-story billboard in New York did not help him win the Heisman Trophy, as was its intent.

    But the billboard, put up in 2001 across from Madison Square Garden when the former Falcons quarterback was a senior at Oregon, accomplished perhaps a broader purpose for the Ducks, his college team. It got the attention of plenty of oversize teenage boys.

    “It said to every player that came to Oregon, if you get yourself to the point where you’re in the race for a national award, if you put yourself in the Heisman race, we’ll put your face in New York,” Harrington said. “It definitely sent a message.”

    Tennessee is sending a similar message to high school football recruits in metro Atlanta. The school has put up two billboards with Heisman Trophy candidate Eric Berry, a safety from Creekside High School, along with new coach Lane Kiffin.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:36 AM in Sports

    August 04, 2009
    Paging Dr. Bradbury (and Dr. Drinen)

    From today's WSJ:

    Slugger Albert Pujols was supposed to start seeing better pitches after his St. Louis Cardinals traded for Matt Holliday to bat after him. Lest pitchers walk Mr. Pujols too often, Mr. Holliday, a sound hitter in his own right, would have more at-bats with players on base. But since the move, Mr. Pujols is batting .200 with zero homers, his longest drought of the year. Mr. Holliday, though, is batting .541, with three home runs.

    Here's the abstract of Bradbury and Drinen in the J of Sports Econ:

    Past studies estimating the marginal revenue products of baseball players have assumed individual players' hitting performances to be independent of teammate spillovers. However, the baseball community's widely held belief in "protection"—that a good (bad) player can improve (diminish) the hit probability of the batter who precedes him in the batting order—violates the assumption of the independence of batting outcomes. In this paper, the authors identify two possible hitting externalities in baseball. Using play-by-play data the authors find evidence contrary to the protection hypothesis—the quality of the on-deck hitter negatively impacts the preceding hitter—though the magnitude of the effect is very small.
    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:39 AM in Economics ~ in Sports

    July 20, 2009
    On technical improvement c. 1909

    The July 20, 1909 NYT reports on a new world record in what I interpret to be speed walking or "pedestrianism":

    WINNIPEG - Announcement was made to-day that at the Canadian athletic championship meet here Saturday, George H. Goulding of Toronto in the mile walk broke the world's record in 6:25 1-5. This lowered not only the American record of 6:29 2-5, but also clipped four-fifths of a second off the world's mark made by G. E. Larner at Brighton, England, in 1904.

    The current American indoor record is 5:38.2 held by Tim Lewis.

    So, given a century of technological and human capital improvement the speed walk has improved 22%. Not bad.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:28 PM in Sports

    June 17, 2009
    On curses c. 1909

    The Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. Some blame the curse of the goat, others attribute this to the Merkle Curse, others blame bad ownership. I blame the fans - Cubs fans are "too" loyal in the sense that they continue to attend and support the team despite their poor history of post-season play. Teams with very loyal fans can skimp on quality (on the margin) and this might explain why the team hasn't had a breakout year in the last century.

    The June 17, 1909 NYT reports on an incident that might deserve mention in this context:

    Chicago's second successive world's championship pennant was hoisted to-day [June 16, 1909] after a parade of both teams, headed by a brass band. Just before reaching the top of the high pole, however, the rope pulley broke, and the emblem blew away back of the bleachers in centre field.
    \sarcasm Yep - if the team couldn't hoist the pennant correctly perhaps they don't deserve another one. \endsarcasm

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:26 AM in Sports

    June 11, 2009
    Cycling c. 1909

    The June 11, 1909 NYT reports:

    PARIS - "Bobby" Walthour, the American bicycle rider, to-night won a fifty-kilometer motor-paced race in 41 minutes 21.5 seconds.
    If I push the buttons on my hand calculator correctly, using 1909 technology Walthour averaged 72.5 kilometers per hour or 45 miles per hour. Not bad for 1909 but not quite the 152 mph "achieved" by John Howard in 1985.

    Today I went out with my 2007 technology (LeMond Alpe d'Huez with Schimano 105s) and averaged 16 14.5 miles per hour, but without the ability to draft an automobile/motorcylce.

    Obviously Walthour was doping.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:48 AM in Sports

    June 08, 2009
    On rival leagues c. 1909

    Rival sports leagues often have a hard time establishing a foothold against the dominant league. Those sports leagues who have viable franchises are often asked to merge with the dominant league - which happened in baseball long, long ago, and more recently in basketball and hockey.

    The June 8, 1909 NYT reports on the demise of the Eastern Baseball Association:

    The new Eastern Baseball Association, which started with clubs at Newberg [NY], Poughkeepsie, Middletown, Kingston, Amsterdam, Schenectady, Gloversville, and Johnstown, was disbanded on Sunday after eleven days of existence. Poor patronage and lack of capital killed the league.
    This will definitely make it into the next version of my sports economics lecture notes. Eleven days?!? At least the team owners didn't mess around and drag out the inevitable folding of the league.

    Also, team owners didn't appeal to their local governments for subsidies and new stadiums.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:21 PM in Sports

    June 03, 2009
    Thanks to Tom Glavine

    One often hears griping about boorish behavior, steriod use, and the like from professional athletes. Tom Glavine's generosity with his time last night to sign autographs--including one for Pee Wee (see photo below)--is a nice contrast. Glavine was in Rome for a rehab start (he gave up no runs and was especially sharp in his last 4 innings) and, by coincidence (scheduled long before it was announced that Glavine would be pitching), Pee Wee's little league team was the team of the night for the game.

    BTW, the ballpark was sold out when it probably would have been no more than half full on a normal Tuesday night. In my Rome Braves paper on stadium alcohol availability, I estimated that Chipper Jones increased attendance by one-third and less well known players by perhaps 10%. The Glavine effect appears to be larger, though n = 1.

    PeeWee and Glavine.jpg

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:48 PM in Sports

    May 22, 2009
    Running is countercyclical?

    According to this Running SuperFans blog post,

    You know what else turns out to be countercyclical? We’ll give you three clu…oh, you guessed running? Correct!

    Check this out: just this weekend, the Cleveland Marathon set an event record for most participants. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, two new marathons are about to be run for the first time. So while the rest of the economy is going down the port-o-john, running is on the rise!

    Also check out their hilarious running videos. For example:

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:53 PM in Sports

    May 21, 2009
    Excellent Sports Photography


    Posted by Art Carden at 10:01 AM in Sports

    May 12, 2009
    Open question

    This came to my email box, but I have no answer. If anyone can help, I would appreciate any insight:

    Do you know the last time two new intercollegiate football teams began their first season of play against one another? It is happening this year in Division III when Anna Maria College and Castleton State play each other in the first week of the 2009 season. They are both beginning college football programs for the first time.
    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:00 AM in Sports

    May 11, 2009
    Government spending on sports

    From this week's Sports Business Journal:

    Of the $100 million coming to the Magic, Martins said the team will put $50 million directly toward construction of the new arena, which is set to open in October 2010. The rest of the debt is earmarked for pre-opening costs, including capitalized interest costs and unspecified debt reserve requirements. That portion of the funds also includes $12.5 million for the construction of five new community gymnasiums as required by the team’s arena deal with the city.

    Most of the $480 million arena cost, which includes a $100 million land-purchase price, is publicly funded, with the Magic responsible for $50 million in construction costs. The team will also pay $1 million in annual rent and will pay for any cost overruns.

    The city of Orlando will pay about $430 million for a new arena for the basketball team and in return they get $1m in annual rent and $12.5m for five community gyms? That's one heck of a return on investment.

    I know, there are people (usually non-economists) who argue that the events held in the arena will generate some amount of new spending. Perhaps, but work done by myself and Dennis Coates (working paper here) suggests that events held in an arena generally have less of an immediate impact as proponents predict. The main reason? Most of those who attend the event are locals who simply redirect their entertainment (and perhaps food) spending to the event rather than generating new spending. How would locals generate NEW spending? One way would be to pull money from savings to spend today, but even then the total economic impact is ambiguous.

    Sports economists have argued for years that spending on arenas, at least at the levels that cities have been spending in the past ten years or so, is not justified. The vast majority of the benefits of a new stadium are internalized by the team owner (here is a general-audience presentation concerning MLB stadiums and the associated academic paper and a general-audience presentation concerning NFL stadiums.) thus a proper burdern-sharing has more construction and maintainance costs on the shoulders of the team. Alas, the curernt political economy of sports arenas leads to the public picking up 2/3 of the bill on average (see slides 7 and 8 of these lecture notes).

    BTW, the $1m in annual rent is approximately 0.23% of the arena's initial value. This is equivalent to renting a brand new $100,000 house for $19 per month. How sweet it is to be a major league franchise.

    More links:

    Skip Sauer on EconTalk concerning stadium economics (MP3 audio)
    Devin Leary-Hanebrink: "Socialized Sports: Your Money at Work" (MP3 audio)

    Cross posted at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:14 AM in Sports

    On justifying college sport

    The May 11, 1909 NYT reports an interesting criterion for continuing an intercollegiate sport:

    At the meeting of the Harvard Athletic Club this evening it was voted to abolish basket ball as an intercollegiate sport at Harvard on account of the lack of interest and financial support.
    Such arguments are often used today to disband men's wrestling, men's baseball, and other sports. Indeed, MIT recently announced the end of their century-old competitive shooting team, their Alpine skiing team, and six other teams because of financial concerns.

    However, if interest and financial viability are the means by which a sport is tp be justified on campus, the vast majority of teams (male and female) would be disbanded or would have to move to a "pay to play" format. Notwithstanding many people's angst concerning football and (today at least) men's basketball, because of their large revenue generating potential and (subsequently) large expenditures, many of the sports on even the biggest campuses around the country would be in trouble without the cross-subsidization from net-revenue-generating sports (and let's not forget the taxes paid by the student body).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:39 AM in Sports

    May 10, 2009
    On stadiums and development c. 1909

    There are many who propose that new sports venues create situations for new development around the stadium. This development is then used as a justification for using tax dollars to pay for the venue. Generally, those who make such claims are NOT economists and make the claims long before the stadium has been built. Sports economists have been fighting the good fight to disabuse politicians and the electorate from these development dreams. I would say that we have had a modicum of success as about 50% of stadium referendums fail (those who pass, however, cost more and more over time).

    The May 10, 1909 NYT reports on a politician swimming upstream in the stadium-development racket:

    Alderman John J.F. Mulcahy is preparing a bill which, if it passes the Board of Aldermen, will force the New York Baseball Club to seek other quarters. The bill will open a street through the centre of the Polo Grounds, and will enhance the value of much of the surrounding property, and for that reason Alderman Mulcahy's bill is receiving strong support of the property owners near the Polo Grounds.
    The property owners would rather have had a road than a baseball field? Surely they were misinformed about the benefits of the Giants playing so close.

    The good Alderman had this to say:

    I am a lover of all kinds of sports, especially baseball, and while I do not want to work any hardships on the New York Baseball Club, I believe that the property rights of my constituents should be safeguarded, and with this object in view, I have looked the matter up, and have had a private survey made. I am not preparing the bill, which I feel certain will be passed, and will make every effort to push it to a successful conclusion.
    Would that today's politicians would express concern about the property rights of their constituents when it comes to the stadium game.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:09 PM in Sports

    May 07, 2009
    Baseball #'s

    Once again my beloved Reds are off to a better than expected start. They are above 0.500 with a 14-13 record as of today.

    Also once again, my wife is getting excited believing that in spite of all the fundamentals, this is the year the Reds will put it all together. "Remember 1990!" she will say. I mutter in reply something about "regression to the mean" and for the better part of a generation, the Reds have sadly proved me right.

    I just pulled the numbers from MLB for current win percentage and run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). Running a simple regression yields the following result:

    Win% = 0.50 + 0.0035 RunDiff

    R-Sq = 65.3%

    So as expected a larger run differential converts into a higher winning percentage.

    And sure enough my Reds are performing better than expected. Their negative 13 run differential projects to a 0.452 winning percentage--fully 6.6 points below their actual .519 showing.

    Here are the data (sorted from high to low based on the residuals):

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:33 AM in Sports

    May 05, 2009
    Non-traditional sports c. 1909

    I do not play poker and thus find it very dull to watch on television. However, the market clearly has a different view of the "sport" given the number of channels on which poker tournaments are aired.

    There are any number of underrepresented "sports" that haven't had their day on the tube. Why not broadcast the world rock-paper-scissors tournament or The Lingerie Football League (possible NSFW)?

    The May 5, 1909 NYT reports on what must have been a barn-burner competition of yet another non-traditional sport:

    The Cavendish Club of Boston, the Omaha Club, the Cavendish Club of New York, and the Howells Woman's Club of Boston carried off the honors of the first day's play in the twelfth annual congress of the National Women's Whist league, which began here [Boston] today. The Hotel Somerset was crowded with expert followers of the game and the play was eagerly watched.

    The NWWL? Sounds as good as any other league acronym.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:57 PM in Sports

    May 04, 2009
    Yeah, well, except for the secret police and the concentrations camps.

    Barton, the top Republican on the Congressional committee examining the BCS, likened the BCS system to communism:

    Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who has introduced legislation that would prevent the NCAA from calling a game a national championship unless it’s the outcome of a playoff, bluntly warned Swofford: “If we don’t see some action in the next two months, on a voluntary switch to a playoff system, then you will see this bill move.”

    Barton, the top Republican on the committee, said at the hearing that efforts to tinker with the BCS were bound to fail.

    “It’s like communism,” he said.


    HT: Todd.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:40 AM in Sports

    April 28, 2009
    Price as a signal of quality? c. 1909

    The April 28, 1909 NYT reports on an automobile festival on Long Island in which cars were able to race on a two-mile or one-mile track. For some races, cars were flighted by price range; for others it was a "free-for-all."

    Overall, there are 52 reported outcomes with the following manufacturers competing:

     tab make

    make | Freq. Percent Cum.
    american | 2 3.70 3.70
    babcock | 1 1.85 5.56
    benz | 2 3.70 9.26
    bianchi | 2 3.70 12.96
    buick | 7 12.96 25.93
    cadillac | 2 3.70 29.63
    chalmers-detroit | 2 3.70 33.33
    columbia | 2 3.70 37.04
    emf | 2 3.70 40.74
    haynes | 2 3.70 44.44
    knox | 8 14.81 59.26
    lozier | 1 1.85 61.11
    maxwell | 1 1.85 62.96
    national | 4 7.41 70.37
    palmer & singer | 4 7.41 77.78
    panhard | 2 3.70 81.48
    renault | 2 3.70 85.19
    spo | 1 1.85 87.04
    stearns | 7 12.96 100.00
    Total | 54 100.00

    I took the times reported and converted them into miles per hour. I then gathered the reported horsepower of each car and identified those vehicles that were in the cheapest class of cars ("gasoline cars selling under $1250"). I also noted whether the car competed on a one mile or two mile track. Here's an interesting tidbit for an econometrics class:

    . reg mph hp cheap onemile,r

    Linear regression Number of obs = 52
    F( 3, 48) = 27.37
    Prob > F = 0.0000
    R-squared = 0.5486
    Root MSE = 8.9093

    | Robust
    mph | Coef. Std. Err. t P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]
    hp | .2563863 .0540599 4.74 0.000 .1476915 .365081
    cheap | -12.73051 3.284603 -3.88 0.000 -19.33465 -6.126372
    onemile | 3.772493 2.521449 1.50 0.141 -1.297219 8.842205
    _cons | 51.78519 3.429448 15.10 0.000 44.88983 58.68056

    For every horsepower, the average car ran .25 mph faster. However, holding horsepower and the length of the track constant, cheaper cars ran considerably slower. Perhaps this is a function of the drivers who participated in those heats. On the other hand, much like today, cheaper vehicles may not have been capable of going very fast very safely, notwithstanding their horsepower.

    The most expensive, and the fastest, car in the group was a Benz, which came in at 120 horsepower and topped 102 mph.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:54 PM in Sports

    April 22, 2009
    File under: Anything will happen that can.

    High school kid pitches 4 no hitters in a row.

    Speaking of "anything will happen that can" and baseball:

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:32 AM in Sports

    April 21, 2009
    Moneyball, the Movie
    Columbia Pictures and director Steven Soderbergh have set Demetri Martin to star alongside Brad Pitt in "Moneyball," the adaptation of the Michael Lewis book about ballplayer-turned-Oakland Athletics g.m. Billy Beane and his attempt to field a competitive team on a slim payroll.

    Also joining the roster is a group of actual baseball players: former Oakland A's team members David Justice and Scott Hatteberg have signed on to play themselves in the picture, while Daryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra are among those who will be seen on camera being interviewed about their experiences with Beane when he was a phenom drafted by the New York Mets before flaming out and becoming a baseball scout. Shooting begins in June.

    Source. It'd be cool if my director sister got a gig on this film.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:02 PM in Sports

    April 20, 2009
    Boston Marathon Today

    Watch it live online here. Coverage starts at 9:20 ET.

    9:22 a.m. Wheelchair Division Start
    9:32 a.m. Elite Women's Start
    10:00 a.m. Elite Men & Wave 1 Start
    10:30 a.m. Wave 2 Start

    Good luck to all my friends (Scott, Laura, Dink, Rita, Georg) running today. I'll see you there next year.

    P.S. Auburn MBA student David Wishart is hoping for an under 2:25 time and top 25 place. Good Luck David!

    You can track your favorite runners here.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:25 AM in Sports

    March 30, 2009
    The witty gritty on Billy Gillispie

    The quality of sports writing continues to improve, I think. Check out ESPN Page Two writer, Jeff MacGregor on Kentucky firing basketball coach Billy Gillispie after two years.

    Taking a page directly out of Sun Tzu's "The Art of What Have You Done For Us In The Last 15 Minutes?" the strategic deciders at UK last Friday made the unstunning decision to unhire a guy they never should have hired in the first place. This, the Great Uncoupling, might cost the state another $6 million in prenuptial penalties. How high the price of sweet freedom! And poor decidering! That they then chose not to fire or tar and feather themselves for having engineered the whole boondoggle comes as a surprise to no one.

    So they now begin another panicked search for the next overpriced bad fit. Because, yes, by all means, let's put the same people who made the last terrible decision in charge of making the next terrible decision.

    Meanwhile, with 50 wins and two second-round tourney trips in his first two seasons, Mark Turgeon is looking mighty handsome as the Texas A&M head coach.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:13 PM in Sports

    Economies of scope c. 1909

    From the March 30, 1909 NYT:

    Hugh McLean of Chelsea, holder of the world's middle-distance motor-paced bicycle championship, and also holder of the world's record for one and two miles, motor paced, announced to-day his retirement from the bicycle track. Hereafter, it is understood, he will manage the boxing career of Sandy Ferguson.
    Because nothing prepares you for managing a boxer than a cycling career.

    More on Ferguson here.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:02 PM in Sports

    March 04, 2009
    A cure for insomnia II c. 1909

    The March 4, 1909 NYT reports on another awe-inspiring display of caging:

    Williams College was victorious tonight in basketball over the Wesleyan College five, scoring 25 points to Wesleyan's 17.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:31 PM in Sports

    February 26, 2009
    A cure for insomnia c. 1909

    That would be either the Williams or the Tufts basketball teams in 1909, as reported in the Feb. 26, 1909 NYT:

    Williams College tonight defeated Tufts College in basketball by the score of 15 to 9.

    FIFTEEN TO NINE!!?!?!?!?

    I know the game was played just a bit differently back then, but seriously, there should have been a mercy rule for those in attendance.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:46 AM in Sports

    February 25, 2009
    On college football c. 1909

    The Feb. 25, 1909 NYT reports the 1909 schedule for the University of Pennsylvania:

    Sept. 25 - Gettysburg
    Oct. 9 - Amherst
    Oct. 16 - Brown
    Oct. 23 - Penn State
    Oct. 30 - Carlisle
    Nov. 6 - Lafayette
    Nov. 13 - Michigan
    Nov. 25 - Cornell

    One date (Oct. 20) was unsettled at press time. Those being courted were Ursinus (this is my unknown school of the day, although I admit to a Southern bias), West Virginia, Villa Nova, Dickinson, and Georgetown.

    At the time the lineup wasn't all that bad, although I would have to dig into my data to find out whether Ursinus had any presence on the gridiron. It is interesting how college football has changed in 100 years.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:51 AM in Sports

    February 09, 2009
    Sunk Costs Are Sunk

    This post on mlbtraderumors.com caught my eye:

    According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals have released Adam Kennedy. They'll still be responsible for his $4MM salary. The move was "apparently made at the strong urging of manager Tony La Russa," who didn't want Kennedy to be his starting second baseman.

    Skip Schumaker has been working out at second base, and could play there if the Cards don't add anyone to replace Kennedy. Strauss mentions Brendan Ryan and a few others as possible competitors for the job.

    This is good news for Orlando Hudson, who has another possible bidder for his services.

    I'm guessing Hudson shouldn't wait too anxiously by the phone--releasing Kennedy doesn't free up his $4m salary. Kennedy's salary being a sunk cost shouldn't alter the decision to sign Hudson, something the Cards were apparently not interested in doing. Maybe Hudson is an improvement over Schumaker and Ryan while he wouldn't have been an improvement over Kennedy, but that raises the question of why the Cards would then release Kennedy.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:11 PM in Sports

    February 05, 2009
    Quick Thoughts on Bonds

    Evidence in the crimiinal case against Barry Bonds was released yesterday. It reminded me of reading Game of Shadows last summer. I brought a dislike of Bonds to the book--my impression was that he was a jerk and juicer and the book reinforced those impressions.

    Yet the book and its description of the case against Bonds offended my libertarian sense of legal fair play. As recounted by the book (or my 7 month old recollection of reading it), the case against Bonds and Balco started when a federal agent went snooping through the trash outside Balco. The agent didn't appear to have any sort of probable cause but apparently started sniffing around based on a gut instinct. Even worse, the book (and the authors' newspaper articles preceding it) report what is supposed to be secret grand jury testimony. It is certainly their right to report testimony, but the leaking, presumably by prosecutors, is not kosher. So, yeah, I think Bonds is a bum, but bums have rights too and I find his treatment offensive.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:42 AM in Sports

    February 03, 2009
    Line of the Day ...

    ... comes from a Cincinnati police officer arresting Ole Miss basketball coach for an altercation with a cabbie (empahsis added):

    Cincinnati — A newly released police video shows Mississippi basketball coach Andy Kennedy pleading with an officer before his arrest on an assault charge.

    “I’m begging you … this is a major deal, man,” Kennedy told police.

    He added: “This is going to be a national incident, sir.”


    Kennedy told police on the video that he had a verbal altercation about how many people could ride in the cab, and that it “makes no sense” to arrest him.

    In response to his pleas, an officer said: “You think we’ve never arrested somebody that’s made national media? … We deal with the Bengals all the time.”

    Sorry Bob. The incident has spawned suits between the cabbie and coach; the coach's suit includes a claim that the incident has cost him a "loss of consortium" with his wife. Source.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:54 AM in Sports

    January 29, 2009
    An NFL bleg

    Whereas the Super Bowl is the best sporting event in the known universe;

    Whereas going to work on the Monday after the Super Bowl just sucks;

    And Whereas "Super Bowl Saturday" has the same alliterative appeal as "Super Bowl Sunday";

    Let It Hereby Be Resolved that the NFL will MOVE THE DAMNED GAME TO SATURDAY!

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:11 PM in Sports

    January 27, 2009
    Vending Beckham

    Co-blogger Ed points us to this report that Milan might pay 4.5 million pounds (or $6.3m) to obtain David Beckham from the LA Galaxy. In our paper (previous post here) on Beckham's effect on MLS attendance, Bob, Kate, and I made a back of the envelope guess that Beckham's marginal revenue product for the Galaxy in 2007 was $20m. Reports indicate that the Galaxy pay Beckham about $10m thereby implying a net gain of $10m (a figure that has probably declined a bit after the initial excitement over Beckham's arrival). So a $6.3m transfer fee looks like we might have been in the neighborhood.

    But here's an interesting question--Beckham is also highly valuable to the other MLS teams. I wonder if the other teams might increase the amount the league pays toward the salary of star players, its Designated Player Rule, in order to entice the Galaxy to keep Beckham.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 07:49 PM in Sports

    January 20, 2009
    Carden - Lawson Running Throwdown

    Co-blogger Art has begun running and plans to run the Mike Cody 4 Mile Classic at Rhodes College in a couple weeks. As a new runner, he's smartly starting with a run/walk strategy to make the distance.

    I've run only one 4 mile race, the Ohio-Michigan 4 Mile Run in July 2006, and ran it in 24:22.

    So here's the bet: If Art runs his 4 miler in less than twice the time (48:44) I ran mine, then I owe him a beer at the APEE meeting in April. Otherwise he owes me the beer.

    In other running news:
    Congrats to Scott Beaulier on his 3:07 marathon on Saturday at the Museum of Aviation Foundation Marathon in Warner Robins, GA. That's a new PR for Scott and a BQ.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:00 AM in Sports

    January 16, 2009
    On Sunday Baseball c. 1909

    Having lived in Arlington, Texas, for 11 years before moving to Charlotte, NC, I enjoyed a boost in my quality of life by living about ten minutes drive time from the Ballpark in Arlington (now Rangers Ballpark in Arlington). Unfortunately, while I was in Texas, the Rangers appeared in the playoffs three times and were waxed each time by the Yankees (the rangers were a combined 1-9 against the Bombers). Usually sometime in the summer, when the temperature became obnoxious and the team's quality became ever more apparent, attendance would fade off.

    Frustrated and very warm Rangers fans might agree with a proposed legislation in Texas reported in the Jan. 16, 1909 NYT:

    The bill introduced in the Texas House of Representatives yesterday by Mr. Bowles to prohibit the playing of baseball on Sunday has caused much uneasiness among the owners of the clubs of the Texas League and many friends of the sport. They declare if th e bill becomes a law it will kill professional baseball in Texas.
    I could see that, in 1909, weekend games were much better attended than weekday games as there were no lights on stadiums at that time. Essentially taking one half of the most profitable games away would have been a blow to the industry, no doubt.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:57 AM in Sports

    December 21, 2008
    Recessions, Team Quality, and NBA Attendance

    A NYT piece suggests NBA attendance depends more on team quality than macroeconomic condidtions:

    The Kings are suffering from the twin perils of a poor economy and poor play, with a 7-19 record and no certified stars. The problems are mirrored in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Charlotte, N.C., and Memphis, which comprise the bottom fifth of the N.B.A. attendance list.

    Over all, N.B.A. attendance is flat — about a half-percent higher than at this point last season on a per-game basis. Cumulatively, arenas are at about 89 percent of capacity, on par with last season.

    Given the recession, league officials are actually encouraged. They are expecting neither a significant increase nor a significant decrease in attendance this season.

    Still, it is hard to ignore the thousands of empty seats at Arco Arena and Conseco Fieldhouse, or anecdotal reports that things are worse than the official numbers indicate. (N.B.A. teams report attendance based on tickets distributed, not turnstile counts. The latter figure is not publicly available.)

    On basketball blogs, fans and reporters swap horror stories about the anemic crowds. A Nov. 12 game between the Grizzlies and the Knicks in Memphis drew, officially, 10,129 fans, but the crowd looked much thinner. A Nov. 3 game between the Bobcats and the Pistons in Charlotte drew a reported 11,023 fans. But two-thirds of the seats appeared empty.

    In fact, several teams are defying the recession. The Pistons, operating in one of the most depressed economies in the country, have sold out 246 consecutive games at the Palace of Auburn Hills and lead the league in home attendance, with 22,076 a game.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder, despite a 2-24 record, is averaging 18,457 a game in its inaugural season at the Ford Center (capacity 19,314). The franchise drew just 13,335 fans a game last season in Seattle.

    Perhaps no team cheers N.B.A. accountants more than the Portland Trail Blazers, who are drawing 20,516 fans a game — an increase of 5,000 over three seasons ago, when the economy was sound but the team was not. Poor play and player misdeeds so alienated the fan base that the owner, Paul Allen, filed for bankruptcy protection and handed the Rose Garden back to creditors.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:57 PM in Sports

    December 18, 2008
    On price elasticity and football c. 1908

    The Dec. 18, 1908 NYT reports on passenger traffic and train revenues generated from the Yale-Harvard game held in New Haven Connecticut the previous week:

    [T]traffic and earnings from the Yale-Harvard football game here last month show that the passengers carried were 39,777, as compared with 41,454 passengers for the Yale-Harvard game in this city two years ago. The revenue received from football passengers on the steam road was $71,299, as compared with $62,901 from the Yale-Harvard game of 1906. On the day of the football game the company ran into New Haven sixty-six trains, carrying 584 cars and 21,215 passengers, and out of New Haven fifty-five trains carrying 500 cars and somewhat over 20,000 passengers. This army of passengers was handled without incident.
    Calculating the real average revenue per passenger, as reported, we obtain $1.55 per passenger in 1906 and $1.79 per passenger in 1908. Fewer passengers and a higher price in 1908 yielded an increase in real revenue, suggesting demand was inelastic. How inelastic? The arc elasticity between these two "points on the demand curve" is 0.271!!

    This is a great example of how price elasticity changes with the availability of substitutes. How else could one get to New Haven in a timely fashion on the day of the game?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:35 PM in Sports

    December 15, 2008
    On Stadium Construction c. 1908

    The December 15, 1908 NYT reports on the pending new digs for the Pittsburgh Pirates:

    Pittsburg's (sic) new National League baseball park will have a seating capacity of 20,000...They [the plans] call for an immense three-decker, V-shaped grand stand, from every part of which the "fan" will have an unobstructed view of the playing field...

    One of the innovations will be the apartments for the players. Under one corner of the grandstand will be the rooms of the Pittsburg players, consisting of plunge and shower baths, massage rooms, smoking and lounging rooms, with a billiard and pool parlor. There will be similar rooms for the visiting team, and a room for the umpires. The rooms are so arranged that the players and the umpires can slip away in case of trouble, without crossing the field, thus eliminating the danger from the rowdy element.

    No discussion of sliding roofs, luxury suites, extended megatron HDTV screens. More importantly, no discussion of public funding for a stadium that was billed to be the "largest in existence."

    It is interesting that there was considerable concern for the safety of the players and umpires. During the playoffs in 1908 there were a number of instances of players being hit by items thrown by dis-enchanted fans. One important, and overlooked, aspect of sport in the United States is that the only barriers between the fans and the field of play are, generally, in place to protect the paying fans rather than to protect the players from the fans. Contrast that with many other countries (especially in association football) and it gives food for thought.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:28 PM in Sports

    December 06, 2008
    A New Form of Stadium Financing?

    Gwinnett County GA is apparently having difficulty selling the naming rights for the stadium being built for the Braves AAA franchise. The stadium is also coming in over budget. Just wondering, could this be the way the county is making up the financing gap?

    While neighboring counties encourage recycling, Gwinnett County’s new solid waste management ordinance puts teeth into it. The ordinance provides for a civil fine of $500 for violations, which includes those who fail to “source separate residential recovered materials.”
    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:30 PM in Sports

    December 03, 2008
    Price vs. Value? c. 1908

    From the Dec. 3, 1908 NYT:

    President Johnson of the American League has announced the the price of tickets to world's championship series games next season would certainly be cut in two. He said the National commission had come to the conclusion that it was not just to the "fans" who had paid their money to see the clubs battle through the regular campaign to pay big prices for the series at the season's close.
    Cutting price in half and selling more tickets might actually increase revenue to MLB in 1909. On the other hand, if price is a signal of quality, promising to reduce price might be sending the wrong signal to future consumers of baseball championship games. I predict that, when we get around to this next October, we will find that the ticket prices were not cut in half.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:15 AM in Sports

    November 22, 2008
    Transaction Costs and Institutional Change: Saturday Morning College Football Blogging

    In light of the annual controversy over how college football's national champion is determined, I've written up a proposal for how conferences can be realigned. My modest contribution is below the fold.

    Read More »

    Posted by Art Carden at 09:59 AM in Sports

    November 10, 2008
    Why you should be watching the NBA this year

    Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets is why. He is a remarkable player (I'll pass on the comparison to MJ, but see below) who is fun to watch. Yes, you can say that about a number of players and that's nothing new. But Chris Paul is proving that he is on another, more worthy, and historically significant level. Recapping Saturday's victory over the Miami Heat, ESPN laid out these facts:

    Paul finished with 21 points and 13 assists for his sixth straight double-double of at least 20 points and 10 assists to open the season, surpassing the mark set by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1968.

    Paul also has an incredible 90 straight games with a steal. That's 13 more than Michael Jordan's longest streak and second only to Alvin Robinson at 105. Tune in my friends.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:02 AM in Sports

    November 05, 2008
    Incentives Matter: Signing Bonus Edition

    My former student John Fowler points me to this news item:

    Some baseball agents already are thinking about trying to beat a possible tax increase for their well-paid clients under an Obama administration.

    President-elect Barack Obama has proposed increasing the top federal income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, where it was under president Bill Clinton.

    If signing bonuses are paid before Jan. 1, they likely would be taxed at the current rate and would not be subject to any increase.

    "It's something we'll consider," agent Craig Landis said Tuesday at the general managers' meetings. "Besides the federal issue, we have a state issue in some cases, anyway, where it's advantageous to take signing bonuses because of the state income tax. A Florida resident can take the signing bonus and not have to pay his team's state tax."

    Obama's proposal would increase federal income tax on families earning more than $250,000 annually, money that would help finance a decrease for workers and families earning less than $200,000. It's also possible more income might be subject to the Social Security tax.

    Next year's major league minimum is $400,000. Agent Scott Boras, negotiating eight- and possibly nine-figure deals for free agents Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira, already has thought about the possibility of asking for larger signing bonuses payable this year in some of his contracts.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:54 PM in Economics ~ in Sports

    November 02, 2008
    We're Number One...

    ...even though I'm not certain we should be. After last night's thrilling conclusion to the Texas-Texas Tech game, Alabama is #1 in the AP, USA Today, and Harris Polls. I expect the Tide to be #1 in the BCS standings whenever they come out. My Top 10 plus a few thoughts are below the fold.

    Read More »

    Posted by Art Carden at 07:24 PM in Sports

    October 26, 2008
    Income Elasticity of Demand for Sports Once Again
    Now with stocks plunging and a steady drumbeat of layoffs, bankruptcies and foreclosures, sales efforts such as variable pricing, pay-as-you-go plans, package deals and even mandated cheap seats are growing. They're likely to only get more popular.

    "We read the papers and know there are jobs disappearing and people being laid off," said Greg Schenkel, the Pacers' vice president of corporate and public relations. "We were not oblivious to the real world out there.

    That's from today's AJC; the article also has some good stuff about teams' price discrimination strategies. Previous posts here and here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:40 PM in Economics ~ in Sports

    October 22, 2008
    Base ball in Auburn in 1866

    In preparation for the possibility of starting a vintage base ball club in Auburn, I'm doing some historical research on local base ball history and was pleased to discover very early evidence of base ball in Auburn.

    Thomas Porter Whitby, a veteran (1862-1865) of the 37th Alabama Regiment of Volunteers , organized a base ball club in Auburn in 1866 while attending the East Alabama Male College (which ultimately became Auburn University).

    The Auburn University archives has Whitby's original paper listing the "Members who paid for Base Ball". It is dated March 12(?), 1866.


    The note also indicates that he "Paid for Ball - 1.00" which is $13.47 in today's terms (using the CPI). For comparison, an official MLB ball is on sale today for $11.41. A high school ball goes for about $5.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:57 AM in Sports

    October 15, 2008
    Baseball writers association c. 1908

    A small tidbit of interest from the Oct. 15, 1908 NYT:

    Baseball writers connected with the leading daily papers of every major league city, excepting Brooklyn, met here [Detroit] to-day, prior to the closing game of the world series, and formed an organization to be known as the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Its objects are to promote uniformity in scoring methods, to act in conjunction with the leagues in rules revision suggestions, and to gain control of baseball press boxes, the conduct of which is a sore spot with working newspaper men all over the country.

    Here is the association's amazingly annoyingly green website, and I'm not talking about the environment.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:23 AM in Sports

    World Series c. 1908

    The Oct. 15, 1908 reports on the final game of the 1908 World Series, which the Chicaco Cubs won over the Detroit Tigers 2-0:

    The series, however, created less interest in the two cities most affected than that of last year, if the attendance may be taken as a guide. The paid admissions were only 62,232 for the five games and the receipts totalled $94,976 [$2.3m in 2007 dollars], as compared with $101,000 last year. The attendance at teh final game this afternoon was only 6,210, with gross receipts of $9,577.50.

    Of the money taken in the players of Chicago, the winning team, get $27,669 and the Detroit players $18,446. The club owners get $19,681 each and the National Commission $9,497.

    Information is important to decision making and in this case I wonder if attendance to the last game would have been a bit higher if it had been advertised that the Cubs wouldn't win another World Series for 100+ years? The 1908 World Series per-cap revenue was $1.54 or approximately $37 in 2007 dollars. This year, depending on the stadium in which the Series takes place, the face value of upstairs tickets will be in the $150-$200 range.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:17 AM in Sports

    October 14, 2008
    More on the Income Elasticity of Demand for Sports
    The NBA is eliminating about 80 jobs in the United States, the first major American sports league to announce layoffs because of the worldwide economic turmoil.

    Commissioner David Stern told The Associated Press last month the league would cut staff in anticipation of the downturn. He said Sunday the figure would be about 9 percent of the American work force, and the league confirmed the number of jobs the next day.

    “My guess is that by the time we tip off in a week or so, we will be down modestly in season tickets. … We think we’ll be up in revenue, but I just can’t say for sure whether we’ll be up or down in attendance because it’s just so touch-and-go, because sports tickets are very much disposable income,” he said. “So, we’re not going to see a huge impact, but I dare say we will see some impact.”

    Source. Previous post.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:00 AM in Economics ~ in Sports

    October 04, 2008
    College football scores c. 1908

    Some select college football scores as reported in the October 4, 1908 NYT (home team first):

    Lehigh, 5; Stephens Institute 0
    Nebraska 43; Doan 0
    Wooster University 8; Ohio State 0
    Minnesota, 6; Lawrence, 0
    Chicago 39; Purdue 0
    Vermont 5; Holy Cross 0
    Illinois 17; Monmouth 6
    Oberlin 32; Hiram 2;
    Tennessee 12; North Carolina 0
    Bowdoin 15; New Hampshire 0
    Dennison 35; Heldelberg 5
    Georgetown 15; Gallaudet 0
    Georgia Tech 32; Gordon Institute 0
    West Virginia 22; Westminster 0

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:35 PM in Sports

    On Performance Enhancing Drugs c. 1908

    The Oct. 4, 1908 reports on a debate concerning artificial aids in sports, and an unexpected PED:

    Dr. Leonard Hill, F.R.S., whose experiments with oxygen in athletics first drew attention to this subject, which aroused considerable discussion on both sides of the Atlantic, has this week stated the case strongly but temperately...

    Montague Holbein...denounced the use of oxygen...as unsportsmanlike. Dr. Hill's rejoinder is this:

    "Oxygen is not a stimulant. To the perfectly trained runner or race horse oxygen will do nothing if given before a sprint. The trained man or horse has got enough in him for a spring, and an excess has no effect. It is to the tired or untrained man or the man fatigued by prolonged effort that oxygen does so much...

    "Almost the whole of modern sport is conducted with artificial aids. The record feats of to-day are too often not sport, but deadly, earnest business. Either, I say, limit sport to reasonable feats of endurance or else add oxygen to the other artificial aids now employed in breaking records, and so diminish the harm done the athlete's body."

    Not everybody is convinced by Dr. Hill's contentions. For instance, Lord Lonsdale declares that the use of oxygen is unsportsmanlike and un-English...

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:30 PM in Sports

    October 03, 2008
    Substitution in recreation c. 1908

    From the October 3, 1908 NYT:

    Billiards are dying out - in France, at least. According to statistics of taxes, while there were 94,123 billiard tables in France in 1892. In 1906 there were only 89,939. It is probably to the success of outdoor sports and of motoring that is due this loss of affection for a game which has had famous votaries.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:46 AM in Sports

    October 02, 2008
    On academic eligibility c. 1908

    The Oct. 2, 1908 NYT reports on Arthur Brides's re-instatement to the Yale football team:

    A boom for yale Varsity stock was evident this afternoon when the Faculty of the Yale Medical School declared Arthur Brides, guard and half back for two years, eligible for the eleven. Brides has finally removed every scholarship technicality, adn this afternoon reported for practice.
    Only a few days ago the word was Mr. Brides would have a hard time overcoming his academic issues.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:13 AM in Sports

    October 01, 2008
    The Leisure of the Theory Class: Part 172

    Ben Powell and I bagged Grays Peak (14278') and Torreys Peak (14267') after we attended a Liberty Fund symposium last weekend in Denver.

    Grays (L) and Torreys (R) from the trailhead:
    Picture 041 8x10 small.jpg

    On the Summit of Grays:
    Picture 024 small.jpg

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:50 AM in Sports

    September 29, 2008
    On academic eligibility c. 1908

    The Sept. 29, 1908 NYT reports on academic eligibility at Yale:

    The chances are slim for Arthur Brides, Yale's all-around football star, wearing a uniform this season. Brides was to-day definitely notified that he cannot join the eleven unless he removes the deficiencies in his studies. There is little chance that Brides can fill the demand, but he will pluckily try to do so before the big games. He will not report with the team for weeks, and the football coaches say that they regard him as out of the competition.
    Fairly impressive, although it is Yale after all, that before the NCAA promulgated rules concerning academic eligibility, at least one case of enforcement of standards could be found. Likely this is the problem: the fact that Brides's story was such big news indicates that such academic enforcement wasn't that common and thus, eventually, the NCAA will enact its own rules.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:24 PM in Sports

    September 21, 2008
    Cavalcade of Miscellany: College Football Edition

    1. Fayetteville was really nice. I had a great time on Friday meeting with members of the economics faculty and presenting Charles Courtemanche's and my paper on Wal-Mart and obesity, and I enjoyed hanging out with Patrick and Sonia Gill (friends from college who just moved to Fayetteville) Friday night and Saturday before, during, and after the game. Next presentations of the Wal-Mart paper: UAB this Friday and West Virginia next Friday. Next live college football game: West Virginia-Rutgers.

    2. Alabama is a legitimate contender for the SEC title. p(Alabama is a national title contender|Alabama beats Georgia on Saturday) = 1. p(Alabama beats Georgia) = 0.4.

    3. That said, I think that if the Big 12 champion, the SEC champion, and USC go unbeaten, USC has the toughest case to make for inclusion in the title game. That blowout win over OSU might get less and less impressive with every passing week, and there are four SEC teams and four Big 12 teams in the top 10 while the Pac-10 looks like a one-team wonder (the Pac-10 proved last week that it's no Mountain West Conference; this past weekend, Boise State's win at Oregon proved that the Pac-10 is probably no WAC, either). It will be fun to watch.

    4. That said, there's always a lot of talk every year about how a playoff would not only ensure a "real" champion, it would make more money. If this is true, though, I wonder which transaction costs prevent efficient Coasean bargains.

    5. College sports illustrates a hard-to-measure-but-nonetheless-real improvement in standards of living: the enormous increases in the ornateness and complexity of college football tailgate parties. It seems like every tailgate party has a tent, comfortable camping chairs, mountains of really good food, a giant plastic blow-up mascot, and a flat-screen TV with a satellite hookup. And with only a few exceptions, everybody is pretty friendly mo matter who they're pulling for. It's a great way to spend a beautiful Autumn Saturday.

    Posted by Art Carden at 09:24 PM in Sports

    September 13, 2008
    Revising My Priors: Alabama Football Edition

    There are a couple of minutes left in the first half and the Alabama-Western Kentucky game is turning into a beatdown. I now believe "Alabama is a serious contender for the SEC title" with p = 0.85. The ease with which the Tide is beating the Hilltoppers is only part of the story: the fact that Tulane almost beat the VT- and WVU-vanquishing East Carolina Pirates makes last week's uninspired showing against the Green Wave look a lot better.

    It's halftime. On tap after Jacob finishes his bottle: a family outing to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the rest of this game and a handful of others.

    Posted by Art Carden at 08:40 PM in Sports

    September 10, 2008
    Japan fun fact

    I'm in Tokyo for the Mont Pelerin Society meetings. Myron Scholes has given the most enlightening talk so far. But I've also learned something about Japanese pro baseball. I knew that the Nippon Ham Fighters are not "Ham Fighters" but rather "Fighters" sponsored by Nippon Ham, but it's news that all the teams are sponsor-branded. Seibu Lions are sponsored by Seibu, a major private railway company [correction: department store]. The funniest is Yakult Swallows. I thought they were only named after the bird (which is their emblem), but it's also a play on words: coin-op drink machines reveal that Yakult is a beverage company. Swallows, get it? Well, at least I hope it's an intentional play.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 09:47 AM in Sports

    Vend It Like Beckham: David Beckham’s Effect on MLS Ticket Sales

    Here's some more brand equity. Bob, his student Kate Sheehan, and I just had a paper analyzing David Beckham's affect on MLS attendance accepted for publication; here's the abstract:

    In January 2007, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that international soccer sensation David Beckham would be joining the league playing for the LA Galaxy. This paper examines Beckham’s effect on MLS ticket sales for the 2007 season. Depending on specification, our results indicate that Beckham increased ticket sales as a share of stadium capacity by about 55 percentage points. We then use these results to evaluate MLS’s Designated Player Rule and to perform a back-of-the-envelope calculation of Beckham’s benefit to the LA Galaxy.

    Basically Beckham's playing fills a stadium that would otherwise be roughly half full. The $400k MLS contribution to his salary doesn't come close to covering his spillover benefit for other teams. Even at something like $10m per year from the Galaxy, hiring Beckham looks to have been a shrewd move by the Galaxy.

    Fun project--thanks to Kate for a cool idea and to Bob and Kate for inviting me to join in.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:48 AM in Economics ~ in Sports

    August 29, 2008
    Compete With Me: Another Freakonomics Contest

    Stephen Dubner points out that they get more comments when they offer schwag. Their latest contest: pick the score of tomorrow's LSU-App State game. My guess: LSU 45, ASU 3. My guess is just barely non-random. All I'm really sure about is that LSU won't let themselves get caught overlooking ASU. I'll be keeping up with the LSU-ASU score--and the Alabama-Clemson score--from the stands at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, where I'll be taking in the Ole Miss-Memphis game with a couple of friends.

    Posted by Art Carden at 01:32 PM in Sports

    August 28, 2008
    A Longer NFL Season

    From the WaPo:

    Sentiment among NFL leaders to reduce the preseason to two or three games per team and lengthen the regular season to 17 or 18 games, up from the current 16, is growing, and it seems generally accepted that such an adjustment likely will be made within the next few years.

    "I think it would be a positive," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said this week, "and I do think it will happen."

    Goodell and the owners already were studying the issue before the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, lost standout defensive end Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game against the New York Jets on Saturday night, and before the Redskins had to fret that Jason Taylor's knee injury the same night would end his season.

    And while they regret having their product diminished by injuries to players in games that don't count in the regular season standings, the real impetus for Goodell and the owners to act on the issue is economic.

    More regular season games would mean more revenue in television rights fees, which are worth about $3.7 billion per season in the current deals with NBC, Fox, CBS, ESPN and DirecTV.

    "The players' view can be really simple: If I get paid for two extra games, I'll play two more games," former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross said. "The fans' view is: More of the real stuff is better. The realistic view is: It's a way to generate more revenues."

    Players aren't paid during the preseason; instead, they're paid in 17 installments during the regular season. The owners make big money by charging regular season ticket prices for preseason games, but still could come out ahead if the additional regular season games boost TV rights fees considerably.

    The drawbacks to adding games would be diluting the product, and limiting chances for younger players.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:47 AM in Sports

    August 13, 2008
    Baseball Fan Loyalty & The Worst Contract in Baseball History

    From Forbes:

    But they're no Texas Rangers fans who flock to the Arlington ballpark through last place finishes and playoff runs alike. The Ranger faithful don't care if the team trades away its best players or spends $252 million to sign an MVP-caliber batter like Alex Rodriguez. No team's attendance is less tied to its on the field performance than the Rangers', and nowhere else in the country do fans peel off at a slower rate when the club has thin years.

    (Of course, had owner Tom Hicks studied the attendance numbers a little closer back in 2001, he might not have offered what has come to be known as the worst contract in baseball history.)

    Two things going on here. First, the primary focus of the article is measuring fan sensitivity to winning and proclaiming the franchise whose attendance is least sensitive to winning to have the most loyal fans. (BTW, the Tigers and the Angels are rated as having the least loyal fans.) Neat idea, though one might raise questions about methodology. (The authors give some but not complete detail.) For example, I wonder if the sample period of 1991 to present isn't problematic b/c some franchises have been good throughout (Atlanta) and others have been crummy throughout (KC). That is, there may not be sufficient variation in team winning percentages over time to get a strong estimate of the relationship between winning and attendance.

    Second is the aside about the ARod contract. The authors might be on ok ground if they mean that it was a bad contract because with very loyal fans the Rangers didn't need to sign more talent in order to win more games to draw more fans. On the other hand, the authors are off base if they are merely commenting on the size of the contract or trying to say something about ARod's performance. Yes, ARod got a large contract but he has also performed at a very high level over the past decade. Comparing pay and performance, his contract nowhere near as bad as those signed by, say, Carl Pavano, Mike Hampton, or (it appears) Barry Zito. I'll leave comments open for a day or so if readers want to offer other candidates for the worst contract in baseball history.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:24 AM in Sports  ·  Comments (3)

    August 12, 2008
    The Beijing Olympics Discovers Specialization and Division of Labor

    What's Chinese for Milli Vanilli?

    The unquestioned star of the Opening Ceremony was a little girl who performed "Hymn to the Motherland" in front of the entire world. I remember watching her and thinking how adorable and talented she was, the "poster child for all of China." Well, it turns out that she wasn't as talented as we all thought. It was in fact, a seven year old singing to the whole world on a pre-recorded tape, not the cute, pig-tailed Lin Miaoke, whom we all came to know and love according to a report from The Telegraph.
    "This was a last-minute question, a choice we had to make," the ceremony's musical designer, Chen Qigang, said. "Our rehearsals had already been vetted several times - they were all very strict. When we had the dress rehearsals, there were spectators from various divisions, including above all a member of the politburo who gave us his verdict: we had to make the swap."

    A "grueling competition" had been waged to choose the performer, but at the last minute the "swap" was made because the seven year old girl simply did not portray the image that the Chinese wanted to convey to the world, she had buck teeth according to the story.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:53 PM in Sports

    Tyranny Tarted Up as Art

    That's George Will on the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics:

    This year's August upheaval coincides, probably not coincidentally, with the world's preoccupation with that charade of international comity, the Olympics. For only the third time in 72 years (Berlin 1936, Moscow 1980), the games are being hosted by a tyrannical regime, the mind of which was displayed in the opening ceremony featuring thousands of drummers, each face contorted with the same grotesquely frozen grin. It was a tableau of the miniaturization of the individual and the subordination of individuality to the collective. Not since the Nazi's 1934 Nuremberg rally, which Leni Riefenstahl turned into the film "Triumph of the Will," has tyranny been so brazenly tarted up as art.
    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:28 AM in Sports

    August 07, 2008
    Point Shaving

    ESPN reports:

    A former University of Toledo basketball player has been charged with fixing games in the latest development in a nearly two-year federal gambling probe.

    I don't know what's more surprising, that his occurred or that anyone cares enough to bet on MAC basketball games.

    Question for thought: Should point shaving be a crime?

    You could argue that the player violated the contract he has with the NCAA not to engage in such activities, but we don't usually criminalize simple contract violations. How is a point shaver different than a player who simply dogs it? As far as the betters are concerned, if the line setters have done their job right, half the betters should be on one side of the line and the other half on the other side of the line. An effective point shaver would change which half won, but I can't see any reason why I should care about one side over the other side. The whole thing was a coin toss anyway.

    Would Walter Block defend this undefendable?

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:13 AM in Sports

    July 29, 2008
    Puckish Minor League Baseball Promotions

    Here's a list of 10 including Britney Spears Baby Safety Night, Jose Canseco Juice Box Night, and Terrell Owens Unappreciation Night (featuring 81 cent hot dogs).

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:27 PM in Sports

    July 25, 2008
    Brett Favre Baseball Promo
    The [Augusta, GA] GreenJackets will make fun of the retired, maybe now un-retired, quarterback legend, by giving away flip flops in honor of the flip flopper.

    The first 100 fans through the gates for the team's August 4th game against the Savannah Sand Gnats will receive a pair of flip flops.

    But that's not all. The GreenJackets plan on retiring Favre's jersey number (4), only to reinstate it the next day. Luckily, the team doesn't currently have a player wearing that number.

    The idea for the night is still in development, but other events planned include seat upgrades to anyone wearing a Favre jersey. Fans wearing a "cheesehead" will also receive a free brat at the concession stand. The team will also be hosting contests including the "Lambeau Leap" and the "Strahan Sack." Though we're not exactly sure how the latter would work. Who could do the best fake?

    Story here; HT to Skip Sauer.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:48 AM in Sports

    July 24, 2008
    Baseball transaction c. 1908

    The July 24, 1908 NYT reports on a deal between the Cleveland and Washington baseball teams:

    It was announced today that the Cleveland American League Baseball Club has purchased the release of Pitcher Falkenberg and Third Baseman Altizer from the Washington club. The consideration is said to have been $10,000. The two men named will, it is expected, join the Cleveland Club at once.

    Baseball-referenc.com reports Mr. Altizer's statistics for the 1908 season were not steller (indeed for his entire career): .224 batting average with Washington and a .213 BA with Cleveland; .274 on base percentage with Washington, .278 OBP with Cleveland, and so forth. Altizer moves on to the White Sox in the next year.

    What about Falkenberg? He plays for Cleveland through the 1913 season with an ERA below 3 (except for 1911 when he had an ERA of 3.11) and he wins 23 games in 1913 before moving on to Indianapolis in the Federal League (oops).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:48 PM in Sports

    July 21, 2008
    Olympic events c. 1908

    The July 21, 1908 NYT reports on the London Olympics. One event which is no longer on the agenda was tug-of-war. This day's issue reports on a potential figurative casus bella:

    The City of London policemen, who won the Olympic tug-of-war, as issued a challenge for a match with the American team, the members of both teams to be in their stocking feet or in any way the Americans prefer, and the match to be for love or any charity.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:25 AM in Sports

    July 16, 2008
    Badwater Congrats!

    Congrats to my good friend Rita Barnes who just completed the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles starting in Death Valley and finishing at the Mt. Whitney trailhead) with a time of 42:21:13.


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:19 PM in Sports

    July 13, 2008
    A Sports Economics* Lesson for Peter Gammons

    Earlier this evening on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" program, Peter Gammons was asked to comment on the possibility of the Braves trading first baseman Mark Teixeira. Gammons stated (this quote may not be exact; I'm typing from memory) "that the Braves have to decide if they can get back as much as they gave up for Teixeira last year" when they acquired him and pitcher Ron Mahay for five prospects.

    This is decidedly not the problem the Braves face. The five prospects sent to Texas are a sunk cost since, unfortunately for Braves fans, there's no indication that the Rangers would reverse the trade and send the prospects back to the Braves.

    Instead, the decision now is based on comparing the costs and benefits of keeping Teixeira vs. trading him. Some of the costs and benefits can be thought of in terms of financial gains or losses and while other come in the form of talent gains and losses (which, of course, have financial implications since they affect winning and fan attendance).

    For example, if the Braves keep Teixeira the benefits include having him on the roster for the rest of the year thereby giving them larger (though still remote) odds of making the playoffs and larger attendance (both from winning more games with Teixeira's formidable bat in the lineup and from not appearing to concede the race to other teams). The benefits also include getting two compensatory draft picks for him when he leaves at the end of the year as a free agent.

    By contrast, the costs of keeping Teixeira include his salary for the remainder of the season (perhaps $4-5m) and the cost of signing two high draft choices (approx. $1m each).

    The Braves choice is to compare the net gain from keeping Teixeira to the value of the talent they can acquire for him. If trade rumors are to be believed, there are no teams offering substantial talent for Teixeira (this can, of course, change between now and the July 31 trade deadline). There would be two advantages to trading him for prospects rather than waiting for draft choices. One, as noted above, is that draft choices require signing bonuses. The other is acquiring prospects who have already played, say, 2-3 seasons of minor league baseball gives (for both the Braves and the trading team) a better read on whether they will turn out to be bona fide major league talent. That is, prospects with minor league experience are less risky than newly drafted players who have not yet begun the transition from high school or college to pro baseball.

    BTW, my prediction is the Braves will keep Teixeira because, as noted above, there doesn't seem to be strong market for him. I think there's also a behavioral reason--the Braves management would take a lot of heat for trading Teixeira for much less than they traded away to get him.

    *See JC Bradbury and Dennis Coates for interesting discussions of "what is sports economics?".

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:19 PM in Economics ~ in Sports

    June 17, 2008
    Soccer > Opera in Vienna

    Here's an example of sports crowding out other economic activity*:

    The renowned Vienna State Opera canceled one performance and complained about dismal attendance at another, blaming the European soccer championship being played in the Austrian capital.

    Performances are usually nearly sold out, but the opera house said 29 percent of its seats went unsold for its most recent event, Verdi's "La forza del destino." The opera house also said it had decided to cancel a ballet evening June 29, the day when the final is played in Vienna.

    Officials said in a statement Tuesday that would-be visitors fear negotiating through masses of soccer fans in downtown Vienna.

    I'm betting that if an economic impact study of the European soccer tournament was done it didn't net out lower opera attendance and canceled opera performances.

    *I think this idea is attributed to Phil Porter.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:26 PM in Sports

    June 09, 2008
    The cost of an Olympian c. 1908

    The June 9, 1908 NYT reports that the U.S. Olympic team had been selected the day before in New York City:

    Seventy-six athletes were selected yesterday to represent the United States at the Olympic games in London next month. A supplemental list of fifty-eight men has been added to the regular list, and it is probably that many of these will be added before the team sails. The committee wrestled with the selection problem for nearly ten hours at the Astor House before a decision was reached.
    How much was it expected to cost for each Olympian?
    The minimum subscription which will be accepted to defray the expenses of sending any one entrant to the games was fixed at $325.
    In 2006 dollars, this comes to $7,345.

    In 2000, the United States spent approximately $400m (in total) for Olympic sports. I haven't been able to track down exactly how much is spent on taking the team to the Olympics, but my guess is that it is considerably more than $7,300 per athlete.

    An interesting tidbit is the amount of lobbying by the US Olympic Committee reported by OpenSecrets:

    Notice the up-tick in lobbying efforts the year before an Olympics, most noticable before a summer Olympics.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:19 AM in Sports

    May 29, 2008
    Just a bit outside low

    Mariah Carey's first pitch:

    Not as bad as the Cincinnati Mayor's last year:

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:40 PM in Funny Stuff ~ in Sports

    May 23, 2008
    Happy Feet
    The St. Paul Saints will give away 2,500 "bobble foot" dolls before Sunday's game at Midway Stadium.

    The baseball team says the promotion, which coincides with National Tap Dance Day, is "in tribute to all their toe-tapping friends and fans from around the nation who may ever have set foot in Minneapolis-St. Paul… even for just a change of planes. The one-of-a-kind collector’s item depicts a restroom stall and a bobble foot peaking out from underneath."


    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 07:51 PM in Sports

    May 15, 2008
    Income Effects
    "Do I have a gambling problem? Yeah, I do have a gambling problem," Barkley said. "But I don't consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble."

    That is the inimitable Charles Barkeley, quoted in May 2006 by ESPN. Today the Wynn Las Vegas went public trying to collect a 7-month old $400,000 gambling debt.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:40 PM in Sports

    April 21, 2008
    Boston Marathon c. 1908

    The April 21, 1908 NYT reports:

    T.P. Morrissey of the Mercury Athletic Club, New York City, [yesterday] won the twelfth annual renewal of the Boston Athletic Association marathon road race, covering the twenty five mile from Ashland to the finish mark in 2:25:43 1-5...

    The weather conditions were ideal for the first time when the contentstants, 120 in number, lined up in Ashland, ready to start on their journey of a trifle more than twenty-five miles to Boston.

    The 2007 winner, Robert Cheboror, Kenya finished in 2:06:23. That's a 13.3% reduction in the finishing time over the past 100 years. This, despite the fact that the race in 1908 was 4.8% shorter than this year's race. This reflects an improvement in training and equipment but also, perhaps, incentives.

    This year's Boston Marathon has 25,000 entrants and the potential pay off to winning would seem greater today than 100 years ago. The Gould hypothesis would suggest that over time runners are getting better and the long-tail approach would predict the right tail of 25,000 entrants to be faster than the right tail of 120 entrants.

    I wonder about sample selection, however. My immediate thought is that sample selection was a bigger issue in the past, but that is probably debatable.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:33 AM in Sports

    April 16, 2008
    Boston Marathon Post

    I'm off to Boston this weekend to run Monday's 112th Boston Marathon. This will be my second Boston and I'm hoping for a much better run than last year's disappointing 3:29. Also running this year is Beloit College's Scott Beaulier* who qualified to run Boston last year in Gainesville FL with an impressive 3:11.

    Are there any other economists running?

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:14 AM in Sports

    March 18, 2008
    Fooled By the Randomness of March Madness

    It's that time of year: March Madness. I've watched parts of two NCAA games this year (UT-Memphis and Duke-UNC), but that hasn't stopped me from joining James Hamilton's Econbrowser group at ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge or from creating a Division of Labour Group. The DoL is limited only by the extent of the market, so all are welcome.

    Update: I'm told the DOL bracket link doesn't work. Here's the long way around. Register for an ESPN.com account and search the group directory for "Division of Labour."

    Posted by Art Carden at 06:44 PM in Sports

    March 14, 2008
    Eliot Spitzer Night at the Ballpark

    You knew this was coming:

    The Macon Music announced today that the team will host “Eliot Spitzer” Night on Friday, June 13th 2008 when the Music play host to the Aiken Foxhounds.

    During “Eliot Spitzer” Night, the following elements will exist:

    1. The Music have extended an invitation for former New York Governor Spitzer to be on hand and throw out the first pitch
    2. The team will give away a New York Vacation including a one night stay at the MayFlower Hotel
    3. Client #9 (or fan #9) will receive a free Music prize pack
    4. Any fan with the name Eliot, Spitzer, or “Kristen” along with any fan from New York will receive $1 off admission
    5. The Music will play Frank Sinatra music throughout the evening in honor of New York
    6. Wire Taps will be placed throughout the ballpark this evening
    7. ATMs will be available for cash withdrawals not to exceed $5,000 per hour
    8. Any fan who has resigned their position will be given $1 off admission
    9. The 871 fan will receive a gift certificate for the Macon Music Team store.

    Here and here are previous examples of wacky promos.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:16 PM in Sports

    March 06, 2008
    A Quibble with ...

    ... this part of Allen Sanderson's essay on incentives:

    For example, given that the Chicago Bears can sell out Soldier Field constantly, and the National Football League (NFL) shares its television revenues equally across members of the cartel, it is not surprising that the owner of the Bears is willing to do without a costly high-quality quarterback—payroll would rise but any effect on revenues would be shared with all the other teams.

    True enough, but what if a better quarterback (which means almost anyone since the imcumbent is Rex Grossman) allowed the Bears to charge higher ticket prices while selling out Soldier Field? This source indicates that stadium "gate" revenue is spilt 60-40 between the home and visiting teams, respectively. Thus, even a team could reap a large, though not complete, share of revenue generated by a QB upgrade.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:28 AM in Economics ~ in Sports

    February 18, 2008
    I'm an idiot: Marathon Edition

    My friend Scott and I ran an official 3:34:51 yesterday at Last Chance for Boston Marathon Last Chance is so named because this is the last weekend you can qualify for this year's Boston Marathon. (I qualified back in September though so this was just a tune-up run.) The course is a one-mile loop which would seem boring except that it has the feel of a big race because everybody is compressed on the course so there's a lot of people around you all the time.

    We ran with a pretty even pace throughout except for a 15:25(!!) last mile (mile lap times below). You see we screwed up at the end. They weren't calling out lap counts (at least not for us) and we lost track. We stopped after the 25th lap thinking we were finished, got the medal, turned in the timing chip, started to walk to the car and everything. But then we got to thinking that our "time" seemed a bit too good for our pace. "Shoot, we better check..." Sure enough we were short a lap. So we had to go collect our chips out of the bucket, run the last lap (clutching medal in hand), and finish. We would have had a 3:27 or so had we not stopped for all this time.

    I am a bit perturbed at the organization for not calling out everyone's laps (like they did last year) and several other people I talked to complained about this too. Oh well. 3:27...3:34...it really doesn't matter I guess. All in all we had a nice tune-up marathon for Boston.

    50 334 Robert Lawson 40 M Bexley OH 3:34:51
    1: 10:22 10:22
    2: 7:49 18:11
    3: 7:52 26:02
    4: 7:43 33:45
    5: 7:51 41:35
    6: 7:51 49:25
    7: 7:44 57:09
    8: 7:55 1:05:03
    9: 7:50 1:12:53
    10: 7:59 1:20:51
    11: 7:51 1:28:42
    12: 7:51 1:36:32
    13: 7:50 1:44:21
    14: 8:34 1:52:55
    15: 7:53 2:00:47
    16: 7:56 2:08:43
    17: 7:48 2:16:31
    18: 7:59 2:24:29
    19: 8:00 2:32:28
    20: 8:01 2:40:29
    21: 7:40 2:48:08
    22: 7:33 2:55:41
    23: 7:55 3:03:35
    24: 7:50 3:11:25
    25: 8:02 3:19:26
    26: 15:25 3:34:51

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:32 AM in Sports

    February 14, 2008
    Play Ball!

    Not yet, unfortunately, but I have a guest post on Sabernomics. I compare the Macon Braves move to Rome in 2003 to the upcoming move of the Richmond Braves to Gwinnett County.

    Speaking of Sabernomics, the paperback edition of JC's book is will be out on February 26.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:31 AM in Sports

    February 08, 2008
    Hiking for Dollars

    A few years ago one of my favorite students came in to ask me to sign off on his early (December instead of May) graduation form. I began to launch into my "why the heck would you want to leave college early--don't you know the real world sucks" lecture, but he stopped me short by saying he wanted to hike the 2175 mile Appalachian Trail and needed to start in March. Oh. Now that's a good reason to graduate early! I signed his form eagerly. He completed the hike and then moved to "do good" work in Oregon.

    Now he wants to hike the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail that runs from the Mexico border through California, Oregon, and Washington. Here's a section from his letter to friends:

    If only I had been mature enough to listen to my advisor Dr. Lawson, and pursue a Master /PH.D in Economics and trust that my faith would always be there for me to explore later. Yet, my naive ears did not listen. As many of you know I left Capital for the wonders of the world, exploring the east coast as I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail the summer after my graduation... I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corp and worked for joy and love, having all my material needs provided for through this program and given a monthly stipend of $80.00.

    He's trying to raise $2650 ($1 per mile) for charity along the way.

    Who am I to say he chose wrong? He sounds plenty wealthy to me.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:08 AM in Sports

    More on Sports Pork

    In today's AJC, JC Bradbury takes on the Gwinnett Braves deal. Well done JC!

    A previous post on the Gwinnett give away is here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:24 AM in Sports

    January 21, 2008
    "an opus of avalanche activity"

    When the Mt. Washington avalanche risk is 'HIGH' do not go hiking in Huntington Ravine.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:32 AM in Sports

    Run, Lance, Run!

    Lance Armstrong is running the Boston Marathon this year, and unlike most people running for charity, he actually qualified the old fashioned way.

    BOSTON - Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong plans to run the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for his foundation.

    Armstrong, 36, qualified for Boston by finishing the 2007 New York City Marathon in two minutes hours 46 minutes 43 seconds, good for 214th place. The Boston qualifying time is 3:15 for men between the ages of 35 and 39.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:32 AM in Sports

    January 19, 2008
    Football as king c. 1908

    From the Jan. 19, 1908 NYT we learn that football was king in Michigan even back then:

    At the annual Michigan Athletic Association today it was shown that the total receipts of the last fiscal year were $33,894 [$776,000 in 2006 dollars]. Of this ammount, football brought in $25,894 [$580,000 in 2006 dollars and 76% of total revenue]. The baseball games lost $800 and track athletics $2,666. The management put $18,000 into the Ferry Field improvement fund and has a balance of $7,816. Last year the balance carried over was $10,545.
    In 2006, football at the University of Michigan generated $50.982 million in revenues, approximately 83% of all athletics related revenue (Equity in Athletics data here).

    We know that Michigan football is worth more today than one hundred years ago, but it is interesting to see that Michigan football is worth more today relative to the other sports on campus.

    January 15, 2008
    Oink, Oink--Sports Pork

    From an AJC article on Atlanta's AAA baseball team moving from Richmond to a $38m taxpayer funded stadium in Gwinnett County GA:

    Last July, a consultant reported building a stadium with 5,500 permanent seats and grass seating for another 1,500 would cost $25 million to $30 million. Such a stadium also would include 16 private suites, 300 club seats and 2,300 parking spaces within walking distance of the stadium.

    Convention, Sports & Leisure International, the Minnesota-based consulting firm hired by the Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau, found that building and operating such a stadium could create hundreds of jobs, generate up to $7 million in consumer spending every year and generate as much as $12 million in tax revenue over a 30-year period.

    The firm's study concluded that Gwinnett County provides "one of the strongest markets in the country to support a minor-league baseball team."

    News reports in Richmond say community leaders are angry over the minor league team's departure from their community after more than four decades.

    But at least one sports industry figure there says the loss is more emotional than financial.

    "I dont think the direct economic impact of the Braves being here or not is that great," said John Lugbill, executive director of the Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers, a public-private sports commisson partially funded by tax dollars. "But the positive attributes to the community are important."

    See also Skip Sauer's post at The Sports Economist; be sure to read Rod Fort's comment on the post.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 06:03 PM in Economics ~ in Sports

    January 06, 2008
    Mike Lester, Sports Economist


    Background: Rome has been selected to host the 2008 and 2009 NAIA national championship football games. Local officials estimate a $1-1.5 million local economic impact.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:37 PM in Economics ~ in Sports

    December 22, 2007
    Basket ball c. 1907

    Just how bad was basketball in the early days? The Dec. 22, 1907 NYT reports on the Penn-Army basketball game from the night before:

    By a score of 22 to 21 the University of Pennsylvania defeated the cadet basket ball team here to-day. With five seconds to play and only one goal needed to give the soldiers the lead, the excitement was intense, both teams playing frantically.

    In the first half McNicholl made three goals and Fitzpatrick added a point from the foul line. The half ended with the score 7 to 10 in favor of West Point.

    How painful was that to watch? How painful would it be to watch a game like that today?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:16 PM in Sports

    More on the Mitchell Report

    Earlier this week I posted on shoddy inference based on the Mitchell Report. Today's NYT has a column from Jonathan Cole and Stephen Stigler:

    An examination of the data on the players featured in the Mitchell report suggests that in most cases the drugs had either little or a negative effect.

    For pitchers identified by the report, we looked at the annual earned run average for their major league careers. For hitters we examined batting averages, home runs and slugging percentages. We then compared each player’s yearly performance before and after he is accused of having started using performance-enhancing drugs. After excluding those with insufficient information for a comparison, we were left with 48 batters and 23 pitchers.

    For pitchers there was no net gain in performance and, indeed, some loss. Of the 23, seven showed improvement after they supposedly began taking drugs (lower E.R.A.’s), but 16 showed deterioration (higher E.R.A.’s). Over all, the E.R.A.’s rose by 0.5 earned runs per game. Roger Clemens is a case in point: a great pitcher before 1998, a great (if increasingly fragile) pitcher after he is supposed to have received treatment. But when we compared Clemens’s E.R.A. through 1997 with his E.R.A. from 1998 on, it was worse by 0.32 in the later period.

    Hitters didn’t fare much better. For the 48 batters we studied, the average change in home runs per year “before” and “after” was a decrease of 0.246. The average batting average decreased by 0.004. The average slugging percentage increased by 0.019 — only a marginal difference. So while some batters increased their totals, an equal number had falloffs. Most showed no consistent improvement, several showed variable performance and some may have extended the years they played at a high level, although that is a difficult question to answer.

    Some players improved and some declined. But the pattern for the individuals’ averages was consistent, and the variability of players (with the exception of home run counts) was low. There is no example of a mediocre player breaking away from the middle of the pack and achieving stardom with the aid of drugs.

    They do offer a caveat:

    It is possible (but not addressable by these data) that one effect of drugs is to help players compensate for decline as they age, and thus to extend their careers. But there is no evidence in these data for performance enhancement above previous levels.

    HT: JC Bradbury

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:00 AM in Sports

    December 21, 2007
    Wildcat football c. 1907

    From the Dec. 21, 1907 NYT:

    Intercollegiate football, which has been barred from the Northwestern University two years, will be resumed at the opening of the season of 1908. The decision of the Trustees was read to-day by President Harris in the presence of 1,500 students, and was greated with cheers. The annual football contests, however, are to be limited to three intercollegiate games.
    Northwestern's record in 1908? 0-2 in the Western Conference, tied for dead last with Iowa, and 2-2 overall.

    In the ensuing years (1908-2004), Northwestern amassed an overall winning percentage of 0.391 (900 games, 340 wins, 536 losses, 24 ties).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:47 PM in Sports

    December 19, 2007
    A Not-So-Freaky Link?

    The Freakonomics blog links to a chart (published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) which reports that 46 of the players named in the Mitchell Report improved their performance in one or both of the two years after they supposedly started taking steriods. There are a lot of issues that can be raised here--is the Mitchell Report correct? what if these players were taking roids before the date cited by Mitchell? wouldn't some of the players improve because they had not yet hit the peak age of 28 or so? isn't it a stretch to claim that the juice helped some players in the second year after they started using but not in the first?--but here's a more fundamental issue: The Mitchell Report named 86 players so finding 46 (a mere 54%) that improved might well nothing more than random chance. Indeed, 46 is less than one standard deviation (4.6) away from 43 for a binomial distribution with n=86 and p=.5. Could it be that the Freakonomics guys have been, ahem, fooled by randomness?

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:50 PM in Sports

    December 17, 2007
    Hot Stove League c. 1907

    From the Dec. 17, 1907 NYT:

    It is announced in Washington that the fans there will not have a chance to see the Senators in uniform until the opening game of the season, which should be a matter of satisfaction to National Capital fandom. Manager Cantillon will again lead his troupe of alleged players to Galveston, where he will sift out their baseball knowledge for a month and then play minor league clubs on the return trip to Washington.
    Ouch, with love like that it's a wonder it took the team another 53 years to relocate (ultimately to Minneapolis, MN in 1961).

    Representative of the shady dealings before the era of free-agency began (again) in 1976:

    Chicago White Sox say they were double crossed in a deal for Ira Thomas, one of the Yankees catchers, who was obtained by Detroit. They fail, however, to say how the double crossing was accomplished.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:27 PM in Sports

    December 07, 2007
    College Football Head Coach Salaries
    This year, for the first time, the average earnings of the 120 major-college football coaches hit $1 million, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

    I'm sure the sports econ guys are already all over this, but for a casual observer like me, this is really neat.

    USA Today has a detailed report on college head football coach compensation. My buddy Ravi writes, "Hit the "Click Here" near the top of the article for an interactive spreadsheet with salaries AND CONTRACTS for all the Division I-A college football coaches. Lots of surprises - who'd have guessed Joe Pa would be on the bottom end of the list?" (Note: requires Macromedia Flash.) Stoops is on top, of course, at $3.62m. Auburn's Tubberville is way up there, too, and that's before his recent extension. A&M's new hire, Mike Sherman, will be at $1.8m. There is an option for dollars per win, too.

    Ladies and gentlemen, start your regressions.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 09:15 AM in Sports

    December 03, 2007
    On the forward pass c. 1907

    From the Dec. 3, 1907 NYT:

    Walter Camp, Yale's athletic adviser, to-day came out against the present rule in a statement in the Yale Daily News, in which he said:

    "The American collegian, whether spectator or player, does not care for a game in which the element of chance is paramount. He likes to see or play a game where hard work counts and a game where definite planning secures well appreciated results. For this reason he does not care for the unlimited forward pass, which can now be tried without severe penalty on first and second down. Throwing the ball around indiscriminately may be the last resort of a weak or inferior team, and, as such, is unsatisfactory.

    Thus, even legends have bad ideas from time to time.

    On the other hand, the current BCS format seems to include an "element of chance" and evidently folks outside of Ohio and Louisiana aren't satisfied.

    Disclaimer below the fold.

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:21 PM in Sports

    December 02, 2007
    Army-Navy c. 1907

    The Dec. 1, 1907 NYT reports:



    30,000 Enthusiastic Persons See the Sturdy Naval and Military Youngsters Fight Their Annual Football Battle at Philadelphia.

    On Dec. 1, 2007, Navy beats Army 38-3.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:09 PM in Sports

    November 17, 2007
    'Rounding third and heading for home'

    I am sad today. Joe Nuxhall, The Ol' Lefthander, has died.

    Joe Nuxhall, who became the youngest player in modern major league history when he pitched in one game for the 1944 Reds at age 15, then went on to spend more than half a century with Cincinnati as a pitcher and broadcaster, died Thursday in Fairfield, Ohio, outside Cincinnati. He was 79.

    I am really sad today.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 07:50 AM in Sports

    November 16, 2007
    SEAs, etc.

    Like most of the the DoL crew (Josh, Frank, Craig, Tim, Ed, and Mike D.), I'll be at the Southern Economic Association meeting in New Orleans next week (Saturday-Wednesday).

    Aside from the conference itself, I'm looking forward to a couple of meals at Mr. B's on Royal Street, my favorite restaurant on earth. You haven't lived until you've eaten the barbecued shrimp there. Of course the butter in the recipe (1.5 sticks per serving) may just kill you!

    Anyway, here are a few items from the grab bag.

    1. Wired magazine reports on some nasty malware that hackers have embedded in web ads on sites like the Economist,

    The worst-case scenario used to be that online ads are pesky, memory-draining distractions. But a new batch of banner ads is much more sinister: They hijack personal computers and bully users until they agree to buy antivirus software.

    And the ads do their dirty work even if you don't click on them.

    [HT: Dave.]

    (2) Looking for a good workout regime? Consider the daily workouts offered up by navyseals.com. Muy loco.

    (3) I'll be running the Ole Man River Half Marathon Sunday in New Orleans. I've never run a half before as such. My fastest split time in a full marathon was 1:31 so I'm hoping to run this in around 1:28 (6:43 pace). Last week's Forestry Preserve Trail Run 5k in Auburn, Alabama was a good warmup race as I came in 3rd overall with a time of 20:30 on a pretty tough course.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:01 AM in Economics ~ in Sports

    November 14, 2007
    On Michigan Football Coaches c. 1907

    In a weird "history repeating itself" story from the November 14, 1907 NYT:

    "Hurry Up" Yost is coaching Michigan football teams for the last season this Fall, and will retire at its end and be succeeded by McGuigan, the former crack Michigan player, who is now with Vanderbilt....

    Yost has had a remarkable career on the football field. His unbroken record of victories with Michigan raised him to a place of prominence second to no coach in the country before Michigan fell before Chicago in the memorable game on Marshall Field. that defeat broke a five years' string of successes in which there were two years that Michigan was not scored on. He built up a wonderfully fast scoring machine, and rolled up enormous totals during the season by his ability to instill swift play into the Michigan eleven.

    But that was before the reform movement hit the conference colleges, and in the days of the old style game. When the new style of play was introduced Yost pooh-poohed it, but he found later that the old scheme would not go and his teams had not been taught the new...

    Sounds a lot like the current Michigan coach.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:58 AM in Sports

    November 09, 2007
    Fisking Diana Nyad

    Diana Nyad, the business of sports commentator for "Stateplace," offered some thoughts about MLB's revenue growth on this morning's program.

    Diana Nyad: It is totally surprising. In the last four years, the NFL has grown by about 25 percent a year, which sounds right. Baseball's grown by 50 percent a year. ...

    And attendance at an all-time high. One of the reasons is that they're starting to build these, you know, urban ballparks -- St. Louis and San Diego are great examples. You know, there are these beautiful retail stores. You go out for the experience, not just the ball game itself.

    Two franchises out of 28 get new ballparks and that somehow makes's the industry's revenues grow 50% per year for four years. Doubtful. Revenue generated by MLB Advanced Media is more likely (HT to JC Bradbury for the link).

    [Nyad:] And what's happened is that that kind of money by the big teams, you know, was forced a few years ago into revenue sharing. And that's why this year, we've seen the intent of that revenue sharing come to life. Just as a . . . you know, I'm not a huge baseball follower, but it was great for me, and I think a lot of people, to see the Diamondbacks, the Cleveland Indians and the Colorado Rockies instead of the perennial big-money teams. So like, the whole country now has some reason to hope that their Pittsburgh Pirates, their Baltimore Orioles, their Seattle Mariners, might make it up to the big show.

    It's not at all clear that competitive balance has increased and, if so, that revenue sharing is responsible. See John Palmer on The Sports Economist.

    Jagow: [B]aseball's economic health is pretty good right now. Are the managers going to see any of it? Because we hear about Joe Torre signing a big contract with the Dodgers, but I understand that the salaries for other baseball managers are quite low compared to other sports.

    Nyad: You're right. I was actually shocked, I had no idea -- half of the managers out there make less than $1 million a year.

    I bet managers have relatively low MRP. Few fans probably come to see a specific manager. Although they are frequently fired for team performance, managers probably have small effects on the number of games a team wins. I'm not even sure how much difference there is in strategy across managers. Managers' biggest effects may be in how they manage players' egos and personalities.

    [Nyad:] Now, we might say, "Well, that's a lot of money. Good, that's what they should be making, not these $10 million a year, give me a break."

    She doesn't use the word players, but I assume that's the $10 million dollar a year reference. Demand for players is a derived demand; player salaries are driven by team revenues (see above).

    [Nyad:] But the truth is, the baseball managers, they work like dogs. I mean, from the day the season ends, they're over in Japan recruiting, they're getting ready to bid for those free agents, which'll start next Tuesday.

    Really? I've never heard that managers recruit a la college basketball coaches. I think she's confused managers with general managers, though I'm not even sure how much time they spend scouting and recruiting in Japan.

    [Nyad:] And you know, Ozzy Guillen of the White Sox says, "We are grossly underpaid."

    Boo hoo.

    [Nyad:] I think a huge reason is the college game. There's no Major League manager who's looking to say, "Eh, I think I might go manage Arizona State next year." There's no crossover at all with the college game ...

    A reasonable point, at the margin.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:47 AM in Sports

    October 30, 2007
    A Rod. All the time.

    Man, I just can’t wait to see what happens to A Rod! Will he sign with the Yankees or go free agent?! It's all so very exciting!

    Hey, is there any other news in baseball this week?

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:02 AM in Sports

    October 26, 2007
    Pre-Season Hoops poll

    My how times have changed. Here's a Texas A&M fan (me) all excited about pre-season basketball rankings. (Thanks for nothing Fran!).

    A&M is #14. A Durant-less t.u. is #16. Kentucky is #22. Full rankings here.

    Of course, pre-season rankings are meaningless and sportswriter polls are filled with biases. Here's Noel Campbell on football polls and televised games.

    And here's another Lopez getting suspended for skipping classes.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 04:20 PM in Sports

    October 25, 2007
    College football notes c. 1907

    From the October 25, 1907 NYT:

  • Early indications do not point to a victory for Cornell over the Quakers [Pennsylvania] this Fall.

  • The two games which will be of the most interest this week are those in which Cornell meets Princeton at Ithaca and Pennsylvania plays the Indians at Philadelphia.

  • Chicago started well into its schedule of big games, beating Illinois 42 to 6. Michigan had a hard time winning from Wabash, 22 to 0.

  • The Dartmouth team, after its showing against Maine, is confident that it can defeat Amherst. This is Dartmouth's only big game besides that with Harvard on Nov. 16
  • My how things have changed.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:57 PM in Sports

    October 12, 2007
    On the World Series c. 1907

    the 1907 World Series is underway in early-mid October, with the Chicago Cubs beating the Detroit Tigers on Oct. 11, 1907 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best of seven series. Tigers fans are deflated that their team was unable to grab a victory in Game 3 and the Oct. 12, 1907 NYT reports on many aspects of the event:

  • Detroit carried off premier honors for enthusiasm. Purchasers of admission tickets began streaming out toward Bennet Park before 7 o'clock. Two hours later there were four long lines waiting for the ticket windows to open.
  • Baseball fanatics of Blue Island, a distant suburb of Chicago, resorted to carrier pigeons to carry the news of the game by innings. A pigeon fancier, accompanied by Major Gobel and a number of fans, took forty pigeons to the ball park and turned them loose after each inning to carry the news of the game to Blue Island.
  • Detroit yesterday witnessed the first world's championship contest in twenty years. In 887 Detroit, then a National League team, with it's famous "Big Four" in its line-up won the title, defeating St. Louis eleven game to four.
  • The official attendance was announced as 11,306, which is a record for Detroit, but a poor second to the Chicago crowds.

  • Posted by Craig Depken at 11:32 AM in Sports

    On Running Efficiency

    From the NYT:

    IN her prime, Joan Benoit Samuelson, one of the best female distance runners, should have been faster than Alberto Salazar, one of the best male distance runners.

    Ms. Samuelson’s running was beautifully smooth. Mr. Salazar’s was not.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:57 AM in Sports

    September 23, 2007
    Indian Run 60k

    Yesterday I ran the Indian Run 60k in the Hocking Hills (OH). My final time was 6:31:02--13th overall out of 36, 12th out of 32 men, and 3rd out of 4 men in my 40-44 age group.

    To answer your questions:

    Yes, I know this is insane.
    Yes, I know about Art DeVany 's view that running marathons (or ultra marathons) is bad for you.
    No, I don't agree with him.
    No, I don't think this is bad for my knees.
    No, I am not "running from" something, at least nothing I can think of.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:49 PM in Sports

    September 17, 2007
    Comparing Belichick to the 1951 NY Giants

    Many articles on the Belichick/video camera kerfuffle contain references to the 1951 NY Giants who, in a recent book, were said to be stealing signs using a telescope located in the outfield and a buzzer for communication. For example:

    The Patriots' three Super Bowl wins will now always be suspect thanks to a coach who not only refuses to play by the rules but also refuses to acknowledge he did anything to break them. But how about the pennant won by the 1951 New York Giants, who were using a telescope-and-buzzer system to steal signs at the Polo Grounds where Bobby Thomson hit the “Shot Heard 'Round The World?”

    Although there is no way to prove that the Giants' sign stealing didn't affect the 1951 pennant race, I have a forthcoming paper showing that most of the Giants' improvement after they started stealing signs came from better pitching not better hitting. Indeed, the Giants scored nearly a run less (0.85) in home games after July 20 than in home games before July 20. (July 20 is the day the sign stealing scheme started according to Prager.)

    This is not to say that Belichick was not stealing signs or that his sign stealing had no effect. (Yesterday's results--Patriot blowout of a good San Diego team and another Jet loss--suggest stolen signs had little to do with the Pats thumping of the Jets.) It does mean that writers should think twice about asserting that the Giants stole the pennant in 1951.

    ADDENDUM: An astute reader asks if my results for the 1951 Giants might reflect a general trend of improving pitching over the course of a season. Two answers. First, my analysis of Giant hitting controls for the quality of the opposing team's starting pitcher. (I use ERA, but I also tried more sabermetric measures like HR rate and BB rate.) Second, the trend in 1951 might have been different, but the current trend is for pitching to deteriorate over the course of the season (here; scroll down to the section labeled "Months").

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:33 AM in Sports

    September 13, 2007
    Speaking of hockey

    According to ESPN, the NHL will soon announce that a regular-season game will be played in an outdoor venue on January 1, 2008. Outdoor hockey? But won't the ice melt? One guess which city they picked.

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Get ready for an NHL big chill on New Year's Day: Penguins at Sabres in an outdoor game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

    The league is set to announce next week that the Buffalo Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins, a person familiar with the event told The Associated Press, in what would be the NHL's second outdoor game.

    Buffalo is considered an ideal location to host the game, and not only because of its reputation for cold, bitter winters. The Sabres' attendance has risen dramatically: last season's Presidents' Trophy-winning team sold out all of its 41 regular-season games.

    HT: Mitch Mitchell for the title phrase.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 05:05 PM in Sports

    September 09, 2007
    Erie Marathon Report

    I ran the Erie Marathon today. It rained either hard or very hard the entire way, but I managed to run a nice time: 3:14:40 (about 7:25/mile pace). This is about a minute off my PR (Personal Record) but is good enough for a BQ (Boston Qualifying time). :-)

    I've never felt so awful immediately after a marathon as today, but I feel pretty good now after several hours (of course that could be the celebratory beers talking!)

    Times below the fold (for running nerds):

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:31 PM in Sports

    August 20, 2007
    Charleston Peak


    Ben Powell (Suffolk University) and Ed Lopez (SJSU and Liberty Fund) and I hiked up Charleston Peak (11,918') outside of Las Vegas in July. We lucked out with beautiful clear skies and warm temps (it can be quite cold even in July). There was no snow at all unlike the last time I hiked it (aslo in July).


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:56 AM in Sports

    August 11, 2007
    Tiger had a good day yesterday

    Odds of winning the PGA championship before the tournament started on Thursday:
    Tiger Woods 5/2
    Field (all others) 9/5

    Odds this morning, after Tiger shot a 63 on Friday:
    Tiger Woods 1/5
    Field (all others) 5/1

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 07:11 PM in Sports

    July 26, 2007
    "Doping debacle"
    (USA TODAY) -- What's the French phrase for "doping debacle"? VICTORY BEFORE DEFEAT: Rasmussen wins stage before removal from Tour

    Rasmussen, 33, had claimed to be in Mexico his wife is Mexican but was actually in Italy, working with an unidentified physician. The ruse was discovered when a former pro racer saw him training in the Italian Dolomites June 13 and 14 and gave that information to a Danish TV station on Wednesday.

    Rasmussen missed four mandatory tests in the last 18 months and is also under investigation for shipping banned blood products in 2002.

    "We did all we could do to get rid of him," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told Agence France-Presse.

    Rasmussen wasn't the first rider to be ousted Wednesday. Italian Cristian Moreni, who was part of a riders' anti-doping protest at the start of Wednesday's stage, was taken into custody at the finish line because his urine sample from the July 19 stage tested positive for testosterone. He admitted his guilt, and his French Cofidis team left the race.

    Prerace favorite Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and his Astana team were expelled Tuesday after he tested positive for blood doping after his July 21 time trial win.

    Yikes. Sad. I was really impressed with Rasmussen's poise throughout the Tour. Yesterday's stage win was truly impressive.

    I break lines with a lot of my libertarian friends when it comes to doping. Though like any self-respecting libertarian, I think such drugs should be legal, I strongly support the bans imposed by the sports authorities governing the various sports. I notice that a lot of my libertarian friends disagree and support Barry Bonds and others accused of doping. But rules are rules boys. (As a libertarian I'm opposed to government not governance.*)

    What I found really odd was how the Versus TV announcers made no mention yesterday of Vinokourov's ouster (ok I could have missed it but I watched almost the whole stage last night on tape). This after singing his praises for two weeks.

    *It is a fair question to ask if the sports' bans on doping would continue if the state ended its jihad against drugs.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:24 PM in Sports

    July 17, 2007
    On Breakaways in the Tour de France

    From USA Today comes this example of sports economics:

    The escapees in Tuesday's stage were out front for more than six hours and 145 miles, only to be absorbed with the finish line in sight. If they hadn't taken a roadside restroom stop early on, they might have kept overall leader Fabian Cancellara of Team CSC from taking a surprise stage win.

    There was a method to their breakaway madness: Frenchmen Nicolas Vogondy of the Agritubel team and Matthieu Ladagnous of Franзaise des Jeux got more American TV time Tuesday than French President Nicolas Sarkozy gets in a month.

    Tour teams are financed by corporate sponsors, so think of breakaways as commercials with wheels. Most of Tuesday's stage was an extended infomercial for Agritubel's cattle-restraint devices and FDJ's French national lottery.

    Agritubel, a non-ProTour team that got a wild-card spot in the event, has been especially aggressive about getting riders out front. It was Cedric Hervй on Monday. Look for Nicolas Jalabert today.

    ADDENDUM (7/18): Co-blogger Bob points me a similar instance in this year's Boston Marathon:

    At yesterday's 111th Boston Marathon, two Kenyan athletes with slim credentials appeared to be trying to steal the race, when in fact they were simply stealing television time, promoting a running shoe ...

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:24 PM in Sports

    June 28, 2007
    Ashland Chautauqua

    Kudos and a big ol' shout out to my college roommate, former DoLer, and Ashland University history professor, John Moser for his fantastic performance as Howard Cosell last night at the Ashland (Ohio) Sports and Society Chautauqua. Well done John!

    If you're in the area, there's still three more nights left with performances of Bobby Jones, Alta Weiss, and Joe Louis still to come.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:00 AM in Sports

    June 14, 2007
    Billy Donovan Night at the Ballpark

    Fort Myers, Fla. — A minor league baseball team will poke fun at the University of Florida coach who backed out of his deal with the Orlando Magic when the Fort Myers Miracle host "Billy Donovan Night" on June 20.

    Just like Donovan escaped his five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Magic, fans can try to negotiate their way out of their ticket purchase.

    The contract, in this case, is the ticket. Fans will have up to the first three innings to restructure their deal, but even that's negotiable.

    The price of the ticket, the seat location and even a buyout can be arranged. Part of the negotiating process will involve making a free throw.

    The Miracle will have Fort Myers defense attorney Michael Hornung on site to negotiate settlements. Hornung attended the same high school — St. Agnes on Long Island, N.Y. — as Donovan.

    A Fort Myers man who shares the coach's name is scheduled to throw out the first pitch. After that, waffles — to poke fun at the coach's "waffling" — will be served. And hair gel, mocking Donovan's slick look, will be handed out.

    Story here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:34 AM in Sports

    June 12, 2007
    New paper about the Cowboys Stadium Referendum in Arlington

    Colleague Mike Ward and ex-colleague Carolyn Dehring and myself have recently submitted the second of potentially three papers concerning the November 2004 Cowboys Stadium referendum in Arlington. The second paper available here at SSRN focuses on the impact of the potential stadium on local property values and how those impacts influenced precinct-level support for the stadium vote.

    We find fairly compelling evidence that precincts in which property values increased with the probability that the stadium would be built in Arlington provided more support for the stadium referendum - what we claim is a direct test of the so-called Homevoter Hypothesis.

    Here are the details:

    A Direct Test of the Homevoter Hypothesis

    We propose a methodology that facilitates a direct test of the homevoter hypothesis, which posits that homeowner/voter support for a public good project is positively related to the project’s expected effect on property values. First, we estimate how events that indicate an increasing probability that the public good project will be undertaken impact local residential property values before the referendum is held. These pre-vote impacts are considered noisy signals to homeowners about the market’s assessment of the net marginal benefits of the project. Second, we aggregate these market signals to the precinct level and relate them to precinct-level voting results concerning the proposed project. We apply this method to the 2004 referendum in Arlington, Texas, concerning a publicly subsidized stadium to host the NFL Dallas Cowboys. The analysis supports the homevoter hypothesis and establishes a possible methodology for future evaluations in this small but growing empirical literature.

    The first paper available here investigates the impact of the pending stadium referendum on property values in Arlington relative to the surrounding areas.

    Cross posted at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:16 PM in Sports

    May 25, 2007
    Sports headlines c. 1907

    Baseball fans seem to be of two minds when it comes to Barry Bonds nearing (and ultimately breaking) the homerun record of Hank Aaron. What should not be lost, however, is that one of these days there will be newspaper headlines around the country mentioning Barry Bonds and the record. In the distant future people might be somewhat jealous that we were living at the time.

    Consider this example from the May 25, 1907 NYT:

    Cy Young Blanks the Browns

    ST. LOUIS, May 24 - Boston defeated St. Louis today 4 to 0. Powell was hit freely, while the locals were unable to hit Young. Powell fielded poorly, and two errors by him materially assisted the visitors in scoring.

    St. Louis had five hits to Boston's nine, and St. Louis had three errors to Boston's none.

    Strike outs: Powell 5, Young 1.

    Time of Game: One hour and twenty-six minutes.

    Those reading the headline 100 years ago likely had no idea that today we would be jealous of seeing Cy Young. Regardless of one's opinion about Barry Bonds, we should remember that others will be jealous of us one day.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:16 PM in Sports

    May 15, 2007
    On race bias in NBA foul calling

    Update on racial bias in NBA foul calling. You might recall Penn economist Justin Wolfers and co-author making NYT's front page for their preliminary work concluding that referees were more likely to call fouls on players of different race. The NBA counter-argued that the Wolfers study didn't have data on individual referees' race. After some back and forth, the league has now shared its referee race data with Wolfers, who has re-run some regressions. And ESPN hired a third party economist, Thomas Miles at Chicago law, to weigh in. Miles likes the Wolfers story better.

    Seldom do preliminary results get so much attention, right? And seldom do arcane econometrics get such detailed discussion in the news.

    New ESPN write up here.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 04:11 PM in Sports

    May 02, 2007
    On baseball salaries c. 1907

    The May 2, 1907 NYT reports from Albany, NY:

    A decision of interest to baseball magnates and players was handed down yesterday by the Court of Appeals against the New York Baseball Club of the National League and in favor of Fred Pfeffer. Pfeffer was under contract by which he claimed he was to receive $2,400 a year and $600 additional for playing to the best of his ability. He claimed to have been suspended unjustly, it being charged he was not in playing condition. He sued for $800 and interest. His claim was afterward assigned to Frank Russell, who has finally won after a long litigation.
    Fred Pfeffer played professional baseball from 1882 through 1897. In 1896 he played four games with the New York Giants (the NL team) and had 14 at bats with 2 hits. Later that year he was traded or resigned with the Chicago Cubs and played 94 games with 88 hits in 360 at bats (a batting average of .244 - not great but not terrible).

    Thus, the salary in question was from the 1896 season. The story doesn't report on the total amount of interest involved, but assuming an interest rate of 5% (high or low?), the entire award would amount to approximately $1300. If Russell took a thirty percent contingency fee (high or low? I admit I don't know what the norm was back then), this would leave Pfeffer with $871.

    If we assume the $800 represents the economic damages incurred for being fired, and the base salary was $2,400, this would imply that Pfeffer's reservation wage (essentially the value of his best alternative to baseball for the NY Giants) was around $1,600. His reservation wage might have been considerably lower than this, which would have implied a larger claim in the law suit, but he might have chosen the amount for which to sue in a strategic fashion. *

    Nevertheless, I find this little tidbit of data of interest because we have very little information on particular player salaries from the early days of baseball. I have a working paper with former UTA Masters student Jennifer Ashcraft analyzing unique salary data I discovered from the 1880s (available here) and there are some aggregate numbers (mainly average salaries) that have been revealed during various law suits over the years, but during the early days of professional baseball salaries were not revealed as openly as today.

    One more player observation on baseball salaries doesn't help a whole lot, but let's take a crack at "robust inference on one observation" (my forthcoming Nobel-winning magnum opus).

    Fred Pfeffer was an average hitter, especially as he primarily played second base and shortstop (positions that historically weren't expected to generate above-average batting numbers). Pfeffer's career statistics were a .255 batting average, a .312 on base percentage, and a .369 slugging percentage; all fair-to-middling' numbers. If the salary for an average player like Pfeffer was $2,400 but Pfeffer's reservation wage was somewhere in the area of $1,600, perhaps Pfeffer (and other players?) had more negotiating power under the reserve clause than is generally believed.**

    The negotiated wage between Pfeffer and the Giants fell between Pfeffer's reservation wage and Pfeffer's marginal revenue product. What was his MRP? My work with Ashcraft suggested that the average ratio of MRP to wages amongst the best players in the game during the 1880s averaged 2.5. Thus, the so-called contract zone might have had a lower bound of $1,600 and an upper bound of $6,000. This would suggest that Pfeffer was able to negotiate about 18% of the $4,400 difference between his MRP and reservation wage, with the team keeping the rest of the difference.

    This would seem to be back-of-the-envelope-consistent with the numbers in the Ashcraft-Depken piece.

    How cool is that.

    * HT to colleague Mike Ward for ealier discussion that led to this post.

    ** [tongue-in-cheek] My magnum opus titled "Robust Inference on One Observation - How to Win Every Argument Every Time" is replete with sentences filled with parentheticals, and hypotheticals. Unfortunately, publishers (okay, one) have taken a dim view of my work from which I can only conclude that all publishers are idiots.

    Cross posted at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:04 PM in Sports

    On coaches salaries c. 1907

    The May 2, 1907 NYT reports from Princeton, N.J.:

    George R. Murray, the general athletic Treasurer for Princeton University, to-day gave out the statement of the baseball association for the half year ended Jan. 1, 1907. The report shows a net profit of $11,78.34 for the season. The heaviest expenses being the coaches' salaries, $4,844.92, and training table, $3,159.11.
    Princeton baseball coaches were paid 103,865 2005 CPI adjusted dollars. That's considerably lower than coaches today are paid (en masse). The Department of Education and the NCAA gather data on athletic department budgets, primarily for Title IX concerns. In 2003, the last year public data are available, Princeton paid the average men's head coach $77,550 and the average men's assistant coach $56,200.

    If the men's baseball team had 1 head coach and three assistant coaches. I don't have access to the actual salaries of these four individuals, but if they are paid the average at Princeton, total coaching salaries would total $246,000.

    Are coaches today worth twice (in real terms) as they were 100 years ago, assuming Princeton coaches are paid the average salaries at Princeton? This would imply a growth rate in coaches real salaries of approximately 1.4% per year. I might believe that growth rate, after all has the marginal productivity of a good baseball coach changed all that much over the past 100 years? Moreover, as baseball is rarely a revenue generating sport (and it doesn't seem to be at Princeton), the value of marginal product is likely changing very little.

    Granted, if the Princeton coaches are paid more than the average, then the growth rate would be a bit higher. However, the increase in coaches salaries have been greatest in football and basketball (both men's and women's) where the greatest amount of rents are gathering and with the players not being paid those rents are being distributed (to some extent) to the coaches of those particular sports.

    Whether there is any largess for the coaches of non-revenue generating sports (where coaches likely have lower opportunity costs, lower productivity gains, and lower amounts of rent-generation) is an interesting empirical question. I am not sure if the data to answer that question are readily available, but it would prove an interesting dissertation topic.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:25 PM in Sports

    April 25, 2007
    World's worst metaphor?

    I think the best writing in newspapers is often found on the sports pages, but this line from Saturday's Columbus Dispatch by writer Jim Massie was a real groaner:

    CINCINNATI --With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Reds looked more uncomfortable lost than a polar bear up to its white, furry haunches in a Sahara Desert sand dune."

    I hope Jim was drinking when he came up with that one!

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:39 PM in Sports

    April 18, 2007
    Boston recap

    Thanks to everyone for your e-mails about the marathon. I had three goals going in:

    (1) Requalify for Boston with a 3:20.
    (2) Beat my bib number (6252)
    (3) Have fun!

    I ran a 3:29:20 so I failed to requalify, but I did beat my bib number coming in 5363 out of 20038, and I also had lots of fun. The fans in Boston are simply the best (a special nod to the gals at Wellesley College!). As Meatloaf said, two out of three ain't bad. Oh yea, the weather wasn't nearly as bad as the media made it sound. We had light rain in the beginning and only occasional gusts of wind and it got better throughout the day.

    Split times (unofficial) are below the fold for you running geeks.

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:44 AM in Sports

    April 17, 2007
    Sports heroes c. 1907

    The April 17, 1907 NYT reports the following:

    Max Spitzner, who won the National gymnastic championship in several events in the contests at the Madison Square Garden last year, to-day lost his left arm.

    It was torn away by machinery in a camera factory in which he was employed. Spitzner was the champion gymnast of Connecticut.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 07:43 PM in Sports

    April 14, 2007
    Holy #$*@!
    Weather Advisory - 2007 Boston Marathon:

    The most up-to-date weather forecast calls for a predicted Spring storm on Monday, including heavy rains (potentially 3 to 5 inches), with the start temperatures in the mid to upper 30's. Wind will likely be East (in the face of the participants for most of the race) in the 20 to 25 mile per hour range, with gusts to as much as 50 miles per hour. This will produce a wind chill index of 25 to 30-degrees Fahrenheit.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:10 AM in Sports

    April 13, 2007
    Boston Marathon

    Tomorrow I'm off to run Monday's Boston Marathon. Alas, it looks like a Nor'easter will bring heavy rain, high headwinds, and temps in the high 30s/low 40s. So much for a good time (in either sense)!

    My bib number is 6252 (out of 22,500). If you want to follow along, the website will post 5k splits in (almost) real time. The race begins at 10 a.m. and is broadcast by the Versus tv network.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:24 PM in Sports

    April 12, 2007
    Opening day c. 1907

    The April 12, 1907 NYT reports on opening day in professional baseball:

    The largest crowd that ever witnessed an athletic event in this city saw New York win the opening game of the American League season here to-day by the score of 3 to 2. There were 12,902 paid admissions...
    The Yankees in 2007 will have something like 60,000 paid admissions for their opening day.

    Opening day attendance is therefore up approximately five-fold. And while nominal ticket prices [for the Yankees] have increased from $0.50 to somewhere around $50, in real terms this is also about a five-fold increase: from about $10 to about $50.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:09 AM in Sports

    April 11, 2007
    Detroit and gloom c. 1907

    The April 11, 1907 NYT reports on opening day in Major League Baseball. Much like this season, many teams are faced with the "odd" occurrence of snow on the ground in April. Take Detroit:

    Detroit has Gloomy Outlook

    Gloomy are the baseball fans whose appetites have been whetted since Hugh Jennigs became Manager of the team. It has snowed off an on for three days, and this morning broke with two inches of the white mantle on earth. Some moderation gave hopes but the weather man gives little hope. Secretary Navin says the game will be played if the snow isn't too deep, but the outlook is a cold, uncomfortable day. The advance sale equalled the park's capacity. The team is on edge and has shown well.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:03 AM in Sports

    April 02, 2007
    Which Team Should I Cheer For?

    Time for a bit of DOL frivolity. Thanks to a colleague who has an extra ticket, I'm going to tonight's NCAA Championship game in Atlanta. I have no connections to either Florida or Ohio State so I'm wondering which team I should cheer for. I've opened comments until I leave about 3:30 this afternoon. Arguments based on economics (or the economics departments at the two schools) will be most convincing.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:08 AM in Sports  ·  Comments (3)

    March 29, 2007
    What's the point? c. 1907

    File this in the "why did we try that?" drawer. The March 29, NYT reports from Memphis, TN:

    John W. Schorr, prominent in the past in the ownership of thoroughbred horses, has volunteered his services as starter at the matinee racing to be held here on April 6 by horsemen who will experiment in holding horse races with the betting feature eliminated... [emphasis added]
    I guess that niche market didn't pan out.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:25 AM in Sports

    The Baseball Economist

    I have just finished reading J.C. Bradbury's The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the economics of baseball or sabermetrics (the statistical analysis of baseball).

    J.C. has first rate discussions on a number of baseball issues such as hit batsmen, hitters "protecting" each other in the line up, the absense of left-handed catchers, and coaching prowess in lobbying umpires (though I thought this was the weakest chapter). He also breaks down the myths about large market teams dominating small market teams and explains that the sudden explosion of hitting had a lot to do with the league's expansion (without denying the possible steroid connection). His economic analysis of the game in terms of player values and the supposed monopoly power of MLB is also excellent.

    The best thing is that now I have a reply to the folks on the street who ask me about Freakonomics. I will say “yea that’s an ok book, but you should read The Baseball Economist if you want to really see how economists think.”

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:10 AM in Economics ~ in Sports

    Nesbit/Sobel Nascar News

    My former student Todd Nesbit and good friend Russ Sobel are making some news in the blogosphere and elsewhere with their views on Nascar's "Car of Tomorrow."

    From SI.Com:

    In 2006, Todd Nesbit, assistant professor of economics at Penn State Erie, and Russell Sobel, professor of economics at West Virginia University, produced a study that explored how drivers react to having cars so safe that they can generally walk away with no injuries after crashing into a concrete wall or another car at a very high rate of speed. "Based on results of our study, we would project that drivers will drive more recklessly and take more risks while driving the Car of Tomorrow," Nesbit said.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:44 AM in Sports

    March 27, 2007
    Now this is real March Madness
    A cricket fan committed suicide while another died of a heart attack in India after watching their national team's crushing defeat to Sri Lanka in the World Cup match in the Caribbean, police said on Sunday.

    Upset over India's loss and after having an argument with his wife, 25-year-old farmer Mahadeb Sarkar hung himself after the match in the village of Bajitpur in West Bengal.

    His wife, Sadhana, who was also upset about the defeat, tried to hang herself in another room, but she survived.


    HT: Saurav Roychoudhury

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:46 PM in Sports

    February 27, 2007
    Baseball rules c. 1907

    The Feb. 27, 1907 NYT reports the final schedule for the National and American League baseball teams I hesitate to say that hope was in the air the same as today because there had only been three World Series and therefore an utter lack of ~100 year droughts that make people avid fans of teams like the Cubs, White Sox, and Red Sox.

    The article also reports on several rule changes - some of which are still with us today. Rule changes in most sports are generally intended to increase the social welfare of the league members - teams and players - by making the game safer for the players, safer for the fans, and/or more entertaining for fans (which implies that fans will be willing to spend more to attend the events and increasing the returns to players, managers, and owners).

    Many times rule changes aim to improve offensive efficiency, and hence scoring, as it is believed that fans like to see scoring. Other rule changes are intended to bolster the defense and improve the parity of the league, as it is believed fans like more evenly matched contests. And still other times rule changes might address off-the-field behavior, as it is believed that bad behavior of a few players might reduce the overall appeal (demand) of the sport.

    The rules changes in 1907 were as follows (with my opinion as to where the advantage lies in parentheses):

  • Rule 14: No other player except the pitcher shall be allowed to take the gloss of the ball, under a penalty of $5(?) for each offense (advantage: pitcher/defense);

  • Rule 51: A batsman stepping from one box to the other after the pitcher has taken his position shall be declared out (advantage: pitcher/defense);

  • Rule 83, Section 4: In all cases where a base runner is retired by being hit by a batted ball, unless batted by himself, the batter shall receive credit for a base hit (advantage: batter/offense);

  • Where two umpires have officiated in games it has always been the rule for the assistant umpire to decide all plays at first and second bases. This clause in the rule has been eliminated and the two umpires will have to come to an agreement about the matter (advantage: junior umpires);

  • If a catcher interferes with a batsman while striking at a pitched ball, the batsman becomes a base runner (advantage: batter/offense);

  • If there are two base runners and one passes another in an effort to make a run while the first runner is being "touched" the runner who passes is to be declared out (advantage: defense).

  • An interesting aspect of baseball rule changes is that they often aim to close a loophole that one or more teams had found and exploited in the previous rules. This is one reason I find the rules of baseball so interesting. Unlike the rules in football, which are mainly designed to keep the players from causing serious bodily harm to each other, the rules of baseball are set to limit the strategy space of managers, players, and umpires.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:24 AM in Sports

    February 09, 2007
    It's Friday--Time for Some Sports

    JC Bradbury recently bemoaned the lull between football and baseball seasons. Since I like college hoops better than football I don't share his boredom in February and March, but if you're bored like JC you might want to check out the college football recruiting model developed by Allen Lynch and his co-authors. The model correctly predicts roughly 70% of players choices which isn't too bad since most players were picking among 4-6 colleges.

    What if you like college hoops as I do? Allen can help us too. For the last 13 years or so he and Jay Coleman have been publishing The Dance Card, a formula designed to predict which teams will receive at-large tournament bids from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The Dance Card is updated every so often during the season so it's easy to keep track of which teams are on the bubble.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:35 PM in Sports

    December 31, 2006
    2006 Running Year in Review

    Total Miles: 1315.8
    Number of Runs: 195
    Average Run: 6.7
    Longest Run: 26.2
    Average/Week: 28.2
    Average Pace: 7:46
    Hours (est.): 170.4

    Yellow: individual runs
    Blue: weekly average
    Pink: two-week average

    Not as many runs/miles as last year, but a good year. In addition to setting a marathon PR, I ran post-high school PR's in the 5k (19:03), 4 mile (22:20), and 10k (40:20). Unfortunately, the year ended on a sour note as I came down with a bad case of piriformis syndrome that sidelined me for two months. I've only just begun to run again, but am still hoping to run Boston in April.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:09 PM in Sports

    December 08, 2006
    Trails.com offer

    I have subscription about to expire to Trails.com. The site has chapters from dozens of hiking books in .pdf form that you can retreive. I have 38 free downloads remaining. So if anyone wants any information about a mountain or hiking trail, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:12 AM in Sports

    December 05, 2006
    Two cheers for the Bowl system

    Every year we have to listen to the inevitable cries from this or that team that is left out of the big national title game in college football. This year it's Michigan. "Why can't we have a tournament like other sports or football at other levels?" they ask.

    Count me in the minority that acutally likes the Bowl game system and dislikes tournaments.

    What I don't like about tournaments is that every team, except one, finishes the season with a loss. Every team, except one, no matter how great a season they had ends up with a bitter taste, a "woulda, coulda, shoulda..." GMU basketball fans had a fantastic season last year, but let's face it, it was more bitter in the end than sweet.

    The reality is only one team can win the "national title." But I like the fact that after the bowl season is over exactly 50% of the teams in the post season will look back on the season with a warm feeling of a bowl victory.

    Sports games are inherently zero-sum, and therefore not like real life (notwithstanding all the sports/life metaphors we have to endure), but 50% winners and 50% losers strikes me as closer to real life than 1 winner and N-1 losers.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:02 AM in Sports

    December 04, 2006
    My enemy's enemy is my friend--Sports Edition

    This OSU-hating Columbus resident, who is also an FSU alumnus, has only one thing to say about the BCS championship game:


    (I can't believe I said that.)

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:11 AM in Sports

    November 28, 2006
    A different take on sports c. 1906

    The Nov. 28, 1906 NYT has an article describing some odd views on sport by the President of Harvard:

    President Charles W. Eliot, since his recent declaration that the discontinuance of football would do the university no harm, made several objections to-day to basket ball, hockey, and even baseball.

    "To discontinue football, hockey, and basket ball at Harvard would do no harm," he said. "Basket ball is very objectionable. It is too rough, and there are too many chances for cheating. The rules have been stretched so that they spoil the game. It would be a good thing, especially, to have basket ball discontinued."

    Hockey he stamped as too rough.

    "It [hockey] requires teamwork," he added, "and I must say I have no use for a game that requires that. It is not open enough, and as in basket ball, its rules have been distorted. Rowing and tennis are the only sports in which honorable play altogether is practiced. You can no more cheat in those two sports than in a game of cards; you would be crowded out of society if you tried.

    Perhaps 100 years ago the idea of team sport, outside of baseball, was looked down upon? Yet, today the most popular sports in the U.S. and worldwide are team sports.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:08 AM in Sports

    November 27, 2006
    Big Time College Football c. 1906

    The Nov. 27, 1906 NYT reports:

    Yale's entire football receipts for this season will be about $65,000. From the Yale-Harvard game each university receives about $32,000, and from the Yale-Princeton match the rivals each secured about $13,500. Yale's only other big game was with Brown, in which her share was about $2,000. The minor games will, however, bring the total up close to $65,000.
    In today's dollars, the total receipts would be about $1.5 million - not but 3-5% of some of today's highest-revenue college football programs.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:40 AM in Sports

    November 26, 2006
    Football reform c. 1906

    The 1906 college/high school football season was the first played under the new rules designed to open the game and reduce the probability of severe injury. At the end of the season, the initial impact of the reforms were reported in the Nov. 26, 1906 NYT:

    Eleven players were killed and 104 were injured in the United States during the football season according to the Chicago Tribune. These figures are compared with the casualties of 1905, when 18 players were killed and 159 severely injured, and, according to The Tribune, show that "debrutalized" football has accomplished in a large degree the object aimed at, in rendering the game less dangerous to life and limb.

    The decrease in casualties is especially marked among high school players. In the season of 1905 11 high school players were killed and 47 injured, while in the season just closed seven were killed and 25 hurt. All college and high school games this year were played under the new rules drawn up after the close of last season to satisfy the agitation for less dangerous football. This year not one fatality has occurred in the game played by the larger American colleges.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:57 AM in Sports

    November 17, 2006
    Guatemala Hiking Trip Report

    Agua and Picaya at Dawn-small.JPG

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:20 PM in Sports

    November 08, 2006
    ACORN, Voter Fraud, & Minimum Wage

    ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is self-described as "the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities."

    John Fund reports on some of ACORN's shenanigans relative to elections. The article includes these references to minimum wages.

    Its manual for minimum-wage campaigns says it intends "to push for as high a wage as possible." But it doesn't pay those wages.

    In 1995 Acorn unsuccessfully sued California to be exempt from the minimum wage, claiming that "the more that Acorn must pay each individual outreach worker . . . the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire."

    So at least one employer's demand curve for labor slopes downward.

    Posted by Wilson Mixon at 01:16 PM in Sports

    October 18, 2006
    And They Thought Jim Harrick Would Be an Improvement?

    From the AJC (via a colleague who is a UGA alum):

    Athens —Former University of Georgia basketball coach Ron Jirsa benched a player after he refused to change his major when his class schedule conflicted with practice, former UGA center Robb Dryden said this week.

    "He sat down with me, Ron Jirsa did, and this is straight from his mouth, he said, literally, verbatim, 'You need to get your priorities right; you need to change your major,' " Dryden said in an interview, recalling the exchange he had with his former coach in December 1998. "Then the bottom fell out."

    Dryden, now 30 and living in Panama City, Fla., said when he declined Jirsa's suggestion to change his engineering major to child and family development, he was dismissed from the team. And even though he was reinstated after meeting with Georgia senior associate athletics director Dick Bestwick, Dryden was benched as a starter and played only sparingly the rest of the season. The 7-footer had scored 22 points in a game against Texas a week earlier.

    Bestwick confirmed Dryden's account Tuesday.

    Dryden did not graduate within the six years allotted by the NCAA. However, he was only one semester short of graduation when he left. He returned to UGA in 2004 and graduated that May with a degree in agricultural engineering.

    Jirsa, who coached UGA from 1997-99 and now coaches Marshall University, on Tuesday did not deny encouraging Dryden to change his major.

    He said his request that Dryden switch majors had more to do with trying to help him reach his stated goal of becoming a better basketball player who hoped to one day play professionally while still attaining a college degree.

    Bestwick, now retired from UGA but still living in Athens, said of Dryden's benching: "That was Jirsa being vindictive.

    "One thing you can't do [as an administrator] is tell coaches how to coach. But I did tell Robb to forget what Coach Jirsa said and continue to go to his classes."

    Current UGA administrators say Jirsa's actions would not have been tolerated then, nor would they be today. UGA President Michael Adams would not confirm Dryden's assertion that the handling of his situation contributed to Jirsa's firing at the end of that season.

    Even worse than what this episode says about UGA athletics is what it implies about UGA's child and family development program.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:37 PM in Sports

    October 15, 2006
    On the World Series c. 1906

    The October 15, 1906 NYT reports on the Chicago White Sox beating the Chicago Cubs in the first intra-city world series, describing how the "Hitless Wonders" somehow took down Goliath; the 1906 Chicago Cubs went 116-36, for a .894 winning percentage (more here).

    The article reports that total attendance during the six game series was 99,845 with total "receipts" being $105,540. Thus, the average ticket to the 1906 World Series was approximately $1 or about twice the regular season admission price.

    The folks at EH.net suggest that

    In 2005, $1.00 from 1906 is worth:
    $21.63 using the Consumer Price Index
    $17.32 using the GDP deflator
    $95.27 using the unskilled wage
    $116.18 using the nominal GDP per capita
    $402.45 using the relative share of GDP

    From the Detroit Tigers website we learn that the face value of Tigers tickets for the regular season ranged from $5 to $60. These same tickets during the World Series will range from $75 to $250.

    More at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:18 PM in Sports

    October 06, 2006
    Oklahoma vs. Texas

    In Norman, OK, home of the University of Oklahoma, half the cars -- and more than half of the pickup trucks -- feature an upside-down longhorn sticker on the back, as a sign of disrespect for the University of Texas. In Austin, TX, home of UT, they return the favor with a new brand of beer.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:18 PM in Sports

    Ticket prices c. 1906

    The October 6, 1906 NYT advertises the Fordham-Rensselaer Polytechnic football game to take place at 3pm at Fordham Field. Ticket price: $0.50 ($10.81 2005 CPI adjusted).

    I went to the Fordham Athletics website to find the ticket prices for this season's games:

    Loge (reserved, mid-field) $15.00
    General Admission $12.00
    Student/Child $5.00
    Group $5.00

    Wow, the general admission price to Fordham games has barely changed in real terms over 100 years. What gives?

    I grabbed the historical records of Fordham Football (the school's football program has a bit of a checkered past - many years it did not field a team, etc. - but Fordham has been playing in the Patriot League as of late). Over the past 100 years, the school has played 766 football games with a record of 382-349-35 (through the 2005 season) for a winning percentage of 0.498.

    Fair-to-middlin' football is worth about the same today as it was 100 years ago?

    [Fordham records in Excel format]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:47 AM in Sports

    September 27, 2006
    College football c. 1906

    1905 and 1906 was a period of reform in collegiate football. New rules were instituted, most notably the forward pass. As the first games were played with the new rules, there were interesting contrasts in how the new rules are received.

    From the Sept. 27, 1906 NYT:

    The first real game of football under the new rules was played here [Carlisle, Pa] between the teams of Carlisle Indians and Villa Nova College. The Indians won by a score of 6 to 0, scoring a touchdown and a goal in the first half and failing to score in the second.*

    The game was variously criticised by the largest crowd that ever witnessed a contest here. The side lines were filled with football experts, who received the game rather unfavorably. The spectators, however, appeared to enjoy it more than the old sport and regarded the rules as distinctly desirable.

    As a matter of fact the play was very open and interrupted by almost constant fumbling...Villa Nova tried a forward pass on the first play...and it succeeded in gaining ten yards. After short gains, however, it lost the ball through the ball touching the ground without touching a player on an attempted forward pass.

    The passing was more of the character of that familiar in basket ball than that which has hitherto characterized football. Apparently it is th intention of football coaches to try repeatedly these frequent long and risky passes. Well executed they are undoubtedly highly spectacular, but the risk of dropping the ball is so great as to make the practice extremely hazardous and its desirability doubtful.

    On the other hand, it seemed impossible for either team to gain ten yards consistently without such plays.

    So, the "professionals" didn't like the new rules at first but the fans dialed in immediately? Why is that not surprising?

    * In 1906, a touchdown was worth five points and a point-after-attempt was worth one point.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:30 AM in Sports

    September 26, 2006
    We're paying how much?

    Front page of today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the following headline:

    Stadium to look 'like a spaceship'

    Uggh. I'm not sure that's what we wanted to hear.

    More at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:53 PM in Sports

    On baseball c. 1906

    From an editorial in the Sept. 26, 1906 NYT:

    Many and violent are the vicissitudes of baseball. Necessarily so, with the prevailing practice of strengthening the local teams by importing mercenaries without any regard for the real residence of the mercenaries, so that the strongest team indicates not at all the superior culture of its putative habitat in baseball. It denotes only the superior judgement or length of purse, or both, of the local management which has secured the services of the team. It is hard to see any rational basis for the local patriotism which can nourish itself on the achievements of "hired men" from anywhere, even though we have proof that local patriotism is roused by the contest to seething enthusiasm.
    In other words, the New York team should be populated by New Yorkers, and the Atlanta team should be populated by Atlantans. This is an interesting perspective on the potential labor market for baseball players. Assuming the distribution of baseball talent was similar across cities, smaller cities would have a hard time fielding a competitive team if they were unable to import "mercenaries" from other locales.

    When baseball (and other sports) players lived in the local area during the off-season, interacted more with the local fans, often through off-season jobs, there might have been a stronger tie with the team. Indeed Psychologist Robert Passikov suggests that one component of fan loyalty is "bonding with players and other fans."

    However, civic pride is only valuable to team owners in as much as it translates into revenues, i.e., people in the stands. To this end, if winning is more important than nativism, the decried "mercenaries" are potentially welfare improving - players are worth more and are paid more, team owners earn more revenue (and potentially profit), if the team wins more fans enjoy an increase in surplus. Evidently the editors of the NYT suffer a decrease in surplus, but I'm willing to bet that the net is positive.

    For an example of local-only talent-based sports, look at high-school sports. Granted the competition is a little lower as the talent has not been completely developed, but in general people are not willing to pay as much nor willing to attend as much as at the "mercenary" based teams - even at the minor league professional levels. Although, I must admit to exceptions, such as certain Texas high school football games which attract more people than some college games.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:23 PM in Sports

    September 23, 2006
    Bad prediction c. 1906

    From the Sept. 23, 1906 NYT:

    "I do not believe the present experiment in American college football can survive. In my opinion, the whole country will within five years be playing the Rugby game."
    Who dared such a prognostication? None other than Benjamin Ide Wheeler, President of the University of California, who was previously football coach (and professor) at Cornell.


    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:58 PM in Sports

    September 14, 2006
    College Football Stadiums

    Today's San Jose Mercury News runs a front page feature on Stanford's new football stadium, built in an astounding 43 weeks including demolition of the old 86,000 seat Stanford Stadium in an astounding 2 weeks.

    Less than 10 months after bulldozers razed the old structure, Stanford's 50,000-seat, $100 million stadium will open for business Saturday when the Cardinal plays Navy.


    The stadium project, long a goal of the athletic department, was publicly unveiled 15 months ago, and work started the moment last season ended in November. Within two weeks, the old stadium was gone, clearing the way for more than 300 workers and roughly 30 subcontractors to meet the ambitious deadline.

    With noted donor and billionaire real-estate mogul John Arrillaga overseeing the daily operation, two crews worked 16 hours a day, six days a week to fulfill a mission Bowlsby called ``nothing short of a miracle.''

    The speed was made possible by a hybrid fast-track and design-build construction method. Move that old PPF outward. Tickets are still available for tomorrow's opener against Navy. Good thing the Cardinal didn't open against the mighty Spartans of San Jose State, who last Saturday overcame two 20-point deficits to beat the Stanford boys from down the street, 35-34.

    While I'm talking college football stadiums, by-a-mile my favorite college football stadium is is Kyle Field at Texas A&M. I've seen probably a hundred games there. Maybe more. I could write a treatise on all the intricacies that make game day at A&M unique (my fiancee says the tradition of kissing your date after A&M scores says it all). But it's all a very tacit affair. Bottom line, you just have to experience it yourself. While the team has been in decline since 2000, the 90's saw a 92.5 win percentage at Kyle, including a 31-game streak from 1990-95 and a 22-game streak from 1996-2000. Kirk Herbstreit has repeatedly called Kyle Field his favorite place to call a game. MSNBC ranks it 4th in the nation.

    Some notable stadiums I've been to that fail to impress. Notre Dame, LSU Tiger Stadium, and K-State's Wagner Field (Louisville's was bad too). The best small stadium is a tie between TCU's Amon Carter and Southern Miss's "the Rock" in Hattiesburg. Man, can those people tailgate.

    I have not been to West Virginia's Mountaineer Field, but that will be corrected on Oct. 14 when I attend their homecoming game against Syracuse. Oh. I'm presenting a paper there too. It's currently half time of the WVU Mountaineers hosting the UMD Terps. WVU just returned a kickoff for a TD to go up 38-10. I hope there's similar fireworks when I visit. Go Mountaineers!

    Well, enough economics for now. I have some more football to watch. :-)

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 11:24 PM in Sports

    The Punter Did It

    A news item:

    "... the backup punter on the University of Northern Colorado’s football team has been charged with stabbing the first-string punter in the kicking leg as a way of disabling his rival for the starting assignment ...

    The first-string punter, Rafael Mendoza, was treated for the injury on Monday night and released from a local hospital, but he will be out of action indefinitely.

    According to a witness to the alleged assault, Mr. Mendoza’s rival, Mitch Cozad, stabbed him from behind and then fled in his car. The Tribune reported that Mr. Cozad could be identified, even though he was wearing a hood, on account of the personalized license plates on his car, “8-KIKR.”

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:31 AM in Sports

    September 11, 2006
    Don't Get Any Ideas Bob

    From the AJC:

    History's first marathoner famously keeled over and died after finishing the grueling journey, which now measures 26.2 miles. But this summer brought the news that not just one but two men thought it would be "fun" to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days.

    Never mind that it's hard enough to get to the 50 states in 50 days without a personal jet. These men set out to put excessive force on their joints and ligaments, tear up their muscle tissue, tax their hearts, risk dehydration and kidney failure — and then squish themselves into a car or onto a plane for several more hours — every day for more than two months.

    To many, it's a silly and dangerous waste.

    When I first blogged about their endeavor, reader Dienne Anum asked: "And this is about health because why? It would probably be almost as healthy to strive to be in 50 car accidents in 50 states in 50 days."

    But one of the men, 25-year-old Sam Thompson, recently became what is believed to be the first person to complete the triple 50, and when we talked two days after his last marathon, he said he felt astonishingly good. In fact Thompson, a virtually unknown ultrarunner from Vicksburg, Miss., actually ran 51 marathons in 50 days — he threw in Washington, D.C., for good measure, just hours after running one in Maryland.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:33 AM in Sports

    September 09, 2006
    Incentives Matter: NASCAR Points System Edition

    Drivers and team officials are still grumbling about NASCAR's points system:

    NASCAR vice-president Jim Hunter said series officials are seriously considering a change that would award more points to race winners.

    "We've talked about that," Hunter said.

    Hunter pointed out that no matter what the rules state, teams will adjust their strategies accordingly.

    And as to the question of whether NASCAR would prefer its champion be a big winner or consistent runner?

    "I think you want your champion to be both," Hunter said.

    For years, NASCAR's season-long points format rewarded consistency. But it was scrapped after the 2003 season, when Matt Kenseth won the championship with a steady, but unspectacular, season-long performance. He won only once, but had 25 top-10 finishes. Ryan Newman led the series with eight victories, but finished sixth in points.

    But even with the Chase format, consistency appears to pay better than winning.

    In 2004, Kurt Busch won the first Chase with three victories, one during the Chase. Jimmie Johnson, who finished second in points, had eight victories, including four in the final 10 races.

    Last year, Tony Stewart won the title with five victories, but all of them came before the start of the 10-race Chase. And Greg Biffle, who finished second in points, beat Stewart by one in the win column.

    Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark said the best fix is to put a premium on winning.


    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:49 AM in Sports

    September 06, 2006
    PNC Park Threatens To Leave Pittsburgh Unless Better Team Is Built

    An offering from The Onion:

    PITTSBURGH—After five years of serving Pittsburgh as their state-of-the-art sporting facility, PNC Park, the home of the rundown, poorly maintained Pirates, said Tuesday it is threatening to leave Pittsburgh unless a new team can be built within the next three years.
    PNC Park

    "I love the city of Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are an old, dilapidated club built from other teams' spare parts, and its very foundation is rotting away," the stadium said to reporters assembled in its press box. "I had every intention to stay here for the duration of my career as a ballpark, but given that I haven't seen any realistic long-term plans for improving my resident team's ramshackle condition, I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about taking my services elsewhere."

    The young stadium, regarded as one of the best of the recent crop of real-estate development projects throughout the league, added that "after this year's All Star Game, I have learned that a ballpark of my caliber deserves to host that kind of play every day."

    ...PNC Park, however, is not convinced.

    "When I came here in 2001, they promised me a championship team," the stadium said. "I was warned by venerable and much-beloved Three Rivers Stadium—which imploded soon afterwards, as you know—that I should look elsewhere, that this team was set in its ways and not focused on rebuilding, that they were simply using me as a means to make money," the stadium said. "I was young and brash and I didn't listen. Now that I am more mature and have settled a bit, I realize I have to do what is best for me and my family."

    HT: KR

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:49 AM in Sports

    August 31, 2006
    Baseball Postseason Probabilities

    Baseball Prospectus has a nifty Monte Carlo simulation of baseball teams' probability of making the playoffs. Of the DOL gang, it looks like Larry will have the best oppotunity to see playoff baseball--the Cards are estimated to have an 80% chance of making the playoffs. Bob's Reds rate about 29%; Craig and I are pretty much out of luck--the Rangers have a 2.5% chance and the Braves a 3.5% chance. I think BP repeats the simulation daily to reflect games of the previous evening.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:23 AM in Sports

    August 30, 2006
    Cornell's Football Schedule c. 1906
    The August 30, 1906 NYT announces Cornell's football schedule:
    1. Colgate at Ithaca
    2. Hamilton at Ithaca
    3. Oberlin at Ithaca
    4. Niagra at Ithaca
    5. Bucknell at Ithaca
    6. Bowdoin at Ithaca
    7. Princeton at New York
    8. Western University of Pennsylvania at Ithaca
    9. Holy Cross at Ithaca
    10. Swarthmore at Ithaca
    11. Pennsylvania at Philadelphia
    There aren't a lot of 21st century football powerhouses on this list, but then we are talking about 1906. At the time many of the so-called Northeastern Independents were at or near the pinnacle of football prowess.*

    How did the Big Red fare? Here are the season-end results:
           date      visitor   visitscore       home      homescore
     9/29/1906      Colgate           0        Cornell          0                 
     10/3/1906     Hamilton           0        Cornell         21          
     10/6/1906      Oberlin           5        Cornell         25             
     10/10/1906      Niagara          6        Cornell         23             
     10/13/1906     Bucknell          6        Cornell         24                
     10/20/1906      Bowdoin          0        Cornell         72                
     10/27/1906    Princeton         14        Cornell          5  
     11/3/1906   Pittsburgh           0        Cornell         23              
     11/10/1906   Holy Cross          6        Cornell         16                 
     11/17/1906   Swarthmore          0        Cornell         28               
     11/29/1906      Cornell          0   Pennsylvania          0                
    Cornell finished the season with a 8-1-2 record, scoring 237 points to its opponents' 37. The Wilson retro-rating system puts Cornell fifth in the country after Yale (#1), Princeton, Harvard, and Penn State.

    Out of 64 teams playing in 1906, the Northeast Independents (UMass, Holy Cross, Amherst, Williams, Dartmouth, Army, Colgate, Brown, Syracuse, Cornell, Harvard, and Yale) had an average Wilson retro-rating of 692 versus an average rating of 519 amongst the 52 other teams (statistically different with P=0.001).In 1906, the average retro-rating rank amongst the Northeast Indpendents was 17 with all but one (UMass) above the median rating.

    * My original language was unintentionally misleading: "There aren't a lot of household names on this list." I was referring to the football dimension and not general name recognition. HT: Co-blogger Larry White. Larry also points out that "Western University of Pennsylvania...is now known as the University of Pittsburgh," which the historical score data reflects.
    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:55 AM in Sports

    August 26, 2006
    On American Football c. 1906

    The August 26, 1906 NYT has a lengthy interview with "one of the most prominent men interested in football at West point," who otherwise remains unnamed, concerning the new rules put in place for the 1906 season (set to start in four weeks). Here are a few snippets:

    The forward pass, which was advanced as so potent a factor in opening up the play, I do not believe will be very prominent. The pass is too uncertain, requires too much accuracy in handling the ball, something that was extremely difficult under the old rules to make it of great value. Its moral effect, in keeping the opposing side on the qui vive of expectancy watching for its appearance, will be of greater value than the pass itself. I believe you will see few passes and unimportant gains made with them when made....

    The change which I regard as most important in opening up the play is the on-side kick. When a ball is free to be secured by either side when kicked it is obvious that it introduces the greatest possibilities for forward passing imaginable. For instance, if a forward pass is desired the pass much be made to certain prescribed men, and must be cleanly handled or lost. The same end is gained by simply kicking the ball a short distance ahead of the scrimmage line and allowing any man on the kicking side to secure it...The consequence of this must be the spreading out of the defense to meet such plays and the consequent weakening of the line of defense...I believe the ten-yard rule would have been ruinous without this one change...

    It was the little meannesses, the direct attempt to annoy and inflict distracting pain, that those who understood the game best sought most to avoid. I think the mere separation of the two lines by the length of the ball will almost entirely correct this evil, together with the restraint of another official...

    I am not one who believes that you will see the grand game die. I believe that its virility and innate value will pull it through its serious sickness and that the coming season will see it restored to all its old-time popularity and power. As for styles of play, let me say the team that builds up the best defensive system will be the successful team, not the one with the strong offense.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:53 PM in Sports

    August 25, 2006
    Ball Six

    Jim Bouton, who came down a couple of years ago and gave a great talk at Duke about his then new book, Foul Ball, has a new project. (He doesn't get tired of projects).

    The Vintage Base Ball Federation (VBBF) was officially launched yesterday.

    Got some pretty decent coverage, at several places.

    Congratulations, Jim, and good luck.

    Since several of the boys here at DoL are VBB participants, I thought I would blog this up.

    (Full disclosure: Jim B has been very supportive of my run for Governor of NC, and has agreed to write the foreward for the resulting book. He is a big believer in participant observation, which he is certainly good at himself. Now, I'm not saying he would VOTE for me; he just loves encouraging other people to do weird stuff. I am going to have to work to make that book even half as good as either Ball Four or Foul Ball. And, I was using the latter book in class; a very fine textbook on local land use from a public policy perspective)

    (Nod to my man Martin, who is complicit in nearly everything)

    Posted by Michael Munger at 09:12 AM in Sports

    August 17, 2006
    College Football Rules Changes c. 2006

    The NCAA has released the rules changes for the 2006-2007 football season. Many are reasonable and others are questionable. The main upshot seems to be a) reduce the amount of time it takes to play a game and b) decrease the odds that a bad call can make the difference between a lucrative post-season berth, a not-so-lucrative post-season berth, or no post-season berth.

    Major rules changes:

  • Kicking tee reduced from two inches to one inch. The hope is this will reduce the number of touchbacks. Note that this could also increase the number of injuries.
  • Clock will start when the kicker kicks the ball rather than when the receiving team touches the ball. The rationale is to reduce the length of the game. Note that this will change strategy a bit and we may see a lot more squib kicks.
  • All Division IA conferences are allowed to use instant replay, although instant replay is not mandated. However, it would seem a conference not using instant replay when other conferences are will put themselves at a potential fiscal disadvantage. Hence, instant replay is a form of the prisoner's dilemma and all conferences will use instant replay.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:18 AM in Sports

    August 16, 2006
    Baseball Lawsuit c. 1906

    In the August 16, 1906 NYT is an interesting article describing how :

    the New York National League Baseball Club [the NY Giants] brought suit against the Chicago National League Baseball club [the Chicago Cubs] for $3,500, alleging damages to that extent on account of the forfeited game of Aug. 7, when Umpire Johnstone was refused entrance to the Polo Grounds and gave the game to Chicago. Manager McGraw of New York wanted the game to be played with player from each of the teams as umpires, but the Chicago manager refused to agree to this, and the Ne York management now declares the club is damaged to the extent of the club is damaged to the extent of $3,500....The damages are said to lie in the loss of gate receipts.

    Wait a second. New York bars an umpire, the game is forfeited to Chicago, and New York sues Chicago for damages?

    Going back to the Aug. 8, 1906 NYT, here's what evidently happened.

    Johnstone umpired a game between Chicago and New York on the previous day [Monday, Aug. 6] and ordered "Manager McGraw and Third Baseman Devlin out of the game. McGraw and Devlin received their notices of official suspension yesterday [Aug. 7] , and the action against Johnstone by the local club came immediately after...The New York Club officials refused to admit the umpire to the grounds, and he promptly declared the game forfeited to Chicago by the customary score of 9 to 0...Police Inspector Sweeney had requested the New York Club not to allow Umpire Johnstone to enter the grounds, as after threats against him it might precipitate a riot...For a time 8,000 spectators massed in front of the entrances and would not leave the grounds. Many of them were appeased with the announcement, however, that all reserved seat checks and rain checks would be good for any other game this season, and a subsequent announcement was made...that money would be refunded on all checks upon presentation at the office of the New York Club...

    It seems that McGraw argued that if there was to be any forfeit it should have been the Cubs that forfeited to the Giants. This was because, according to the rules at the time, if an umpire was absent or unable to perform his duties, an agreed-upon individual chosen by the home team could substitute. McGraw claims he had a substitute ready to go at 5 minutes before 4pm (the start of the game) and the Cubs were the ones who walked away. Therefore, the Cubs should forfeit.

    One wonders if this means that if the Cubs had forfeited the refunds would not have been offered by the Giants.

    Back to the $3,500 claim, the price of admission to the Polo Grounds in 1906 was $0.50. This would imply an actual gate of 7,000 people versus the estimated 8,000 people (assuming all tickets were redeemed for a refund or another game). The attendance figures available in the Retrosheet.org game logs from 1906 indicate an average attendance at the Polo Grounds in 1906 of 7,200 with a standard deviation of 3,000 (albeit on only eight games).

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:11 PM in Sports

    August 12, 2006
    Football rule changes c. 1906 and 2006

    From the August 12, 1906 NYT:

    Many of the rules [of college football] have been changed and others thoroughly explained, with the double object of eliminating brutality and making the game more interesting to spectators. Of the many changes, the most radical has been the introduction of the forward pass.

    The necessary distance to be gained in three downs has been doubled - that is, the side in possession of the ball must gain ten yards in three downs instead of five...This is the most direct legislation against mass plays, and is intended to make the game more open.

    The time of the game has been shortened by ten minutes, making the two halves each thirty minutes in length.

    Hurdling is defined and forbidden. Hurdling in the open is jumping over or attempting to jump over an opponent who is still on his feet.

    There must be always at least six men of the side in possession of the ball on the line of scrimmage, and if only six are on the line one of those not on the line must have both feet outside the outside foot of the player on the end of the line.

    The definition of holding, which in the past has been productive of much wrangling, is more clearly defined, and includes: Grasping an opponent with hands and arms, placing the hands on an opponent to push him away from the play, circling in any degree any part of the opponent with an arm.

    Sports leagues can provide public goods such as rules changes that make the game more entertaining and safe at the same time. College football suffered more than 100 deaths during the 1905 season. These rules changes were a direct response to these deaths and the threatened abandonment of the game altogether.

    Thankfully, as professional and college football is (still!) right around the corner, rules changes of these ilk were instituted.

    From Scout.com the article "NFL Rule changes for 2006" posted on August 12, 2006:

  • Down by contact calls may be reviewed by instant replay. Reason for the change: Provides a mechanism for correcting an obvious on-field officiating error.

  • Each instant replay review will be a maximum of 60 seconds in length. Reason for the change: Shortens game length.

  • Individual players are prohibited from using foreign objects or the football while celebrating. Reason for the change: Promotes sportsmanship.

  • If possible, rushing defenders must make a conscious effort to avoid low hits on the quarterback. Reason for the change: Player safety.

  • The prohibition against blocking in the back above the waist applies to a player of the kicking team while the ball is in flight during a scrimmage kick. Reason for the change: Player safety.

  • All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down the runner. Reason for the change: Player safety.

  • During a field goal attempt or a PAT, any defensive player within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap must have his helmet outside the snapper’s shoulder pad. This will provide protection to the snapper, who is in a defenseless position. Reason for the change: Player safety.

  • No more than six players can line up on the same side of a formation on a kickoff. Reason for the change: Player safety.

  • If there is a personal foul...that occurs between the end of the second period and the beginning of the third period (or between the end of the fourth and beginning of OT), the penalty shall be enforced on ensuing kickoff. Reason for the change: Provides uniform enforcement for personal or unsportsmanlike conduct fouls throughout the game.

  • If there is a foul during a scrimmage kick or a free kick prior to a player of the receiving team securing possession of the ball, the offended team will have the option of taking the penalty at the previous spot. Reason for the change: Eliminates re-kicks.

  • If an offensive foul is a foul by the kicking team prior to a player of the receiving team securing possession of the ball during a down in which there is a safety kick, scrimmage kick, or free kick, the period may be extended by an untimed down, if the defense accepts the penalty. Reason for change: Eliminates fouling to obtain an unfair advantage.

  • Teams can now opt to take the result of the play OR replay the down when there is an inadvertent whistle. Reason for the change: Current rule too punitive.

  • Some of these are modifications to existing rules, such as the horse-collaring rule. To the extent that modifications are made to improve player safety while not dramatically altering the quality of play, these decisions are examples of how centralized decision making can be welfare enhancing, i.e., it can make players, fans, and owners all better off, and are very similar to the rules changes of 1906.

    Personally, I like the carryover of personal fouls from the end of the half/regulation. It has always bothered me that a penalty thrown at the end of the half, say for taunting or other bad behavior, didn't carry any true punishment.

    Although I am not a huge fan of instant replay, the professional (and increasingly the college) game is so fast and there are so few games that perhaps it is warranted relative to, say, professional baseball's regular season. An additional problem is the increasing cost to a bad call. It is entirely plausible that a bad call could be marginal in the sense that it could deny a team a post-season berth. In this case, the dollar cost of the bad call to the teams might be dramatic and justify the use of instant replay. This is why the instant replay is becoming more important in college football - a bad call could be the difference between a high pay-out bowl game and a low pay-out bowl game.

    If high school football begins to generate significant revenues, be ready for instant replay at that level as well.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:12 PM in Sports

    August 02, 2006
    On College Football c. 1905

    This is a little afield from my normal NYT extracts, but for other purposes I have been scouring old documents for issues concerning college athletics. During the process, I came across this article in the Jan. 19, 1905 issue of Life Magazine:


    We have four embarrassing national possessions - the Monroe Doctrine, the Tariff, the Philippines and the Game of Football. They are all very troublesome, but of none of them can we let go. There is continual grumbling about football, but what does it avail so long as football brings in the money on which nearly all the other forms of college athletics subsist? Football is the hard-working rich uncle of all the little impecunious athletics, the milk-can for all the infant athletic industries. It has got to work for gate-money, or there will be destitution in the college athletic family - no sweaters, medals and photographs for the earnest workers, no new grounds for the scrub and minor teams, no paid coaches for anybody, no anything but mere play, except, perhaps, for the baseball teams, whose opportunities are such that they can earn their own money. Let us stop thinking so much about football as a game, and think of it more as a laborious form of benefaction, even though we realize that the great danger of benefactions is the chance of pauperizing folks, or industries, that could struggle along on their own legs if they had to, and would be better off if they did.

    Except for the Philippines issue, this article could be reprinted in today's Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, or Sporting News, and have the same accuracy as it did 101 years ago.

    It is interesting that over the past one hundred years only r two more sports have begun to carry their own weight in terms of revenues approaching costs: men's basketball and, to a lesser extent, women's basketball.

    Amateur sports are generally of lower quality than professional sports, and the lack of revenue generation by, say golf and swimming, suggests to me that those sports are indeed remaining amateur. The sports that generate the most revenue on campus are also those that are closest to professional-quality play.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:09 PM in Sports

    July 31, 2006
    Goggins dies in SF marathon

    The former editor of Wired magazine, Bill Goggins, just died while running a marathon. He was at mile 24 and on a very respectable 7:24/mile pace (the exact pace of my last marathon) when he collapsed.

    Also I just read about a young man who died of heatstroke during a run.

    I'm sure Art de Vany will mention this when I see him next.

    I guess I'll wait until about 8:00 before running tonight. It'll be down to 85 by then.

    HT: Dave Reed

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:42 PM in Sports

    ESPN moment c. 1906

    From the July 31, 1906 NYT:

    The fifth game of the roller skating basketball championship played at Madison Square Garden rink last night resulted in a tie, the Colonial and Calvary teams each scoring 8(?) goals. The contest was close throughout and the teams were evenly matched. The game will be played over next week.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:51 PM in Sports

    Sunday baseball c. 1906

    As a follow up on my previous mention of the test case pertaining to Sunday Baseball in 1906, the July 31, 1906 NYT reports:

    Sunday baseball advocates got a black eye yesterday when Justice Blanchard handed down a decision in the Supreme Court denying their application for a writ of certiorari to review the adverse ruling of Magistrate Walsh against them...This is regarded as the death knell of Sunday baseball supported by the contribution box in lieu of an admission charge.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:38 PM in Sports

    July 28, 2006
    Sunday Baseball c. 1906

    Hard to believe, but in the early 1900s there were "Sabbath enactments" in various states which precluded all sorts of activity on Sundays. One that has proved thorny during the 1906 baseball season was the ability to play ball on Sunday.

    The July 28, 1906 NYT discusses a test case concerning Sunday Baseball that was to be decided in New York Supreme Court.

    To date, there have been at least five different weekends on which Sunday baseball was played and one or more players or managers were arrested for violating the Sabbath enactments. The wording of the laws differed from state to state, but they had in common the ban of "public sport," a term that had a hazy definition.

    It seems pretty clear that all involved agreed that charging admission for a baseball game on Sunday would be an example of public sport - and to date that had not been attempted. The alternative, as it has been tried multiple times in 1906, was to have a baseball game in which there was no admission charged but "where the onlookers choose to deposit voluntary contributions in boxes placed in the vicinity of the entrance to the ground."

    From the article:

    Lawyer Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler, representing the clubs, said the case was brought in order to have a decision from the Supreme Court as to what the Penal Code meant by public sport, which were the words used in the section against Sabbath violation, and maintained that, as the games on the Bronx Oval were not for admission fees, they did not come within the wording of the statute...

    Where do the police weigh in?

    Deputy Police Commissioner Mathot said a definite ruling was wanted as to what was a violation of the Sabbath and what was not. The police made arrests and the prisoners were almost invariably discharged by the Magistrates the next morning. He explained that failure to interfere on the part of the police led to complaints from religious societies. He conceded that there were no complaints in this particular case and added:

    "We are thoroughly indifferent in the matter, but want to get a ruling which will place the police in the position of knowing what action we are to take."

    Now, I admit to not being a legal scholar, but it does seem a bit odd that religious societies would want the police to interfere with Sunday baseball. In fact, all such Blue Laws have always interested me. Are they passed to suppress temptation of the flock or the temptation of all? If it is to suppress temptation to the flock, what does this say about the power of the religion/religious leaders to dissuade those from breaking the Sabbath? If it is to reduce temptation to the non-converted, what's up with that? By what right do the religious stop the non-religious from doing what they want?

    It is also interesting that the courts are being asked to determine what "breaking the Sabbath" means. Although there are still Blue Laws of various types on the books in different states/cities, it seems that the church-state differences have become less blurred over time. Why should the state determine what can and cannot be done on a Sunday, as a more special day than Tuesday or Thursday?

    In the purely economic area, it would be fascinating to obtain revenue figures from these Sunday games. At the time, attendance to a baseball game would range from $0.25 to $0.75, depending on where the seat was located. The free-rider equilibrium would suggest that the donated gate would be less than the required gate, ceteris paribus on the number of people in the stadium. However, if the free gate encouraged more people to show up, the donated gate might actually have been greater than the revenue generated by positive ticket prices.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:45 PM in Sports

    July 25, 2006
    Thirsty Thursdays

    Bob's post noted that the ballgame we caught in Asheville featured $1 beer night. It turns out that Asheville is the official birthplace of Thirsty Thursdays. From The Oregonian (6/3/04; no link--excerpt via Lex/Nex):

    It [Thirsty Thursday] is part of the fabric of the Class A South Atlantic League franchise in Asheville, N.C., the official birthplace of Thirsty Thursday. Hanging on a wall of the office of Ron McKee, general manager of the Asheville Tourists and a friend of Cain's, is a plaque of the registered "Thirsty Thursday" trademark.

    "We've had Thirsty Thursdays for 24 years," McKee said. "It's really popular here."

    The [Portland OR] Beavers are one of about 20 teams that have McKee's permission to use the trademarked slogan. Nashville; Tucson, Ariz.; and New Orleans are other Pacific Coast League teams that have followed McKee's promotional lead.

    McKee said he has witnessed some of the beer-related behavioral problems that Cain has seen at PGE Park, but he isn't about to end the promotion.

    "I'm not saying we haven't had a little of that," McKee said. "If there are problems, we're just as likely to have them on a Monday or a Tuesday than on a Thirsty Thursday.

    "We have a thousand people on the concourse who never see a pitch. They just stand there and socialize. But we keep our lines pretty long -- they can't just come in here and guzzle."

    The Rome Braves were not allowed to sell beer on Sundays during their first two seasons ('03&'04) in Rome but were allowed to sell on Sundays beginning with the '05 season. It doesn't seem to have made much difference; after controlling for other factors related to attendance, two co-authors and I find that Sunday attendance in 2005 didn't differ from Sunday attendance over the previous two seasons. Apparently it is CHEAP beer that spurs attendance.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:33 PM in Sports

    (Unsolicited) Advice for New Runners

    Every so often someone will ask my advice about how to start running. Having a few minutes to kill today, I thought I'd write down a few pieces of advice (below the fold).

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:00 AM in Sports

    July 12, 2006
    What Zidane was dealing with

    It seems hard to justify Zidane's actions during the WC finals. However, there are usually two sides to each confrontation. Short of Zidane having some serious personal problems, it is likely that he was provoked in some way. That said, the point of a team is to sacrifice your personal needs to that of the team - admittedly not the most libertarian ideal, but one that seems to work.

    I haven't had a chance to go back and rewatch the match, but others suggest that Zidane had to deal with Materazzi pulling on his shirt, literally tweaking his breasts and other such antics. Whether Materazzi said what Zidane claims, perhaps we will never know.

    However, colleague Dennis Wilson points out this YouTube clip of five Materazzi plays that might suggest that Materazzi has a worse reputation than casual fans in the States might suspect.

    Warning: There is some relatively graphic contact depicted.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:07 PM in Sports

    July 11, 2006
    Soccer Thoughts

    I'll add to the minor discussion begun by Bob and Frank about the World Cup. Since I've played soccer for 25 years and been an economist for only about 10, I feel more qualified to speak here than in most of my previous posts.

    First, I agree with Frank that the "flopping" is getting out of hand. Soccer is kind of the opposite of public policy, where an action's (intending to harm another player) initial effect (the foul) is usually much harder to spot than the secondary effect of that action (falling). Thus, most refs assume the cause occurred when they see the effect (including me when I was ref), even if the effect is staged. Of course, flopping is stupid too because the perceived benefit (possibility of a free kick) is almost always low compared to the cost (your teammate on the ground, unable to do anything for a few seconds).

    Second, I congratulate Bob for granting the game some respect, one which most people do not do even if they've never played or even seen a game. I was thinking of which sport, soccer or the Golden Calf of football, engenders in its participants a sympathy for libertarian ideas:
    --Football: coach tells me what to do in next play, I do it, return to coach and repeat. The only players that seem to exercise any creativity is the QB and the two or three guys who run with the ball.
    --Soccer: coach gives me an outline what he wants me to do before the game, but rarely tells me what to do during it. I have to make my own decisions.
    Football seems more a top-down autocratic system of government, while soccer seems more a dispersed-knowledge society of individiual decision-makers. The best teams, obviously, are those who can create a spontaneous order out of 11 players.

    Third, even though Italy played a better team game during its run up to the final, I was rooting for France because of the amazing creativity demonstrated by Zidane in the two games prior to the final. Zidane's penalty kick during the final was even better; I thought the foul was weak, and that Zidane may have chipped his shot as a way of recognizing the weak call. Buffon just guessed the wrong way. Zidane's head-butt, though, was just completely inexplicable. My mom, brother, and I just sat there stunned for a few minutes. A decent comparison might be if you saw Milton Friedman on TV praising the current system of public education in the US: the polar opposite of your expectation. It's unfortunate that this is what he will be remembered for rather than his creativity throughout the later stages of the tournament.

    Posted by Tim Shaughnessy at 04:26 PM in Sports

    Snarky Soccer Comment

    Watching the World Cup makes me wonder: Does FIFA stand for International Federation of Flopping Athletes? Seeing some of the best conditioned athletes in the world fall down in agonizing pain after the slightest of jostling and then, moments later, make a miraculous recovery after having a medic douse them with a water bottle sure gives that impression.

    I think Cannes or the ESPYs should include a category for best acting in a flopping role.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:30 AM in Sports

    July 10, 2006
    Rock, Paper, Scissors or Penalty kicks?

    I watched the big game on Sunday (that's the World Cup final for all you American readers) with co-blogger Frank and Ben Powell. We were in Cancun and the atmosphere among the locals was pretty exciting. I admit to having turned from being a big soccer hater to someone with a gruding respect for the game. But still wouldn't it be just as effective to use Roshambot to determine the winner instead of penalty kicks?

    Also some stuff from God's sport (that's baseball for you goshderned feriners):

    Brandon Dutcher points to a Moses bobblehead promotion that reminded me of the "Opening Day Genesis" and the hilarious "First Baseball Game" (I can find two bits of it here and here).

    [I just received a worthy comment from Wilson Mixon: "Very interesting, but historically dubious. It would appear that baseball got lost somewhere along the way. Otherwise, why would Jesus have had to ask, "Where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17)"]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 05:53 PM in Sports

    July 06, 2006
    July 4 5k Result

    A new PR: 19:03 (16/320 overall; 16/203 men; 2/28 men age 35-39)

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:42 AM in Sports

    July 04, 2006
    Track Le Tour

    This is neat. Track the tour via a Google Maps extension.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:54 PM in Sports

    June 26, 2006
    On World Cup Discipline

    With all the hub-bub about the 2 Red Cards for the U.S. team and the overall number of cards that are being presented in this year's tournament, I gathered data from the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and estimated a little instrumental variables model.

    The main dependent variable is the number of Red Cards (total) each team received during the tournament finals. There are more matches in the data for the 2002 Cup, so I control for that with a dummy variable. I model the number of red cards as being a linear combination of the number of team yellow cards, the number of matches played, a 2006 dummy varaible and dummy variable for whether the team is from the host country.

    Yellow Cards and Red Cards are related to each other by some underlying physicality of play - on the part of the particular team of focus and its opponents. While it is possible for a direct Red Card to be issued, often the Red Cards stem from previous Yellow Cards.

    I therefore consider Yellow Cards as an endogenous regressor and model Yellow Cards as being a function of the number of fouls a team commits and the number of fouls committed against a team. It is expected that the more fouls committed, the more Yellow Cards issued. I contend that the impact of Fouls Suffered is ambiguous (although colleague Dennis Wilson suggests the impact should be positive).

    Here are STATA results of the two-stage regression. The first stage suggests that the more fouls committed, the more yellow cards issued. In fact, on average over the two tournaments there was one Yellow Card issued for every 5.5 fouls committed, ceteris paribus. A couple of interesting results from the first stage regression: the host team receives 4 fewer Yellow Cards over the course of their participation in the tournament and the more fouls committed against a team the fewer Yellow Cards issued to the victim team, ceteris paribus. This suggests (to me) that referees might let the victim exact some revenge on the pitch without punishing the victim for their redress.

    . ivreg2 reds (yellows =foulscomit foulssuff match06) matches yr06 hc, r first
    First-stage regressions
    First-stage regression of yellows:
    OLS regression with robust standard errors
                                                          Number of obs =       64
                                                          F(  6,    57) =    12.35
                                                          Prob > F      =   0.0000
    Total (centered) SS     =   846.359375                Centered R2   =   0.5672
    Total (uncentered) SS   =         5799                Uncentered R2 =   0.9368
    Residual SS             =  366.2885346                Root MSE      =    2.535
                 |               Robust
         yellows |      Coef.   Std. Err.      t    P>|t|     [95% Conf. Interval]
         matches |   .0851108   1.004385     0.08   0.933    -1.926136    2.096357
            yr06 |   2.726882   4.007503     0.68   0.499    -5.298004    10.75177
              hc |   -4.63538   1.161479    -3.99   0.000    -6.961201   -2.309558
      foulscomit |   .1837463   .0298394     6.16   0.000     .1239939    .2434988
     foulssuffer |  -.0605243   .0319657    -1.89   0.063    -.1245345     .003486
         match06 |  -.1744405   1.222848    -0.14   0.887    -2.623151     2.27427
           _cons |  -.5548464    1.78105    -0.31   0.757    -4.121337    3.011644
    Partial R-squared of excluded instruments:   0.3870
    Test of excluded instruments:
      F(  3,    57) =    13.76
      Prob > F      =   0.0000

    The next set of output is basically a battery of tests to determine a) whether there is an endogeneity problem and b) whether the instruments selected, namely the fouls committed and fouls suffered, are good instruments (i.e., they are independent of the shocks to Red Cards). On the surface, one wonders if the number of fouls committed or suffered would be independent of Red Cards. However, the statistical tests suggest they are - there is more to be done here.

    Then comes the good stuff. The instrumental variable regression suggests the following. Based on the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, there is one Red Card issued for approximately every 12-13 Yellow Cards. There also seems to be a little home cooking for the host team above and beyond what consideration the team gets from the Yellow Cards issued.

    IV (2SLS) regression with robust standard errors
                                                          Number of obs =       64
                                                          F(  4,    59) =     5.86
                                                          Prob > F      =   0.0005
    Total (centered) SS     =           33                Centered R2   =   0.2031
    Total (uncentered) SS   =           58                Uncentered R2 =   0.5466
    Residual SS             =  26.29657278                Root MSE      =     .641
                 |               Robust
            reds |      Coef.   Std. Err.      z    P>|z|     [95% Conf. Interval]
         yellows |    .079954   .0378841     2.11   0.035     .0057027    .1542054
         matches |  -.0317426   .1084575    -0.29   0.770    -.2443155    .1808302
            yr06 |   .0989152   .1865216     0.53   0.596    -.2666604    .4644908
              hc |  -.5537637   .2174461    -2.55   0.011    -.9799503   -.1275771
           _cons |   .0132214   .3341736     0.04   0.968    -.6417467    .6681896
    Anderson canon. corr. LR statistic (identification/IV relevance test):  31.320
                                                       Chi-sq(3) P-val =    0.0000
    Hansen J statistic (overidentification test of all instruments):         2.849
                                                       Chi-sq(2) P-val =    0.2406
    Instrumented:         yellows
    Included instruments: matches yr06 hc
    Excluded instruments: foulscomit foulssuffer match06

    The Hansen J-statistic is a test for whether the instruments are jointly independent from the Red Cards error term. Fancy talk for whether these instruments can be considered exogneous. The test supports the applicability of the instruments (although I mention that there is more to be done here).

    What I found interesting is that the U.S. team received 2 Red Cards on 5 Yellow Cards. Given the estimation results, the U.S. should have received 0.39 Red Cards (round down to zero) and yet received two. Was there bias against the U.S.? Hard to tell without more data. From these two tournaments (2002 and 2006), the 95% confidence interval of the number of Yellow Cards per Red Card is [0.89, 24.12], centered on 12.5. Therefore, this evidence suggests that the U.S. experience was within the 95% confidence interval, but right on the lower bound. My gut tells me there is still statistical bias in the estimation results, and therefore the confidence interval is a bit too high. This would suggest that the U.S. was likely not discriminated against.

    Some might quibble with the linear regression model, versus a count data or some other non-linear specification. I plead guilty, but the qualitative results are likely to hold [fingers crossed!!]. With a little time, I might come back with some additional results from non-linear estimation.

    [STATA data file]
    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:12 PM in Sports

    June 23, 2006
    More Evidence Against Sporting Events as (Economic) Stimuli

    From Reuters:

    BERLIN (Reuters) - The hordes of beer-swilling men who have descended on Germany for the World Cup are proving a disappointment for the host nation's sex workers, preferring to party in public rather than spend time with prostitutes.

    While some larger red-light establishments in host cities have seen their cash tills ringing, a lot of prostitutes say the anticipated boost for Germany's liberal sex industry has failed to materialize.

    "The pent-up sexual demand of horny fans from around the world which has been widely anticipated has not materialized at all," said Karolina Leppert, president of Germany's association for sexual service providers BSD.

    "Business is pretty dead, even the regulars stay away because of all the crowds and the hype," said Leppert, who has been working as a dominatrix in Berlin for eight years.

    That last paragraph provides a new wrinkle to Phil Porter's finding that sporting events have a displacement effect.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:53 PM in Sports

    Mohican 100

    Big time congrats to my two running friends, Rita Barnes and Jeff Schmidt, who ran the Mohican 100 (yes miles!) last weekend. Rita finished in 27:10 (third female) and Jeff in 28:27.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:36 AM in Sports

    June 16, 2006
    On the price of baseball c. 1906

    This is from the June 16, 1906 NYT:

    BASEBALL, POLO GROUNDS TO-DAY 3:30 PM Giants, Champions, vs. St. Louis. Adm. 50c.

    From EH.net, fifty cents in 1906 is approximately $10.81 in 2005 CPI adjusted dollars.

    The point? In 2004, the average per-game season ticket prices for Major League Baseball cost $19.82. That doesn't seem too bad of a price increase over the course of one hundred years.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:33 PM in Sports

    June 15, 2006
    Memo to self: Never make predictions.

    Like most economists I know, I get irritated when people ask me what's going to happen to interest rates, the stock market, or "the economy". I usually mumble something about that (i.e., macro) not being my field. You can tell from the look on their face, they're thinking, "well, sheesh, you're supposed to be an economist, what good are you?!" If I'm feeling frisky, I say something like, "If I knew what was going to happen to [fill in the blank] I'd be rich and in any case I certainly wouldn't be giving that information away to you for free." That usually shuts 'em up.

    But the real truth is that I'm really bad at making predictions. On the very few times I've placed a bet in Vegas on a sports game, I have always (yes always!) lost. I know it's basically a 50-50 shot (factoring in the odds/points) but I don't have a good record. I mean it's like 0-6.

    So yesterday, I decide to go do a 5.2/10.4 mile "prediction run" sponsored by the Toledo Road Runners Club. A prediction run is one in which you try to predict your running time (obviously you run sans watch). I decided to run the 10.4 mile version. The beauty of a prediction run is that you don't have to race it. Thinking the course would be on some rough trails (the run was at "The Oaks" a fantastic Toledo metro park with lots of trails some of which are pretty rough), I figured on a nice easy 8 minute/mile pace--83 minutes. It turns out the run was on nicely manicured wide and flat trails and some bike paths. And I ran with a fellow (who I've run with a few times) who's pretty good. So we settled into a nice 7:30 pace. Bottom line: he came in 5 seconds off of his time and I came in over 4 minutes off (faster) my prediction.

    GRRR. It's bad enough that I can't predict interest rates or who's gonna win the NCAA Championship Game (curse you UCLA!), but I can't even predict how fast I'm going to run a simple run.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:06 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 12, 2006
    Maybe if he opened his eyes when he swings...

    he'd hit the ball better. On the other hand when he hits it, he really hits it.

    The stats on Toledo Mudhens player Mike Hessman: G 49 AB 165 R 18 H 22 (including 7 doubles and 11 home runs) BB 27 SO 54 SLG .376 AVG .133

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 12:46 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 08, 2006
    On ticket scalping

    Around this time of the year, what with the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, and - this year - the World Cup, ticket scalping becomes a favorite topic of discussion amongst the media, cultural critics, and the socially sensitive. After all, why spend four thousand dollars on a basketball ticket when that could help feed a family of four for a year?

    Ticket scalping is not a bad thing, any more than buying e-bay at $20 and selling it at $30. However, the social/media perception and characterization of the ticket scalper is definitely less favorable than the millionaire next door.

    There are many who seek to ban scalping of tickets, either locally near the arena or generally. The arguments for doing so range from allegations of unfair price gouging, event promoters warning about counterfeit tickets, and politicians claiming that ticket scalping restricts attendance to certain events to an elite. However efforts to stop arbitrage through legislation is difficult at best. As long as e-bay and stubhub and other ticket exchange sites exist - either in New York, Dallas, or the Cayman Islands - it will be be difficult to stop those who have tickets to sell from contacting those who want tickets.

    Moreover, it is not immediately clear that banning ticket scalping makes tickets any less expensive (at the ticket window) - see my paper concerning anti-scalping laws. [shameless plug]

    I suggest we ignore the stories about $500 or $1500 tickets and jump to the extreme - so any media types can credit DoL for this one. Scanning e-bay this morning I came across the following auction:

    In case you can't read the fine print, the auction is for 4 tickets to tonight's (Thursday's) Game 1 and the seats are evidently right down on the floor next to the visiting team's bench. Price per ticket? The Buy-it-now option has it at $17,500 per ticket. That's a brand new Ford Fusion.

    As an interesting homework question for my Sports Econ students this semester, I was looking up ticket prices for a potential Game 7 in Dallas. There is an auction for 8 tickets in the rafters (face price $18) on sale for $68.75 per ticket. That's a 382% markup before the series even starts.

    I would think those tickets would likely go for $400 (at least) if the Game 7 actually happened. My hunch is fed by tickets for tonight's Game 1 in similar sections being offered for about $300 each.

    My currently-under-reconsideration paper on anti-ticket scalping laws [yet another shameless plug] suggests that ticket brokers place little residual value on tickets they cannot sell. Perhaps from the prevailing ticket price for the potential Game 7 we can determine what the broker thinks the odds of a Game 7 will actually be.

    If there are only two states of the world: Game 7 occurs and ticket value is $400, or Game 7 does not occur and the ticket's residual value is $2, then the $68.75 per ticket would imply an expected probability of Game 7 occurring of

    400xprob + (1-prob)x2 = 68.75
    prob = .1677 or 16.77%.

    If the ticket might sell for $600 with the same residual ticket value if Game 7 doesn't occur, the $68.75 per-ticket price implies a probability of 11.11% that Game 7 would actually happen.

    It is likely that the tickets for Game 7, even in the rafters, would sell for a considerable premium over a Game 1 ticket as a Game 7 ticket is guaranteed to determine the champion, and Dallas Mavericks fans have been waiting a while for the chance to see their team in the finals. Does this mean that the broker puts even less probability on the event occurring?

    I went to Tradesports.com and found the current options for Miami winning a potential Game 7 is bid at 9 and for Dallas winning a potential Game 7 is bid at 21.1. pic here. Colleague Mike Ward has convinced me that the sum of these bids is the expected probability that a Game 7 will occur (thanks MW). This would put the expected odds near 30% (give or take 5%?).

    I am tempted by the arbitrage possibility, but then my financial advisor would likely be unhappy.

    [Update: A closer look at the e-bay auction for the 8 tickets indicates that if Game 7 is not played, the broker offers a full refund less delivery fees and pay-pal fees. Does this make it a riskless play on the part of the consumer? If the broker is willing to give a full refund if the game is not played then why not hold on to the tickets until Game 7 actually occurs or there is a higher probability of
    Game 7 actually happening?]

    [Update #2: The financial advisor wonders if the broker is offering to redeem the face value of the ticket while keeping the premium.]

    [Update #3: After the first two games of the series, perhaps the broker knew more than I gave him/her credit for. The Heat seem to have no answer at the moment, making a Game 7 less likely.]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:20 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 06, 2006
    On the effect of The Cup

    Cup time is always exciting - although in the past the U.S. population didn't care that much. The 2002 Cup generated the germ of what was once a promising project but has since shifted to the back-burner: what impact does the cup tournament have on national income growth rates and do these rates significantly differ across different types of countries. If they do differ, and the rest of the world takes the month off every four years while the U.S. chooses not to - how much could this account for the per-capita income difference between, say, Brazil and the United States? Over the course of fifty years, or twelve cups, the "negative compounding" that the one-month fiesta might induce could be significant.

    Well, I don't have the answer to that particular question, but we can take a look at some preliminary results. I regressed the one-year change in log real GDP (essentially a real GDP growth rate) on five continental dummy variables (South America is the reference continent), a dummy variable for those years when the world cup occurred, a dummy variable that takes a value of one if a country qualified for the world cup, additional dummy variables for how far the country made it in the world cup, and a dummy variable that takes a value of one if the country hosted the world cup, using a GLS procedure that allows for heteroscedasticity and country specific autocorrelation across countries.

    The data describe an unbalanced panel of 146 countries from 1951 through 2000 and were obtained from the Penn World Tables and combined with world cup data that we gathered.

    dlnrgdp | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval]
    africa | -.0054362 .0027153 -2.00 0.045 -.0107581 -.0001143
    asia | .0134052 .002869 4.67 0.000 .0077821 .0190284
    namerica | .0074735 .0029221 2.56 0.011 .0017462 .0132007
    eur | .0135593 .0026013 5.21 0.000 .0084608 .0186578
    oceania | .0035837 .0039538 0.91 0.365 -.0041656 .0113329
    worldcupyr | -.0031483 .0011778 -2.67 0.008 -.0054567 -.0008398
    qualifiedwc | .002958 .0033245 0.89 0.374 -.0035579 .009474
    secondround | -.0015984 .0045547 -0.35 0.726 -.0105255 .0073287
    roundof8 | .0045202 .0056684 0.80 0.425 -.0065898 .0156301
    roundof4 | -.003048 .0073198 -0.42 0.677 -.0173945 .0112986
    finals | -.0062801 .0117451 -0.53 0.593 -.0293001 .0167398
    winnerwc | .0064542 .0140176 0.46 0.645 -.0210197 .0339281
    hostwc | -.0056349 .0093987 -0.60 0.549 -.0240559 .0127861
    _cons | .0147723 .002353 6.28 0.000 .0101606 .019384
    The parameter on worldcupyr suggests that in the years of the World Cup, the average nation's annual growth in real GDP falls approximately one third of one percent!! However, it doesn't seem to matter how far a particular country makes it in the tournament. Additionally, hosting the tournament might have a negative influence on real GDP growth, although the effect is not distinguishable from zero.

    Before everyone jumps up and down, this is a preliminary result. The major limitation in this specification is that the impact of the world cup is assumed to be constant throughout the 50 years of the sample, but it may be the cup has more of an impact today than it did forty years ago. Furthermore, it is assumed that the impact of the cup tourney is the same across all countries - large, small, rich, poor, north, south. The original question posed at the beginning of this post hypothesizes that the impacts are different. As I said, I hope to eventually find the time to turn attention to this idea.

    Hopefully, this will plant a flag without promoting a scoop. More below the fold.

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:32 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Stadium Economics and the World Cup

    From Fox Sports:

    For the 2002 World Cup, FIFA gave Japan and South Korea $100 million apiece. The money helped defray the costs of 10 expensive and relatively useless stadiums.

    The Koreans spent $2.5 billion on new stadiums, most of which were in rural areas far from Seoul. Even though some of those venues became the home of pro soccer or baseball teams, any of that action is a far cry from the World Cup. Reports projected the stadiums would rarely be filled once the soccer tournament was done.

    Japan, not wanting to be outdone by South Korea, invested more than $4 billion on stadiums, including one in Nagoya that FIFA chose not to use for any World Cup games. According to a study by Clint Waltz at Troy University in Alabama, only two of Japan's 10 arenas would pay for themselves over time.

    Full story here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:04 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 05, 2006
    Rottenberg Retrospective

    The new JPE has Allen Sanderson and John Siegfried's retrospective on Simon Rottenberg's 1956 article "The Baseball Players' Labor Market." Sub required; abstract below:

    Fifty years ago this Journal published Simon Rottenberg's "The Baseball Players' Labor Market," the first professional journal article in sports economics. In this retrospective we review some of his insights and analyses with regard to competitive balance, constraints on payroll and freedoms to contract, revenue sharing, territorial rights, and the supply of talent. We also note subsequent industry developments Rottenberg could not have anticipated and identify where he was ahead of his time.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:09 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 23, 2006
    Interesting math in Minnesota

    Last Friday, the Minnesota legislature announced it had reached a "deal" to tax Minneapolis residents (and tourists) by 0.015 pennies per dollar of taxable sales to build a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins. The new stadium is anticipated to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million (give or take 10%).

    One of my studies was the focus of a story on the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis last Friday. The study focused on the impact of new stadiums on team finances. Not surprisingly, team owners stand to gain considerably when the public finances a new stadium. Video here. I still have a face for radio and I need to learn not to interject so many cynical chuckles during a telephone interview, but I commend Brad Sattin for finding me on the Internet and being willing to run with the story.

    There was no announcement about the anticipated size of the Twins stadium, but given recent trends it will likely be between 40,000 and 50,000 seats. Let's take the higher number, which would imply the new Twins stadium will cost approximately $10,000 per seat.

    Today the Minnesota state legislature also approved a new stadium for the Minnesota Gophers (see a trend here? Next the Vikings will get a new stadium). The interesting thing is that the Gophers stadium is anticipated to be 50,000 seats and cost only $248 million or $5,000 per seat. (announcement here).

    Why the big difference in stadium costs? There are likely additional land costs in downtown Minneapolis incurred for the Twins stadium that the Gophers won't have to pay. However, I doubt the land costs are roughly half the cost of the stadium. Here in Arlington, the city is anticipating the land to cost a little more than one fourth of the total stadium cost.

    What else is different? Perhaps there are different costs in building a football stadium compared to a baseball stadium. Yet, previous construction figures do not suggest the differences are that dramatic. More likely the difference is that the hopes and dreams of the Twins ownership include more numerous and more luxurious luxury suites - subsidized by the public dollars.

    While it is not immediately clear that university administrations are immune to the principal-agent problem more clearly at work in the professional venue racket, I bet university administrations make stadium size and expenditure decisions closer to the social equilibrium. [I have no solid empirical evidence for this, just a hunch]

    While the math in Minnesota doesn't seem to add up, this example is not unique. There are other college campuses (Stanford comes to mind) building stadiums with (ostensibly) public dollars, union labor, and with the same characteristics and regulatory constraints as professional venues but at half the cost.

    Perhaps the Vikings can play in Gopher stadium instead of the Gophers playing in the Vikings's stadium?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:09 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 14, 2006
    Irving responds to the Cowboys leaving

    The first time the city of Irving, Texas, had a chance to respond at the ballot box to the Cowboys leaving town for Arlington, the citizens of Irving sock it to Cowboys fans and the team.

    From the Star-Telegram:

    The user fees allow the city to tax professional football players up to $5,000 per game played at Texas Stadium, to add up to $3 in parking fees and to increase ticket prices as much as 10 percent. But city officials have pledged not to impose the so-called locker-room tax.

    The locker-tax won't be imposed here ostensibly because Texas doesn't have a state income tax. However, the ten percent ticket tax will average out to $7.50 per ticket (at last year's average prices) and the parking tax will add up as well, assuming demand for parking and tickets is relatively inelastic.

    The city of Irving wants to impose the taxes to pay for the destruction of Texas Stadium and the redevelopment of the property. It is an odd sort of user-tax, one that would have been welcomed in the case of Arlington.

    Oops. There are parking and ticket taxes but they will be put towards Jerry Jones's "contribution" to the stadium.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:01 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Altoona Curve to Hold Frivolous Lawsuit Night

    Inspired by a Los Angeles Angels fan who filed a lawsuit against the club because he did not receive a red nylon tote bag as part of the major league club’s Mother’s Day promotion last May, the Altoona Curve (AA/Eastern League) have announced that they will be holding Salute to Frivolous Lawsuit Night as part of their Sunday, July 2nd game at Blair County Ballpark.

    The Curve’s salute to all ridiculous lawsuits ever filed will include the following:

    A Pink Tote Bag Giveaway to the first 137 men in attendance ages 18 and over

    The first 137 women 18 and over will receive lukewarm coffee so they will not burn themselves

    The first 137 kids will be given a beach ball with a warning not to ingest it

    Source here.

    UPDATE: A correspondent suggests the Altoona Curve should differentiate between frivolous laws and frivolous lawsuits. He reports that,

    The lawsuit [against the Angels] is not frivolous given California’s preposterous Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly grants just the sort of cause of action the plaintiff has filed. Based on the reports I’ve seen, not only does the plaintiff have a viable case, but he is almost certain to win (or get a favorable out-of-court settlement). People have been filing, and winning, Unruh suits and settlements like this in California for decades. There are law firms that specialize in Unruh claims.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:47 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 09, 2006
    Yum wins?

    Last Saturday's run for the roses was marred, in my mind (and I am sure others), by the fact that the race had its first "sponsor" - Yum! which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A&W, and Long John Silvers. Yep, fast food and the mint julep and big hats, that's a great combination. The Visa sponsorship and selling the official bourbon for mint juleps to Evan Williams (yack) was bad enough, but at least it was still The Kentucky Derby.

    Evidently, Yum might have come out ahead (in some sense) if this story from AdAge is correct:

    The Yum logo appeared clear and in focus for three minutes, 15 seconds during NBC's 90-minute broadcast, while the presenting sponsor was also mentioned by the network's announcers on 18 occasions. All told, Yum and its fast-food restaurants -- A&W, KFC, Long John Silver's, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell -- received $2.665 million in exposure.

    According to news reports, the cost of the five-year sponsorship deal is estimated at just more than $1 million a year.

    Will the next one to "sell out" be The Masters?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:04 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 25, 2006
    More Tinkering with the BCS

    From the AJC:

    The new BCS format is a move mandated by the university presidents in order to expand opportunities to the smaller, non-BCS conferences.

    The four original BCS bowls — Orange, Sugar, Rose, Fiesta — will remain the same. Added to that group will be a stand-alone BCS national championship game. Rather than add a fifth bowl city to the rotation, each year one of the bowls will host two games — its regular bowl and then the BCS championship game.

    The Fiesta Bowl gets the first shot at executing college football's grand new experiment. On Jan. 1 it will host the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in the brand new $455 million Cardinal Stadium in nearby Glendale. On Jan. 8 the same organization will host the BCS championship game.

    Don't like this version? Don't worry the BCS will probably change again next year.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:01 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 13, 2006
    Can Sports Arbitrage Software Make You Easy Money?

    Probably not; explanation here.

    HT: Wilson Mixon

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:03 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 07, 2006
    Hiking Trip Reports

    Hiking Trip #1: La Madre Mountain

    Todd Nesbit and I began at the Sandstone Quarry in the Red Rock National Conservation Area near Las Vegas at 8:30 a.m. It was cool and very windy. We headed toward Turtlehead Peak (pic from La Madre) but headed left toward La Madre at the saddle instead of going up Turtlehead. About 5 miles, 3800' of net elevation gain, and 4 hours of tough bushwacking/difficult loose rock later we hit the summit (pic). Great views of Red Rock Canyon, the Las Vegas valley, and the larger Spring Mountains to the north.


    Hiking Trip Report #2: Grand Canyon

    After taking the bus to Yaki Point, Ben Powell and I hit the South Kaibab Trail into the canyon at about 7:15 a.m. It was cool, windy, and rainy the whole way down. After 2 hours or so we finally made it the 6+ miles and 4800' of elevation loss to the river (pic). We ran into a park ranger who gave us the good news that the weather was supposed to clear for a few hours before a snow storm hit. After a little lollygagging around near the river, we headed back up the Bright Angel Trail with mostly sunny skies and better temperatures. We took a hero shot pic near the rim and promptly headed for the nearest bar. 16-17 miles, 7.5 hours total.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:18 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Typo or cyber-squatting?

    Yesterday, the good folks at Chick-Fil-A released the new log for the erstwhile Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, now called simply the Chick-Fil-A bowl. I know it is a small thing, but being from Georgia originally, I wasn't too happy about the name change.

    The new logo vs. the old logo:

    In the official press release is this paragraph:

    Tickets for this year's Chick-fil-A Bowl are now available for public sale, and fans are encouraged to purchase early in order to guarantee availability. Fans can reserve their seats now by calling the Bowl ticket office at 404-586-TIXX (8499) or online at www.chick-fil-abowl.com.

    As of 11:48 CDT, the link www.chick-fil-abowl.com is a "parked" URL at GoDaddy.com. Nice. The correct URL - www.chickfilabowl.com or www.peachbowl.com.

    The URL with the hyphens is clunky relative to the actual URL, however its inclusion in the press release suggests that it was on someone's mind at one time. Perhaps cyber-squatters got to the hyphenated URL first?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:58 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    April 01, 2006
    GMU hoops: Got legs?

    There has been much discussion about the similarities between GMU's basketball success and that of the law school and the economics department. Pete Boettke and Alex Tabarrok on Slate.com here (and the interesting side bar here). Also see Radley Balko for FoxNews.com about GMU and George Mason the man here. Obviously, the sports coverage itself has been pervasive, as expected. (BTW, this weekend I'm at a Liberty Fund conference where I'm the only GMU alum, and there has been a lot of buzz about GMU. All the interest in the program among the other conferees has been a delight.)

    But does GMU have a chance?

    Consider the argument (attributable to Boettke?) that the top programs are more vulnerable to early player exit to the NBA, and that "senior led teams are more effective than freshman led teams. No matter how good freshman players are, a senior player of similar skill level will outcompete the freshman player 8 out of 10 times." (That's Boettke.) In fact, GMU starts 3 seniors (and 2 soph's) and gets 21 minutes from a junior. Meanwhile, of the 7 Gators that play more than 12 mins/game, 4 are sophomores, 2 are juniors, and the other is a freshman. While Florida's five starters average 10 or more PPG, none of their players averaged double figures prior to this year.

    In short, tonight's game will come down to Mason's experience and tenacity vs. FU's talent and new chemistry. If the "money ball" idea wins out, GMU will advance. I really hope so, because it'll be great for Coach Larranaga and the Patriots, but also because I'll be joining the gang at the APEEs in Vegas tomorrow and the final is Monday night. How great would that be?

    Comments are open....

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:26 PM in Sports  ·  Comments (1)

    March 31, 2006
    A milestone in the world of cricket

    One of the modern greats, Sri Lankan batting star Sanath Jayasuriya, has announced his retirement from test matches. He will continue to play one-day internationals, where his aggressive batting style is more valuable, and hopes to play in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

    Test cricket, where matches last five days, is notoriously dull. A batsman need be in no hurry to score runs. I once saw England’s Nasser Hussain score only one run from the first 30 deliveries he faced. The one-day game is more exciting, and Jayasuriya has helped make it so.

    Jayasuriya’s lasting contribution was to be one of the first batsmen to recognize that in the one-day game, with the batting team limited to 50 overs (at 6 deliveries per over, that’s 300 deliveries from the other team’s bowlers), it pays to score rapidly. More teams lose by scoring too few runs from their 50 overs than by using up all their outs, so go for a high number of runs per over, even at a greater risk of making an out. In a 1996 match against Pakistan, Jayasuriya scored 76 runs off of just 28 balls, an astounding run rate. The most common result from a batted ball is one run; hitting it beyond the boundary scores four (or six if it clears the boundary on the fly). Jayasuriya's performance that day was like a baseball player hitting five home runs in a game.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:06 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 29, 2006
    What's in a name?

    Today's Star-Telegram points to one of the most bizarre naming-rights issues I have seen in quite a while:

    Under a proposal, Dallas-based Methodist Health System would pay $150,000 a year for two years and then $25,000 a year for eight years to name the facility Methodist Mansfield Stadium. The $21.7 million, 11,000-seat facility on Texas 360 and East Broad St. would be open in time for the 2006-07 school year.

    Trustee Nancy Ryals, who expressed her concern about the name, said it could give the wrong impression that the district is affiliated with a religious group and could open the district up to other religious advertising. She said she would rather name it for someone who has given a great deal to the district but understands that it is a financial benefit.

    Most evidence I have seen suggests that, outside of NASCAR, naming rights do little for the purchaser. Perhaps if Ms. Ryals knew that naming rights don't provide the big boost that everyone expects she would be less concerned?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:16 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 27, 2006
    Greatest Ever Run to Final Four

    Addendum: Pete Boettke's analysis from a week ago, after GMU had advanced to the sweet 16, is very informative and has several well reasoned clues for the rise of parity in men's hoops......and law and economics....

    Writing for ESPN.com, Andy Katz has this to say about the Patriots of George Mason:

    But even if George Mason was a single-digit seed instead of a No. 11, that probably wouldn't matter for historical purposes. This was the greatest run ever to the Final Four. End of discussion.


    The Patriots were one of the last five at-large teams to make the field, and all they did was knock off three of the last six national champs: Michigan State (2000) in round one (without suspended second-leading scorer Tony Skinn), North Carolina (2005) in round two and Connecticut (2004) at the Verizon Center in overtime in the Elite Eight. Wedged in there was Missouri Valley champ Wichita State in the Sweet 16.

    Let's go over this again: The Patriots took out Tom Izzo, Roy Williams and Jim Calhoun, the latter a Hall of Fame member and the first two likely to be enshrined some day.

    I wasn't lucky enough to be there in person like Pete Boettke, who reported by email to have sat 10 rows behind the GMU bench, and Alex Tabarrok, who was ecstatic on MR. But I was lucky to have watched with Ed Stringham, Ben Powell, and an ecstatic contingent of eight crowding around the t.v. in Ben's living room. As a fan of the Spurs, Cowboys and Aggies, I never thought it would be GMU that would amaze me the most in sports. All five starters were players of the game. Best of luck to Coach Larranaga and his epitome of a team. I hope they win it all!

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 10:09 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 22, 2006
    Marathon mess-ups
    Three female runners finished third, fourth, and fifth in the Dubai marathon in the United Arab Emirates even after faulty directions forced them to run an extra 2.5 miles on the 26.2-mile course. The mistake cost the runners about 15 minutes—about what they lost by. [Story.]

    This isn't as strange as you would imagine. Elite runners often find themselves running alone. And small races often have fewer volunteers, signs and fans on the course. It's not hard to zig when you should have zagged.

    In fact, closer to home, a large group of runners at last weekend's Cherry Blossom Marathon in Macon, GA ran an extra 1.3 miles or so.

    This came to me from a friend running his first marathon,

    My overall time was just under 3:41. *BUT*, and I'm sure nobody but you will believe me when I tell them this, a bunch of us added on an extra ten minutes or so of running. We were supposed to go down this little side road and turn at the aid station. Unfortunately, there was nobody manning the station telling us to turn, so we all went all the way to the end of the road. When we came back, a ton of slow people were in front of us. And, then I saw what I didn't want to see: mile marker 7 and a 1:04 time o n my watch! I should've been on pace for a 54 time at mile 7!!!

    I marked my time at the 25 mile mark to get an idea of where I would've been without the extra distance, and it was 3:29 and change.

    This from another person I know, who besides being a great runner, is also a race organizer himself,

    The organization for the Cherry Blossom Marathon has gone downhill. I was running seventh during the mishap, but rallied to fourth. The lead car did not know the course, and blew by the turnaround in this neighborhood. Runners coming back out of the neighborhood were telling people to turn around at a stop sign. When I got to the stop sign --- there wasn't any markings so I guessed there may be a problem. I hit the seven mile marker and knew there was a problem as that mile I was around 15:30. I calculated that it cost me an extra 8:45 --- which given my pace at the time 6:45 per mile --- would mean we ran an extra 1.3 miles. I calculated I should have run a 2:55 if we had run the course right. Oh well. They did correct it at some point. I had friends who ran 3:55 --- and they said --- a police car zipped ahead, and turned around runners at the correct point. Only the leaders (at least the first 50 in the race) had to run the extra distance.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:48 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 21, 2006
    When is a mountain just a mole hill?

    In hiking mountains it's not always the highest mountain that is best. Many of the Colorado 14ers are fairly unimpressive peaks simply because they rise only a couple thousand feet from the nearby ridge (or saddle) leading to the next peak.

    So mountains end up being defined in terms of something called prominence more than height. There's quite an elaborate science behind determining a mountain's prominence.

    Prominence is a term that represents the elevation of a summit relative to the surrounding terrain. It is defined as the elevation of a summit relative to the highest point to which one must descend before reascending to a higher summit.

    Here's a list and map of the 57 "ultra" prominent peaks in the 48 states of the U.S. with prominences greater than 5000 feet.

    I've hiked up one, 56 to go.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:49 PM in Science ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 14, 2006
    Hungry Yet?

    A tasty new ballpark treat from a minor league baseball team:

    The Grizzlies and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts have teamed up to create “Baseball’s Best Burger.” The burger, which was debuted at the Grizzlies' December 10th sale, consists of a thick and juicy burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon. The burger is then placed in between each side of a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnut.

    The team owner must be a cardiologist.

    HT: Mini Me

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:48 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 13, 2006
    Gold Medal in Spin

    In a passing comment in a story about Oregon trying to make some money of the 2010 Vancouver games:

    The U.S. Olympic Committee reported that the state of Utah fielded a $2.8 billion boost in economic output from the 2002 Games.

    What? I admit to two things: a) being unaware of the USOC study and b) not being able to find the study (if someone does, flash me an email). However, the number seems incredible - especially when the entire Gross State Product of Utah in 2002 was estimated by BEA to be about $73.38B. This would make the Winter Olympics worth 3.8% of GSP? Hmmmm...that sounds fishy.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:29 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    New website for the Muffins

    The Ohio Village Muffins Vintage Base Ball Club, the 1860 rules teams that Josh and I play for, has a cool new website.

    Here's a pic of me taking a mighty swing. (Take note of how far the ball went!)

    UPDATE: link above won't work. Here's the pic:


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:05 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 09, 2006
    On the economic impacts of sporting events (once again)

    Economic impact studies are typically discussed in the context of multi-hundred million dollar stadiums or mega-events like the Super Bowl. Economists have generally concluded that most studies grossly overstate the potential benefits and understate the actual costs of an event/arena, thereby ensuring an unreasonably high net economic benefit for the local economy. Economists have been poking holes (big, "you sunk my battleship" holes) in the sides of these studies for years. However, the inertia of the "economic impact study" seems to trump what economists have to say.

    While the big studies understandably attract the attention of economists, I am growing a bit more sensitive to the smaller claims, which, although less dramatic, might actually do more damage. The local claims of $X million being generated by the local watermelon-spitting tournament are much more numerous (by definition) than the studies of a local Super Bowl. Perhaps economists should focus some attention to these more numerous smaller claims because they seem to add to a mythology.

    Case in point, the Red Diamond Vulcan Cup soccer tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. Local tourism officials estimate the "soccer tournament will have an economic impact of more than $4 million."

    Perhaps, but I doubt it. The article points out that the tournament is expected to bring 6,000 people to Birmingham. The tournament entails 232 teams (from all over), which would require only 26 people from out of town for each team. Let's say that ten percent of the teams are from Birmingham (I don't know for sure, but this is how it worked when I played club soccer), then if all 6,000 people were to come from out of town (thereby avoiding substitute spending issues), each team would only need to bring 29 people. This number is reasonable and therefore the claim of 6,000 visitors may not too be far from the truth.

    What is less likely is that the 6,000 people would, in two days, create $4 million in economic impact. Let's take the easy approach first. Without any so-called multiplier effect, 6,000 people spending $4m in two days would require $333 in per-capita per-diem spending. This level of spending is unrealistic, especially when you consider that some of the visitors are little brothers and sisters who do not require such expenditures. [Aside: I claim it would be difficult to spend this amount of money per day in Birmingham if you wanted to - but I am originally from Chattanooga, so I can make fun of Birmingham (he he).]

    I have written elsewhere that evidence suggests per-capita per-diem tourist spending is closer to $100-$125. Thus, the 6,000 visitors might generate closer to $1.2m - $1.5m over the two days. I haven't seen the study the Birmingham folks used, but I am sure they used some form of "multiplier effect" to determine the total impact of the soccer tournament.

    The easily abused multiplier effect is a simple scaling of the direct spending assuming no leakages from the local economy. Blame Keynes (?). The standard approach is to take the direct spending $D, "select" an "appropriate" multiplier, m, and calculate the total economic impact as $D(1+m). Obviously, the total impact is very sensitive to the multiplier chosen.

    In our example at hand, if the direct spending is $1.2m-$1.5m and the total impact is $4m, this implies a multiplier of 2.33 - 1.66. Both are probably a bit high, but not as high as I have seen in some studies (many times multipliers are "chosen" as high as 4 or 5!!).

    Econometric estimates of multipliers, accounting for leakages, substitution, etc., suggest a multiplier closer to .7, which in the case of the B'ham tournament would lead to total economic impacts in the range of $2.04m-$2.55m (all based on the assumption of 6,000 out-of-town visitors spending between $100-$125 per day for two days).

    Standard and Poor's estimated the Birmingham economy in 1998 was approximately $27.968 BILLION. Therefore, while I personally (and probably a lot of people) would love to have a slice of a $4m pie (or even a $2.5m pie), in the grand scheme of Birmingham qua economy, even the most optimistic number represents approximately 0.014% (assuming no growth since 1998).

    Granted, the overall economy is ultimately comprised of any number of .014% contributions (about 7,142 of them ;-), but the local McDonald franchises likely have a bigger economic impact than a soccer tournament but don't get the credit they deserve. This must be because there isn't a local Fast Food Bureau.

    My peeve is not with tourism and convention bureaus, per se. Rather the manner in which they justify their existence. Instead of being satisfied (or thinking the public would be satisfied) with securing conventions, tournaments, and so forth for their own sake, local tourism folks feel obligated (perhaps it is CYA, perhaps SOP) to point to some mystical economic benefits that a) probably aren't measured correctly, or b) are so minuscule that it almost belittles the event when put in context.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:01 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 03, 2006
    If All Men Were Unitas...

    Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 51 that if men were angels, no government would be necessary.

    Call the following Plummer's Quandry: if all men were Unitas, coaches would not be necessary.

    As Malcolm Gladwell puts it:

    Speaking of which, how fascinating was the Plummer meltdown in the Pittsburgh game? People have been beating up on Plummer, saying that his true colors emerged in that game. I prefer to look at it the other way. Shanahan managed to put in place an offensive system so brilliant and so precisely tailored to his quarterback that he could make Plummer -- Plummer! -- look like a great quarterback for 17 consecutive games. That's pretty remarkable. The Plummer story is not about the frailty of individuals. It's about the redemptive power of environments.

    Read the whole interview. It's excellent.

    Posted by Joshua Hall at 07:37 AM in Sports

    February 28, 2006
    20 points in 4 minutes

    In all the hub-bub about millions of dollars for stadiums and star players coupled with Bode Miller revealing all that is bad about U.S. amateur sports, the story about the Rochester highschool basketball team manager scoring 20 points in four minutes was refreshing. Most people point to the fact that the young man is autistic, and I don't take away from that however I have no experience with autism. To me the real story was a) the coach letting the tireless and loyal team manager get a chance to play and b) said manager actually experiencing being a hero.

    [Update: Of course, this entry makes a lot more sense if there is a link to the video itself. An odd typo made it invisible. Here it is]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:13 PM in Sports

    February 27, 2006
    The Blind Leading the Stupid?

    Some claim that sports management is such characterized. Sometimes you do wonder. Consider this this blast from AB News:

    The AP reports that Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., has lost more than $12 billion in bad investments over the past decade -- including $600 million he has poured into the Blazers and their arena since 1988 without realizing a dime of profit.

    Now, I find it impossible to believe that the Blazers are not returning a dime of profit, but I haven't seen their (real) books. In the end, if Allen isn't good at running an NBA team, perhaps he should divest himself of his millstone.

    Unfortunately, such is not the case, at least for the moment:

    Executives with the Portland Trail Blazers say the NBA team will lose $100 million over the next three years and desperately needs some kind of "public-private partnership."

    DANGER, DANGER, DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!! As soon as I see the words "public-private partnership" mentioned in the context of professional sports I wince. There is absolutely no reason for the citizens of Portland to be involuntarily forced to bear the risk involved with running/managing a professional sports franchise. If the team wishes to sell shares of its corporation to the public, then so be it. However, that is not what is implied in this statement.

    Lance Conn (manager of Allen's investment company) claims that the Blazers receive no revenue for suites, clubs, courtside seats, game concessions or parking at the Rose Garden Arena." If true, and I do not closely follow the financial arrangements of NBA teams, this is testimony to myopic behavior by the city of Portland and/or to the ineptitude of Allen and company.

    I have stated for quite some time that cities that build arenas/venues with public dollars should enjoy a greater share of the revenues generated by said arenas/venues. Unfortunately, cities seem reluctant to push back against franchise owners in negotiating revenue-sharing with the team. I do not necessarily envision the city becoming a for-profit partner with the team, rather the city should secure as much revenue as feasible to retire any debt incurred for stadium construction as quickly as possible (the opportunity cost of stadium debt is staggering).

    I have no theoretical model (yet) to predict the optimal revenue sharing, however I am fairly certain that it is greater than the current norm. On the other hand, the city can't take all revenue generated by the arena/venue because if the team goes belly up the arena is essentially worthless.

    I hope the folks in Portland keep their politicians from being swayed by threats to relocate the team, etc., to foolishly involve the local government/taxpayers in the business of a professional franchise. I know that it has "sort of worked out" in Green Bay, but that situation is likely the exception that proves the rule.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:33 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 24, 2006
    Poor justification for $1 billion

    I hate to seem to be picking on Kansas City for the moment, but that's where a good amount of stadium activity is taking place.

    The good folks of Kansas City are being asked to tax themselves $1 billion to provide roofs for Arrowhead and Kaufman stadiums, and to provide "upgrades" for the stadiums over the next 25 years. The main impetus for a roof over Arrowhead is so that KC can host a Super Bowl (once).

    The mayor of Kansas City provides even worse justification:

    Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes highlighted the potential of hosting Super Bowl games, All-Star baseball games, college championship tournaments and extreme sport competitions at a roofed and renovated Truman Sports Complex.

    "What if the Jayhawks - or maybe the Tigers - could make it to the Final Four, and that Final Four was held right here in Kansas City?" Barnes said.

    KC is already paying more than $220 million for an arena, but alas that is likely to be too small to host a final four. Ok.

    Yet, just how valid is the Final Four argument?

    There are various ways to skin a cat, but I grabbed the information on the Final Four from 1939-2005. Since 1939, Kansas, Missouri, and (I threw in) Kansas State, have been represented in the final four 15 times. Since 1970, the three schools have made it to the Final Four 8 times.

    During the entire sample period, the city of Kansas City hosted the Final Four 10 times, by far the most of any city over the history of the Final Four [mainly because the NCAA was based in Kansas for so long]. However, since 1970, Kansas City has only hosted one Final Four. Both New Orleans and Indianapolis have hosted four Final Fours since 1970, the most in the country.

    Assume the allocation of Final Fours amongst cities and the quality of basketball teams is independent (this might not be true, but so be it). Assume further that Kansas City replaced Indianapolis or New Orleans and hosted four randomly allocated Final Fours over the next thirty five years. Finally, assume the quality of MissKansas basketball was the same over the next 35 years as it has been in the previous 35 years, i.e., one or more of the three teams will be represented in eight (randomly selected) Final Fours.

    With these assumptions in place, it is possible to calculate the odds that Kansas City will host a Final Four when one of the three MissKansas teams makes it to the Final Four as 0.228x0.114 = 0.026 or a 2.6% chance. How did I come up with that number? Take 8/35 and multiply by 4/35 to obtain 32/1225 which is approximately 2.6% (with rounding).

    What proportion of the $1 billion in taxes would the folks of Kansas City consider worthy of "gambling" on the chance of seeing one of the three teams in a KC Final Four? This is impossible to objectively measure, of course. However, the mayor puts forth the Final Four as one of five general "mega events." So, perhaps we could use 20% of $1 billion. However, this number is just too high for a reasonable argument (as we will see).

    I am going to take an extremely small percentage of the $1 billion to prove my point. Let's use 1%, or $10 million, for giggles. For the $10 million to be an "even gamble," the benefits to the entire population of Kansas City of seeing one or more of the MissKansas teams in the Final Four in Kansas City would have to be $285 million ($10 million/0.026)!!! Any claim that the folks of KC would value seeing any particular team in a Final Four at this level is simply not credible.

    Granted, I have assumed that all of the value of hosting the Final Four in KC rests on the probability that one or more of three MissKansas teams play in the Final Four. This is a strong assumption, but in the end it likely doesn't make much of a difference. For example, let's assume hosting a Final Four (regardless of what teams are involved) yields a $3 value for each of 1 million people in the KC tax jurisdiction. Then, hosting the Final Four would have a value of $3 million, which would reduce the break-even value of the three-team possibility to $270 million. This number is still not credible.

    Therefore, while the mayor's rhetoric seems reasonable on the surface, and who wouldn't want the chance to see their favorite college team play in the Final Four in their home town, a little bit of reflection makes it seem completely ridiculous. The Mayor of KC is not unique in this instance. Just about every politician appeals to the local constituency's hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Unfortunately, if the local citizenry were asked for their objective value of the politician's appeal, it is likely to be considerably lower than what the price of the stadium/arena/venue entails.

    In fact, this might be one of the worst reasons I have seen proffered for spending considerable tax money to build/renovate a stadium.

    [STATA Data File]

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:31 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 23, 2006
    The cost of "class"?

    The answer to this question has eluded us for so long that, perhaps, we have stopped trying to find an answer. Now, however, we know the cost of "world class," at least for Kansas City!!

    From AB News:

    The cost of the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., has risen 10% to $276 million because of upgrades to make the downtown arena a "world-class facility," officials said.

    The cost of "class," in this case, is a mere $26 million!! What does KC get for the additional cost? What is it exactly that distinguishes the world class venues from the hunks-of-junk that mere wannabe cities build?
    The increased costs include $3.5 million to enable the arena's exterior to be completely covered with glass and $2.5 million for terrazzo floors inside

    Glass!?!? Terrazzo?!?! This is only an additional $6 milllion - what about the other $20 million? Response: crickets.

    A better example of "if you're buying, I'll have top sirloin" is harder to come across.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:35 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    The NBA as market maker

    Last year the NBA instituted a dress code for its players. There was a lot of howling that the league had no right to do this, but then it was pointed out that the current collective bargaining agreement indeed gives the league the right to institute a dress code. For those who didn't read the CBA before signing on, they have no one to blame but themselves.

    An immediate outcome of the dress code was that several players received new endorsement contracts with men's fashion companies, many of which did not have endorsement contracts with basketball players before. While some players likely lost contracts with other companies, at least some players seemed to be made better off after the dress code. Why the players did not/could not obtain such endorsement contracts without the dress code is not clear.

    However, the NBA as a league is a fairly well organized cartel and seems to be doing exactly what a cartel is expected to do - enhance and protect the profitability of its member firms. The dress code has evidently allowed the NBA the cover to launch an upscale men's fashion line:

    The collection will be available later this spring. Initial product offerings include wool and leather blazers at $348 and $648, respectively, that feature NBA and team logo embroidery on the inside lining. Dress shirts will go for $87.50 to $89.50, and woven silk ties will retail for $39.50.

    Now, I am not sure if there is a fashion foul if you work on Wall Street and wear an NBA team logo blazer. However, I am willing to bet that without the dress code the $650 leather blazer with NBA logo on the inside wouldn't be a big hit. How clever of the NBA to create a market for high end men's fashion. Just what cartels are supposed to do - find joint profit maximizing solutions that are not possible when all cartel members act individually.

    While the NBA faces challenges, at least in certain areas the NBA qua cartel seems to be doing just fine, thank you very much.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:29 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 21, 2006
    Nats to be Nameless Again?

    From espn.com:

    The team without a home or owner might also not have a name.

    According to a report in The New York Times on Tuesday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a request for federal trademark registration on the name Washington Nationals to Bygone Sports last week. The Cincinnati-based company, which specializes in historic trademarks and sports apparel, applied for the trademark in September 2002.

    According to the Times, Major League Baseball, aware of Bygone Sports' claim to the Washington Nationals name, thought it had reached an agreement with the company for the name's rights when the franchise was moved from Montreal in 2004.

    Should the Nats become nameless once again, we here at DOL will gladly renew our offer of assistance in naming the team. More than ever, the name Porkers would seem appropriate for a team playing so close to the "Bridges to Nowhere" Congress and soon to be playing in a new stadium funded by the fleecing of DC taxpayers.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:44 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    NCAA Sued for Monopsonistic Price-Fixing

    From espn.com:

    LOS ANGELES -- As a UCLA linebacker in the late 1990s, Ramogi Huma left college after four years with $6,000 in credit card debt. His scholarship paid for tuition, room, board and required books but not incidentals such as phone bills and travel expenses. Coming from a lower-income family, he lacked the funds to cover the difference.

    "That's where MBNA came in and cleaned house," Huma said of his high-interest credit card.

    After graduation, Huma lobbied for a bona fide full ride for NCAA athletes, whose standard scholarship package, called a grant-in-aid, is equal to an amount about $2,500 a year less than the official cost of attendance. The NCAA wouldn't budge, despite supportive statements made by association president Myles Brand about raising the cap.

    Now it has come to this: A federal antitrust lawsuit filed late Friday in Los Angeles seeks to prohibit the NCAA from telling member colleges they cannot offer athletic scholarships up to the full cost of attendance -- and could expose the NCAA to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for past wrongs.

    The class-action claim was brought on behalf of Division I-A football players and major-college basketball players, whose programs generate the overwhelming amount of revenue that flows into college athletic departments. Under antitrust law, any current scholarship athlete, as well as any player in the past four years, qualifies as a plaintiff. ...

    On college campuses, athletes are the only students subject to aid restrictions imposed by an agreement among universities. Talented students in music, chemistry or any other area can be bid upon by individual colleges, without limits on the total value of their scholarship packages. Some, often graduate students, receive the full cost of attendance plus cash payments.

    Huma, though, said that the lawsuit does not ask that athletes be treated in the manner of professional athletes with free-agent rights. Instead, it asks for the restoration of funds for incidental expenses, which the NCAA eliminated in 1973 in a cost-cutting move.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:04 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Curling mania

    I don’t know about you, but after their nail-biting win over Scotland (er, the UK) to qualify for the medal round, I’m psyched about the USA men’s Olympic curling team. Yeah, it’s like shuffleboard on ice – TO THE MAX. The Minnesotan (er, US) team: Unflappable captain Pete Fenson, hotheaded John Shuster (the mike caught him muttering “fricking” the other night after a bad shot), power slider Joe Polo, and the hero so far, the super-precise Shawn Rojeski. The semi-final game against Canada is tomorrow at 8pm EST on CNBC; the final game is Friday at the same time, same station.

    CORRECTION: The USA-Canada semifinal will be be shown at 5pm EST, 4pm central, on CNBC.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 12:03 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Putting Excitement Back Into the Winter Olympics

    Several of us were sitting around City Hall - er, I mean Brew's Pub - in our little town of Granville the other night, when the conversation turned from the usual topic - local politics - and it was noted that the TV ratings for the Winter Olympics have been lagging behind those for Reality TV. We decided that the Olympics needed more exciting events. So we were thinking of new events to improve the Olympics. Admittedly, we were mildly under the influence of legal beverages at the time, which can influence one's judgment (fortunately, in Granville everyone can walk home), but some of the ideas still seem worth a chuckle, so I thought I'd post a few here:

    Short Track Ice Dancing: Couples race around the rink at speeds up to 35 mph, while performing the Ravensburg Waltz.

    Luge Moguls: Admit it - wouldn't luge be more exciting if they put a few of those big bumps at the end of the sled run?

    Bob Sled Slalom: We're tired of hearing about how the drivers steer with all these little twitches on the steering mechanism that no one can even see. C'mon, put a big sled in an icy downhill tube, who couldn't get to the bottom? But let's find out if these drivers can negotiate a real course.

    Biathalon: Sure, the Winter Games already have something called the Biathalon. The problem is that the current event mixes the wrong sports: Cross country skiing and riflery. We think the Biathalon should consists of Curling and Riflery. Just don't grap the gun when you mean to reach for the brush!

    Skeleton Half Pipe: Skeleton racers plunge headfirst into the half pipe, shoot up the other side and attempt a backside 360 with flip. Watch the huckers bonk, pack and bail. Who wouldn't want to watch that?

    Downhill Figure Skating (inspired by Bode Miller): Imagine the excitement as skaters roar down the slope at speeds approaching 70 mph. "Here comes the triple toe-loop... OH, I don't like the looks of this. Tell us what went wrong, here's Dick Button!"

    500 meter speed skating free style: Judged on time and points for style.

    Nordic 4 x 10km: In this event, which lasts over an hour, relay teams of 4 cross country skiers do several laps around a track, covering a total of 40 kilometers. We think it would be more exciting if several hungry polar bears were released in the area before hand.

    We have no idea if any of these sports will catch on. We're not even sure they're funny ideas. But surely if a bunch of yahoo nimrods in a bar in Granville can come up with such things, the brainiacs at the IOC could come up with a few new twists on the Winter Games.

    Posted by Brad Smith at 10:10 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 20, 2006
    Why pay when you don't know what you bought?

    In an example of some of what is wrong about the public subsidy game in professional sports, the Charlotte Business Journal reports that attendance is up 13% for the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, who moved into a new $265 million publicly funded arena this year. The increase in attendance moves the Bobcats to 20th out of 30 teams for the season. Hooray!!

    Such attendance boosts are not uncommon in new facilities, although evidence suggests that the so-called "honeymoon" or "novelty" effect lasts for less than ten years (this has been shown by a number of researchers, including Brad Humphreys and Dennis Coates in a recent Contemporary Economic Policy paper [I'll try to dig up a link]).

    However, the article also states:

    While the team has shown gains in tickets sold, franchise executives won't discuss the overall financial performance and have declined to disclose the number of season tickets sold in the new building.

    I understand that the Bobcats are privately owned, and revealing such information to the public also reveals the information to their competitors. However, if the cities won't negotiate for access to this information, then why pay the money in the first place? Perhaps it doesn't matter to the local taxpayer - after all, there is an arena and that's what was purchased. However, in the spirit of full information, how about letting the good folks of Charlotte know a little more about what impact the arena had on the Bobcats's bottom line? I know, owners as a group don't want the information revealed because the paying public might suddenly wake up to the massive income boost the owners get from a new arena. And that, right there, is the problem.

    If revealing team financial information is a deal buster, then I say "so be it." I am an advocate for getting all public dollars out of the venue business. Short of that occurring, cities should demand a peek behind the curtain after paying a few hundred million dollars. Otherwise, infer what you will from the lack of forthcoming information.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:34 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    I'm going to Disneyland Boston!

    I ran the Tallahasse Marathon yesterday in 3:13:47 besting my previous PR by 5 minutes. Most importantly, I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon! (I'm planning to go to Boston in 2007.)

    I'm not sure how many people ran because the results aren't posted yet, but it wasn't a large field (maybe 130 runners). As a result, I placed quite high: 8th overall and 3rd in my age group (I got a trophy!). UPDATE: The results are now online; there were just 79 runners in the marathon event.

    Photo: Randall Holcombe

    For you techies, here are my splits:

    Read More »

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:28 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 19, 2006
    The cost of amateur athletics c. 1906

    From the Feb. 19, 1906 (not 2006!!) NYT:

    One week from today the American Olympic Games Committee will select the athletes who will represent the United States in the Olympic Games at Athens, Greece...It was originally attended to send sixty athletes providing the sum of $25,000 could be raised. Up to the present but $8,000 of this sum has been secured, with but one week before the subscription list coses. Secretary James E. Sullivan of the Amateur Athletic Union has been in correspondence with Andrew Carnegie, who is taking a deal of interest in the big athletic event, and it is probable that the philanthropist will make up the difference between the total sum collected and the $25,000 needed to give the United States proper representation.

    Today, the USOG admits to a little more then $500 million per year for total operations. I haven't found a price tag for the Torino games, but if someone knows of one, I'd be interested in comparing the figures.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:52 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 09, 2006
    Huntington Park

    After repeatedly voting down levies for sports stadia in this city, it looks like the pols are going to go forward with a new stadium for the AAA Columbus Clippers baseball team without an increase in local taxes.

    Huntington Bancshares Inc. will pay $12 million over the next 23 years to put its name and logo on a stadium that is to house the countyowned team by 2008.

    Franklin County officials said the namingrights deal puts the $55 million stadium project on track after a slow start last year.

    $55 million? Wanna bet?

    Corporate money is a big part of the county’s financing plan for the stadium. Although they will seek $7 million in state funding through the Ohio Cultural Arts Commission, county commissioners have vowed not to use local tax dollars for the project.

    Ok, so the plan is to screw over the artsy fartsy museum set.

    Still I'll believe this no tax stuff when I see it.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 02:44 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    February 08, 2006
    Shameless plug

    Rod Fort and I were mentioned in this Dallas Morning News story.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:40 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 29, 2006
    Ahem, 12th Man Version

    Maybe not a big deal, but Texas A&M is protecting its "12th Man" turf.

    Athletics director Bill Byrne said this week he's received e-mails from A&M supporters complaining about the Seahawks' "brazen use of the 12th Man theme at their home playoff games."

    Byrne said A&M has contacted the Seahawks about the issue. He said he wrote the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills in the past about halting their 12th man themes once the university made them aware of the trademark registrations.

    Byrne said Seattle, though, "has been slow-rolling us."

    Story on ESPN.com.

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 01:21 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 27, 2006
    Student athletes are students too?

    Student athletes all too often get a bad rap in our society. I bet the experience of others is similar to mine: student athletes are often very good students, especially after controlling for the amount of time they dedicate to their sport. While there are some "bad" students who are good athletes, there are also a lot of "bad" students who are not athletes.

    Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education released its estimation of graduation rates for 2005. The news is pretty good, and even the Chronicle has a hard time coming up with a negative spin. However, there is evidently a two year negative trend in African-American male basketball players and all women basketball players. I do not subscriber to the "two observations is a trend" school of thought, but alright.

    I grabbed the 2005 data and threw it into STATA. Here's a picture of overall athlete grad rates versus student grad rates:

    There is a positive correlation between the graduation rates of the overall student body and for the athletes on a given campus. Simple regression results of the relationship are:

    . reg athleterate studentrate

    Source | SS df MS Number of obs = 315
    -------------+------------------------------ F( 1, 313) = 296.84
    Model | 2.94129942 1 2.94129942 Prob > F = 0.0000
    Residual | 3.10144223 313 .009908761 R-squared = 0.4867
    -------------+------------------------------ Adj R-squared = 0.4851
    Total | 6.04274165 314 .0192444 Root MSE = .09954

    athleterate | Coef. Std. Err. t P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]
    studentrate | .5320662 .030882 17.23 0.000 .4713036 .5928288
    _cons | .3115148 .018301 17.02 0.000 .2755062 .3475233

    If we restrict the constant to zero, we get :
    . reg athleterate studentrate,nocons

    Source | SS df MS Number of obs = 315
    -------------+------------------------------ F( 1, 314) = 6199.51
    Model | 117.917099 1 117.917099 Prob > F = 0.0000
    Residual | 5.97240012 314 .019020383 R-squared = 0.9518
    -------------+------------------------------ Adj R-squared = 0.9516
    Total | 123.8895 315 .393299999 Root MSE = .13791

    athleterate | Coef. Std. Err. t P>|t| [95% Conf. Interval]
    studentrate | 1.032438 .0131125 78.74 0.000 1.006638 1.058237

    While the slope coefficient is statistically different from one, the economic/behavioral difference is not significant.

    In other words, as the general student body goes, so goes the student athletes. What? Student athletes are similar to non-student students? I know this flies contrary to general opinion, but in my experience this is more often the case than not. What I haven't figured out, either personally nor from the literature, is whether this is in spite of or because of the tutoring/acadmic advising infrastructure dedicated to student athletes on many campuses around the country.

    Perhaps stories about student athletes are sexy and "socially responsible," especially on campus where many look down their nose at sports in general and the expenditure of dollars on athletics specifically. However, in my mind the correlation is very reassuring (and not surprising) - it is likely that the vast majority of student athletes are much more like their non-athlete counterparts than is generally believed.

    (STATA data file)

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:10 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 26, 2006
    On naming rights

    Selling the name of a stadium is big business nowadays. Here in Arlington, the Rangers sold the name of the "Ballpark in Arlington" to Ameriquest mortgage company - changing the name to "Ameriquest Field in Arlington." The powers-that-be insist that Arlington is supposed to be kept in the name, and it does show up in print occasionally, but for the most part people just call it Ameriquest Field. (more Ameriquest sponsorships here)

    I remember a working paper by Michael Leeds (and a couple of coauthors) that investigated the long-run returns to companies that purchase naming rights and found them to be negative. Perhaps buying naming rights is a bad decision in general, or it is a bad signal that a company is out of marketing ideas and plasters their name on a stadium in a last gasp?

    Ameriquest pays $2 million per year for the naming rights of the Arlington stadium (for another twenty nine years) but just settled with the Feds for $325m after being accused of misleading customers etc. (Official company press release, Local sports writer Randy Galloway's take on the issue)

    I wonder if having your stadium named after a bankrupt/troubled company has any impact on the revenues/attendance/popularity of a team?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:05 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    World Marathon Majors

    The official announcement about the new World Marathon Majors has been made.

    Here's a summary from the Boston Globe:

    To be called the World Marathon Majors, the series will include races in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City, with the idea of raising the profile of running.

    The Olympics and World Championship also will count in the series, which begins April 17 with the Boston Marathon.

    Runners will get points for placing among the top five in each race -- 25 points for a win, down to 1 point for fifth.

    Runners have to compete in three races over two years to be eligible for the prize, and if they run more, only their top four results will count.

    Three races over two years. Whew. This puts to rest my preliminary reaction that doing five races in a single year would be impossible.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:25 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 22, 2006
    The REAL 12th Man

    I’m currently watching the NFC conference championship. While Joe Buck and Fox Sports gush over Seattle, the Seahawks, the fans, and Paul Allen raising the so-called 12-th man flag over supposedly ultra-loud Qwest Field, allow me to remind the football universe that the original home of the original 12th Man is Texas A&M University.

    In 1922 during a football game in Dallas against top-ranked Centre College, the underdog Aggies were decimated by injury to 11 players. Head coach Dana X. Bible was informed that a student named E. King Gill, who formerly practiced with the team as a squadsman, was in the stadium. Coach Bible called Gill from the stands, and he suited up. Though he never entered the game, Gill’s uniformed presence on the sideline came to symbolize the student body’s readiness to support their team, and the reason why students still stand through every game waving their white 12th Man towels. The Aggies beat Centre College 22-14.

    In 1983, head coach Jackie Sherrill made the tradition a reality when he debuted the 12th Man Kickoff Team, an all walk on squad. Their first kickoff at Kyle Field came against visiting Cal, which had ended the previous season against Stanford in another famous kickoff (Stanford band spilling onto the field, yada yada yada). Over the next 7-8 years, the Aggie walk ons were the nation’s best in covering kickoffs, and didn't let one go for a TD…..until about 1990, after which the kickoff team would feature just a single walk on player. In 2005, beleaguered head coach Dennis Franchione reinstated the all walk-on crew.

    Oh yeah, “the 12th Man” is a Texas A&M registered trademark.
    Who knows whether A&M is receiving a licensing fee from the Seahawks?

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 08:48 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 21, 2006
    New NHL Rules

    After attending a Redwings' game on New Year's Eve, I wondered what effect the new hockey rules were having on scoring. Allen St. John, in the Jan 13 WSJ (subscription req) answers. He reports that goals are up about 1.2 per game (4.95 to 6.14) this year compared to the pre-strike year and that there have been only half as many shutouts (51 vs. 107). St. John, however, takes his analysis an additional step. He breaks down scoring into power play goals and even strength goals and finds that power play goals are up about 60% while even strength goals have increased roughly 10%. Hence the NHL's jump in scoring is primarily attributable to the roughly one-third increase in penalties called this year (13.47 per game vs. 10.27 in the pre-strike year) rather than rule changes such as legalizing two-line passes, changing goalie pads, etc.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 03:15 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 19, 2006
    The World Series of Running?
    NASCAR has the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Golf recently has copied the format, which it will begin in 2007. Now marathon running will have its version of an annual championship. The World Marathon Majors will bring together five of the world's top marathons -- Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City -- in a championship format, with prize money for the leaders of the series.

    My $0.02: This is tough. Most of the elite runners will run only 2 races competitively per year. To perform well in 5 races in a year? That's a different kind of thing altogether.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 08:26 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 16, 2006
    Why we run.

    Andrew Oswalt, Professor of Economics at Warwick University tries to understand why people run marathons for fun. His conclusion,

    I believe the fun-run marathon is a cover for baser motives. It is about the search for status in a society where folk are no longer allowed to fight. People take part in amateur marathons because they enjoy the extra social rank it gives them. They go through the pain for a sound, but subconscious, reason. And this is why the running has to be in public.

    As they staggered past me, those Florentine runners were subconsciously thinking: Hah, I am a tougher and better person than that funny man in a hat.

    Damn right, Professor.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 04:23 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    January 10, 2006
    Football as we know it c. 1906

    Throughout the latter part of 1905 there was a significant debate about whether American Football should be banned because of its violence and rough play. In early 1906 the debate still raged and the game was in serious jeopardy.

    We know now that the game was ultimately saved and, IMHO, culminated in one of the best college football games of all time, perhaps THE best game of all time, in last week's Rose Bowl (and I love neither of the teams in the game).

    From the Jan 10, 1906 NYT, is an article that outlines rules adjustments proposed by Harvard. I list them here in bullet-point form (which is not how they appeared in the original article):

    To open up play: the ten yard rule and the forward pass between the twenty-five-yard lines;

    To eliminate roughness: The separation of the two rush lines by the length of the ball

    To eliminate mass plays: Restrict the number of men behind the line to four, if within five yards of the line and between the two ends;

    To encourage kicking: The widening of the distance between the goal posts to twenty five feet.

    Other rules changes:

  • The ball to be placed with the points towards the goals and no players to stand ahead of the points;
  • increasing the distance to be gained in three downs from five to ten yards;
  • permitting the ball to be passed in any direction when the play is between the 25-yard lines, provided the player has not advanced beyond the line of scrimmage;
  • no punt out for a try at goal;
  • increasing the distance between the goal posts to 25 feet;
  • no interference with a free kick;
  • a fair catch to be indicated by the holding up of hand;
  • no movement of players until the ball is put in place, except by one man,
  • not more than three men besides the man receiving the ball shall be less than five yards behind the line unless outside the position occupied by the outside man in the line;

    For the conduct of the game the committee recommends

  • that there shall be a second umpire to watch the conduct of the players
  • that the head linesmen shall watch off-side plays, and penalize them and illegal formations;
  • that any player shall be instantly disqualified for brutality, roughness, and insulting talk, and no substitute permitted for five minutes;
  • that a player twice disqualified shall not play for one year.
  • that players of the side that has possession of the ball shall not hold, block, or otherwise obstruct the opponents except with the body;
  • the player with the ball can ward off an opponent with the hand
  • the penalty for holding or unlawfully obstructing by the side in possession of the ball shall be the loss of the ball.

  • For those who watch American football, both college and professional, these rules will seem very familiar - they are essentially still used today, with some minor modifications, except for the "loss of ball" penalty and the disqualification for "insulting talk." While Harvard has been demoted to Division I-AA status since the early 1980s, American football fans should give a tip-o-the-hat to the Crimson for devising rules that dramatically reduced the violence and injury in the game.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:45 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 31, 2005
    2005 Running Year in Review

    Total Miles: 1,513
    Number of Runs: 221
    Average Run: 6.8
    Longest Run: 26.2 (3:29:27, 3:18:42, 3:19:23)
    Average Miles/Week: 29.9
    Hours (est.): 201.7

    Yellow = individual runs
    Blue = moving weekly average

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:23 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 16, 2005
    Saber rattling in professional sports c. 2005

    It seems that we are heading into yet another round of threatened franchise relocations if cities and states don't start planning for the next orgy of spending on sports venues. In the past few weeks: the Florida Marlins are in discussion with San Antonio because Miami won't build a new stadium, the Saints are talking with San Antonio and (shhh) Los Angeles because New Orleans will need a new/renovated stadium (current bill $200m) but the city has lost much of its population base, the Pittsburgh Penguins are threatening to relocate to Kansas City(?!), the Milwaukee Bucks are threatening that they might have to leave if they don't get a new arena, and now the owner of the Seattle Supersonics is threatening the same.

    All of this saber rattling is interesting. Exactly where do the owners of the Bucks and Sonics think they will go? What city big enough to host an NBA team doesn't have one already? I can think of a few that might fit the bill, but beware the New Orleans/Charlotte syndrome - strong demand in the first two years and then boredom and disaster thereafter. Perhaps the following cities are on the list: Nashville, Las Vegas (pro sports in Vegas?), Jacksonville, Columbus (OH), Cincinnati, and St. Louis? Hmmm...those might work for basketball, but where are the Penguins going to relocate if the KC deal falls through?

    San Antonio is actually a good place for either a baseball/football team (perhaps both) - the San Antonio/Austin area is well over a million people and there are plenty of folks with money.

    Other than that, it seems that the threats of relocation are even more empty than in the past. Perhaps the leagues have done this to themselves through "too much" expansion - at least too much to make extortion practical.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 05:08 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Lance Armstrong sued for libel
    ROME Dec 15, 2005 — Lance Armstrong has been ordered to stand trial in Italy on charges of defaming cyclist Filippo Simeoni.

    Lance apparently called him a "liar". OOOOOO.


    I guess there's no Italian phrase for "sticks and stones may break my bones but word will never hurt me."

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:53 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 05, 2005
    Doughnut-style holes featured in Turin medals

    At first I thought this might be related to Larry's posting on real vs. nominal gold prices. Reading on I learned,

    The new medal design was unveiled by Turin organizers Wednesday at the close of a two-day visit by International Olympic Committee officials.

    The holes represent the Italian piazza - or city square or plaza - that is at the heart of the image designs for the Feb. 10-26 Olympics.

    P.S. Expect light/intermittent blogging from me this week--this week is the convergence of final exams, a search in my department, and a presidential search. As for quotes that didn't make the top 100 list, the inordinately large amount of time I spend in meetings these days makes me partial to this one:

    "A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow." (Wag the Dog)

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 07:54 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the....Roster?

    The tallest player in the NFL is 6'9''. Why no 7-footers in football?

    Here's my point. The Dallas Cowboys have lost their five games so far this season by an average of four points. Get one more blocked field goal & PAT per game, and they're maybe undefeated. But unlike punters and kickers, there is no such position as "kick-blocker". Why not?

    One simple explanation is that 7-footers have pretty high opportunity costs of playing football; i.e., they play basketball instead, and they play it at an early age.

    A less obvious possible reason is the league roster cap. A 7-footer isn't likely to have the center of gravity and agility required for doing other things on the football field. With a 40-man roster, owners/coaches probably can't devote a position to such a specialized task. If only there were a 7-footer out there who could punt the ball 60 yards. Alas, it seems the extent of the roster limits the division of labor in pro football.

    Still, it's especially puzzling when you consider that football does import athletes from another sport: soccer players as kickers. So I leave open, as another possible reason, the possibility that I am a football genius and no professional coaches have yet thought of recruiting basketballers as kick blockers. Anybody have Parcells' phone number?

    Posted by Edward J. Lopez at 02:07 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    December 01, 2005
    Incentive problem? What incentive problem?

    From the Dec. 1, 1905 NYT:

    ANNAPOLIS, Md., Nov 30 - The midshipmen who will start for Princeton on Saturday morning will take with them $6,000, which they raised and which they desire to place on the navy eleven in the game with West Point. Word has been received that the army supporters can take only a part of the amount, so representatives of the navy have wired to the army post at For Myer, near Washington, D.C., and Leavenworth, Kan., to get the remainder covered. The army men, however, want odds of 5 to 4. The navy thinks it should be even money.

    Overt gambling on college football, especially on the part of student bodies, is today frowned upon. Of course, the conferences/teams gamble every weekend on receiving a big payout in terms of a lucrative bowl game - especially a BCS berth...no irony there.

    What is not described in the NYT article is how the proceeds of a Navy win would be distributed - would the players receive a portion, even if they hadn't contributed to the pool? The midshipmen seem to assume that the Navy players want to win for the sake of sticking it to Army, and therefore there is no moral hazard problem. However, if Army offered side payments to the Navy players?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:11 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 28, 2005
    More on college football reform c. 1905

    The Nov. 28, 1905 NYT has an article in which one Charles F. Thwing, then president of Western Reserve University, provided his reasons for disliking college football:

    Among the evils of football as now played are danger to life and exposure to injury; temptation to fraud in making up teams; temptation to betting; temptation to brutality; enthusiasm becoming so great as to become a form of hysteria; disadvantages to the scholarship of some scholars; to great frequency of games; inability of athletic associations to handle properly large sums of money; the public exhibition of young men who are primarily students; reports in newspapers giving false interpretation and false impressions of college value.
    Gee, that doesn't sound much different from today's anti-sports crowd. I guess the point is that mixing big-time athletics with the pursuit of knowledge was, is, and will likely continue to be, a difficult chore.

    The story then goes on to list President Thwing's suggestions for saving the game:

    Let the sport be idealized, the ideal to be not victory, but love of the sport itself; wise administrative bodies in charge of the teams; competent medical supervision of players; players to be required to maintain reasonable standing in studies; officials in sufficient number and power on the field to instantly check unduly rough playing; fewer games and fewer hard games; permitting every student in college to play football, if agreeable to parents and the student is physically fit.

    Except for the first and the last point, Dr. Thwing's vision has basically been implemented over the past hundred years - even if imperfectly.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:25 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    BCS system not out of the woods yet?

    Our local fishwrap has an interesting article outlining how bad things can get for the BCS system if either Texas or USC happens to lose this coming weekend. I don't see either happening, but I am notorious for bad predictions in college football.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:05 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 27, 2005
    Football reform c. 1905

    As we head into the last few weeks of the regular season in college football - and the anticipation of bowl season grows - there is a lot of rumbling about reforming the BCS system. For the past few years, complaining about the BCS has become an annual sport in and of itself. However, if it weren't for the Ivy League in 1905 there might not be a BCS to complain about because college football might not exist (at least in its current format).

    In 1906, the entity that will become the NCAA will be created to regulate/reform college football. Reading the 1905 NYT has been interesting in this particular area - in 1905 there were numerous deaths, severe injuries, riots, and overall bad behavior, in college football. In the same year, attendance figures reached all-time highs and the schools are discovering that there is a lot of money in big-time college football.

    The Nov. 27, 1905 NYT has a story about football reform, with the following opening paragraph:

    Following the suggestion of President Roosevelt for uniform eligibility rules in college athletics and for the elimination of unnecessary roughness, brutality, and foul play in the American game of football, the University of Pennsylvania has taken the initiative for the suggested reforms, and has addressed a circular letter on the subject to the heads of all universities, colleges, private schools, and other institutions in the United States interested in athletics.

    The story includes the sent to the university presidents. In essence, it describes the major areas the NCAA will eventually codify:

    Prof. Hollis of Harvard has expressed the same thought. In his opinion the backbone of college regulation of athletics rests in three rules.

    1. A definition of professionalism.
    2. A rule which should require all members of athletic teams to be genuine students of the college which they represent, and to be satisfactory in their studies.
    3. A rule to prevent the procurement of good players from other colleges by social or money inducements.

    As amazing as it sounds, the Byzantine rules and regulations that the NCAA has passed over the years focus on these three basic issues. In a flash of naivete, however, the folks at Penn asked for voluntary adoption of the regulations they propose:
    It [the committee] believes that they [the enclosed rules] will provide for all the exigencies which have hitherto arisen or that may arise, and if interpreted and accepted in the broad spirit by which was appropriately described by President Roosevelt as a "gentleman's agreement" will do away with the evils which have undoubtedly menaced inter-collegiate athletics, and will promote the best interests of clean, gentlemanly amateur sport.
    The voluntary adoption of these rules proved difficult to enforce, requiring the NCAA to put some teeth in their enforcement efforts in the late 1940s and into the early 1950s.

    Nevertheless, without Penn and other Ivy League schools, there is a high probability that college football could have been banned in the early 1900s and we wouldn't have the BCS to gripe about. While the Ivy League was relegated to Division I-AA status in 1981, fans of college football owe a nod of thanks to these schools for saving the game in its first series of crises.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:24 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 25, 2005
    Football in poetry c. 1905

    As we head into the last of the civil-war Saturdays (last week, Auburn-Alabama; last night, WV-Pitt; today, TX-Texas A&M, Arizona-ASU) including GA-Ga Tech (Go DAWGS) , Oklahoma-Ok. State, Ole Miss-Miss. State, Florida-Florida State, and don't forget Rice-Houston, a bit of the higher arts for the football fan. From the Nov. 25, 1905 NYT:


    Just before the battle, mother,
    I am buckling on my splint,
    While the surgeon on the side lines
    Fixes arnica and lint.
    On my head's a helmet, mother;
    On my shoulder is a pad;
    Rubber bandages and nose guard
    Shield from ill your six-foot lad.

    Just before the battle, mother,
    I am thinking some of you,
    Still I can't forget the full back
    Whom I've sworn an oath to do.
    I am going to paste him, mother -
    I shall put him in a trance.
    See -- e'en now at my suggestion
    They have brought the ambulance.

    Farewell, mother, you may never
    Recognize me any more.
    But that full back will be missing
    When the battle cries are o'er

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:08 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 22, 2005
    The Game c. 1905

    "The Game" is not Auburn-Alabama, nor Georgia-Florida, but Yale-Harvard. The 2005 version was played last weekend - Harvard pulling it out in triple overtime 30-24. Today, the two teams are non-scholarship Division I-AA teams that don't draw a lot of attention. However, in 1905 the teams were two of the best in the country.

    The Nov. 22, 1905 NYT actually reports that the officials for The Game had been decided by the two teams:

    It was announced to-night (Nov. 21) that Yale and Harvard had agreed upon officials for Saturday's game. They will be Paul Dashiel of Annapolis, umpire; Matthew A. McClung of Lehigh, referee; Mr. Whitting of Cornell, head linesman. The selection of the umpire was not made until to-night (Nov. 22).

    What's the big deal? In 1905 the rules for American Football were still in flux, with considerable violence on and off the field during the games. Unlike today games, in which the rules are standardized and "professional" if not "proficient" referees are selected by the conferences and assigned to games, in 1905 it is likely that a bit of agreement about the arbitrary nature in which rules were to be interpreted and enforced was necessary.

    This year there have been several Division IA games that seem to have been affected by poor officiating. In 1905, it is almost guaranteed that the outcomes could be affected by arbitrary officiating. Hence, an additional transaction between the two teams had to be incurred before the game could be played - a small benefit from having conferences/leagues handle the assignment of officials.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:47 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    NASCAR Romance Novels

    Talk about markets in everything (with a nod to MR):

    TORONTO and DAYTONA BEACH, FL, Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ - Harlequin Enterprises Limited (www.eHarlequin.com), one of the world's leading publishers of women's fiction and the global leader of series romance and NASCAR, the largest sanctioning body of motorsports in the United States, today announced a new licensing agreement.

    Under the agreement, Harlequin will publish a variety of women's fiction titles that will be included in the NASCAR Library Collection, which provides a high level of authentication and quality to NASCAR-licensed books. The novels, by some of Harlequin's bestselling authors, will have plotlines centering on NASCAR and will bear the NASCAR brand on their covers. Harlequin will also be the first publisher of women's fiction for NASCAR.

    The debut title in the new program, IN THE GROOVE by award-winning author Pamela Britton, will be published on January 31, 2006 to coincide with the Daytona 500. IN THE GROOVE will be the first fiction title ever published as part of the NASCAR Library Collection.

    I wonder if this former driver is the NASCAR version of Fabio.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:37 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 21, 2005
    Big money in college sports c. 1905

    There is a common complaint that money has corrupted big-time college athletics, especially men's basketball and men's football. There is a perception that the amount of money available to big-time college football programs has increased over the past few decades, especially since the anti-trust case against the NCAA's television contracts back in 1984.

    From the Nov. 21, 1905 NYT is a little story about Yale football - who at the time was one of the biggest football programs in the country:

    Yale will receive $63,700 from the Princeton and Harvard games. Of this amount $29.700 comes from the Princeton and it is expected $34,000 will come from the Harvard game. This is the largest receipts from the two big games in Yale football history, and is an average income of $6,370 a week during the season.

    I still haven't figured out which of the real measures I like the best, but from the EH.net folks, the $63,700 could be considered any of the following in real terms:
    In 2003, $63,700.00 from 1905 is worth:
    $1,322,460.08 using the Consumer Price Index
    $1,066,659.30 using the GDP deflator
    $6,103,208.98 using the unskilled wage
    $7,708,360.62 using the GDP per capita
    $25,013,050.06 using the relative share of GDP

    The CPI measure isn't too far off from what a Division IA school might expect to receive from a home game today. Using the relative share of GDP, the revenue to Yale from these two games would equal the season total revenues of one of the higher revenue teams in Division IA.

    What's the upshot? Perhaps the revenues to the biggest programs in college football may not be much higher today than they were in the past - at least in real terms.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:22 PM in Economics ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 16, 2005
    Albert Pujols relieved himself here

    Busch Stadium in St. Louis is being demolished to make way for a new baseball stadium. This week the Cardinals are auctioning off various odds and ends from the old stadium. Don’t miss your chance to bid on a player-used urinal! Or maybe you’d prefer to own a genuine on-deck circle?

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 02:18 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 11, 2005
    Is ESPN Ruining Sports Reporting?

    This Weekly Standard column thinks so. An interesting idea, but I'm not sure I buy it.

    HT: Southern Appeal

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:14 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 06, 2005
    Nightwine Award!

    A yesterday's end-of-season banquet for the Ohio Village Muffins, the 1860 rules vintage base ball team that I play on, I won the coveted Nightwine Award

    for a normally good player who has an exceptionally bad game

    On July 16 we had a game scheduled against the Cincinnati Buckeyes. I was playing left field. In the first couple of innings, I missed about 4 hard-hit but otherwise routine fly balls. (Remember now we play bare handed, but still these were balls I would normally catch.) As a result we quickly found ourselves down 22-7. In the fifth inninng, rain and lightning drove us from the field and we eventually canceled the remainder of the game. This is when I said something really stupid. I said, "Whew, I was on pace for a Nightwine Award but the rain saved me." My teammates who heard that apparently thought, "oh yeah?"


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:01 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    November 02, 2005
    More on the risks of running

    Among the more serious reasons to not run a marathon cited by economist Art De Vany was the possible elevated risk of cancer.

    Marathon running elevates markers of cancer. S100beta is one of these markers. Tumor necrosis factor, TNF-alpha, is another.

    A recent article in Runner's World summarizes the research.

    In late 2002, the Journal of Nutrition published a review of 170 epidemiological studies on the relationship between physical activity and cancer. Here is some of what the researchers found. Colon cancer: Forty-three of 51 studies produced positive results (more exercise was associated with fewer cancers), with an average risk reduction of 40 to 70 percent. Breast cancer: Thirty-two of 44 studies produced positive results, with an average risk reduction of 30 to 40 percent. Prostate cancer: Fifteen of 30 studies produced a positive result, with an average risk reduction of 10 to 30 percent, particularly of the most aggressive forms. Endometrial cancer: Nine of 13 studies produced positive results, with an average risk reduction of 30 to 40 percent. Lung cancer: Eight of 11 studies produced positive results with an average risk reduction of 30 to 40 percent.

    While I admit to not being a huge fan of these so-called meta-analysis studies that lump disparate studies (with different samples, methodologies and varying degrees of quality) together, this looks like running isn't so bad. And the evidence on total mortality is very clear according the the article.

    Epidemiologist Steven Blair, the president and CEO of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas, is one of the world-leading experts on exercise and longevity. While he notes that the book is still open on cancer rates among serious exercisers, he says, "In our most relevant work on this topic, we do not see any higher cancer risk in the most fit or most highly active individuals. In fact, the highest activity or fitness groups consistently had the lowest mortality rates."

    UPDATE: Trent McBride, M.D. has a very nice post about this over at catallarchy.net. ATSRTWT

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:16 AM in Science ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 23, 2005
    Who Dey!? Who Dey!? Who Dey Think Gonna Beat Dem Bengals!?

    Two sports questions today:

    How many years has it been since Steelers fans have said they "are getting ready for the Bengals this weekend."?

    How many years has it been since I've yelled "Who Dey" without feeling like a complete idiot?

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:02 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 22, 2005
    JC in the AJC

    My friend JC Bradbury of Sabernomics has his work on the Mazzone effect cited in today's AJC:

    Throughout the years, it has been extremely rare that a Braves pitcher performed better once he had moved on to another team. A Sabre-matician named J.C. Bradbury, in a statistical analysis performed last year, found Mazzone to be worth .63 ERA points to the average pitcher.

    Congrats JC.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:54 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 21, 2005
    Permissum venalicium increbresce

    Here's an image of the seating chart at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago:

    A sample from Nettickets.com:

    SEC: 518 ROW: 15
    World Series Home Game 1
    Only $11,395.00 each

    SEC: 142 ROW: 3
    Only $6,400.00 each
    Are there going to be scouts at tomorrow night's game? The prices above lead one to suspect that either a) nettickets is not a legitimate ticket broker, b) the seats behind the dugout are really bad compared to upstairs, right field line, or c) whoever is trying to sell tickets for $11,000 a pop is likely to have tickets after the end of the game.

    Every year there are howls of protest as those who are "lucky" or "connected" obtain relatively low-priced tickets to a megaevent, such as a World Series or Super Bowl, and turn around to sell them for what seems to be an enormous profit.

    While it is easy to point to the megaevent as a goldmine for ticket brokers/scalpers/fans, where were the complaints when the Sox played the Royals on a Tuesday afternoon in July? The scalpers likely didn't do very good then. Outside of the megaevent, small-scale ticket scalping does not seem to be a very profitable industry (from what little data/anecdotal evidence we have) - average returns seem to be just a little greater than those enjoyed by grocery stores.

    Nevertheless, every year many commentators, public officials, and outraged fans demand anti-scalping laws, with the anticipation that anti-scalping laws will somehow a) reduce the window price of tickets (this is ambiguous in theory and not supported empirically in football and baseball - see link to my paper below), b) reduce the street price of tickets (this is likewise ambiguous, but highly unlikely unless expensive enforcement efforts are undertaken), and/or c) "improve" the distribution of tickets (which is in itself an ambiguous goal). I should note that my paper looks at the window-prices of regular season games. Antiscalping laws, if fully enforced, might reduce the window prices for megaevent tickets, but if the law isn't enforced properly or if there is sufficient demand from non-scalpers, ticket prices may not change at all.

    While anti-scalping laws are in place in a number of states/municipalities, scalping IS NOT prohibited in Illinois, although you do "need" a broker's license to legitimately sell tickets at above face value. However, the enforcement of an anti-scalping law is so difficult that the Illinois regulation is easily ignored; most enforcement arises from undercover policemen and such. The only place where scalping will be strongly enforced (at least in Chicago) is on the grounds of U.S. Cellular field. and that only up until the first pitch, after which ticket prices will drop quickly (although even this enforcement makes little economic sense).

    Economists have long wondered about the apparent under-pricing of megaevent tickets. Various explanations have been proffered, including whether there are differences in risk aversion or cost structures between scalpers and event promoters, whether scalpers act on private information unavailable to event promoters, whether event promoters try to assure a "full house" by selling all tickets (even if at a lower than market clearing price), along with a number of other hypotheses. The existence of the secondary market is of interest, but many anti-scalping advocates are not against the market but against the outcome of the market (nothing new here).

    Of course, selling a ticket in the secondary market while following the old adage of "buy low and sell high" is no different than what the blind trusts of the politicians do in the stock market, what the jet set does when purchasing a penthouse in the new Trump Tower, and what goes on in any other market in existence. Nevertheless, anti-scalping diatribes turn the morality of the market on its head and claim those who sell tickets for a profit are price gouging capitalist pig-dogs who deserve popular scorn.

    I always wonder where the anti-scalping crowd thinks the "immorality" of scalping tickets lies. Is it in the ultimate price of the ticket ("no one should be forced to pay $3,000 for a baseball ticket"), in their perceived opportunity cost of the expenditure ("think of what society could have done with the $3,000 you spent on a ticket"), or in the distribution of the ultimate value of the ticket ("I am mad because I didn't get a chance to sell two tickets for a huge profit")? If a long-time Sox fan found two tickets in the gutter, it is entirely possible (indeed, perhaps probable?) that if someone offered that fan $4,000+ per ticket then the fan would sell the tickets and go to the local pub to watch the game. Of course, the fan could choose not to sell the tickets, but the decision would be hers.

    Bruce Springsteen once commented that people were fools for paying $150 on the street to see one of his shows, after all he wouldn't pay that much! Such a statement requires interpersonal utility comparisons, which are generally not possible. De gustibus non est disputandum, caveat emptor, et permissum venalicium increbresce (or something close to that).*

    Mark Cuban on scalping

    Craig Depken on scalping laws

    Stephen K. Happel and Marianne M. Jennings on scalping laws

    Jim Caple from ESPN on scalping laws

    * "Let the market prevail." I'll admit to weak Latin skills, but don't tell my high school Latin teacher. Maybe someone with better skills can help out on this one? (Update: Jake Mortens emails to point out that "increbresco" should likely be "increbresce").

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:27 PM in Economics ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 16, 2005
    Columbus Marathon

    Today I ran the Columbus Marathon. I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon and needed a 3:15 time. The good news is that I'll save a bunch of money not going to Boston in April. That's also the bad news.

    I was on a solid 7:15/mile pace through about 20 miles but then started having bad quad cramps in both legs. I ended up limping in for a 3:19:23 final time. Still I can't complain.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 05:57 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 12, 2005
    Multicar teams in NASCAR

    NASCAR has suggested that multi-car teams will be limited in the future. My gut is that the reason for limiting the number of cars per team is to try limit the success that can come about by having multiple cars in a single race. While there is considerable horse trading between (differently owned) teams during a race, such as indications of which groove is the smoothest, who will draft whom, how long will the collusion last, etc., there are certain bits of information that simply will not be traded across differently owned teams.

    During the course of a four hundred lap race there might be four to ten pit stops, depending on the track and the number of yellow flags. Therefore there are only so many chances for a team to tweak its car - including things such as air pressure in the tires, the wedge, toe in/out, and so forth. It is likely that a team with multiple, very similar cars, can "diversify" by experimenting with different car configurations - and, importantly, can share the information across cars/drivers. The more cars, the more experiments and, ostensibly, the better the results for one or more drivers on the team.

    I haven't gathered all the data needed to test the hypothesis of learning-by-doing during a race, but using season total wins and season average points earned by each team there does seem to be a positive relationship between the number of cars on a team and the number of wins on the team and the average points scored per car.

    Here's the scatter plot of team wins vs. number of cars, along with the fitted linear relationship (data from 1996 through 2004)

    Here's the scatter plot of average points per car vs. number of cars, along with the fitted linear relationship (data from 1996 through 2004)

    In the first picture there are a lot of zeroes - estimating the relationship between the number of cars and total wins using simple Tobit models suggests that the optimal number of cars to have on a team is three - at least if one wants to maximize total team wins (I initially thought three was too low, but if you think about this for a second it actually makes sense). Simple panel GLS quadratic models suggest that the number of cars on a team that will maximize average points per car is about 2.9. The average number of cars per team during the 1996-2004 period was 1.2, with a minimum of one and a maximum of four cars.

    While the GLS models control for owner heterogeneities, the analysis so far doesn't control for driver heterogeneities, which are obviously important but omitted variables. Will including driver characteristics substantially change the results? I don't think so, but it might push the optimal number of cars closer to two. There are considerable obstacles to overcome before a definitive answer to the impact of the multi-car team is obtained.

    Why is the France family making a big deal of this now? Maybe its simply a nip-it-in-the-bud scenario. In 1996, 48 of 52 teams were single car teams, only 4 teams had two cars. By 2004, there were 51 single car teams, 8 two car teams, 3 three car teams, and 1 four car team. I am sure there is a fear that too many multi-car teams will lead to a reduction in competitive balance, with subsequent revenue declines.

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:46 AM in Economics ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 09, 2005
    NASCAR may break up multi-car teams

    An excerpt from today's AJC:

    KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Two years into his reign as chairman of NASCAR, Brian France had taken on an ambitious agenda that will change the sport far more than his Chase for the Nextel Cup "playoff" format has changed the points race.

    Foremost among France's plans is his desire to break up the multi-car teams that are dominating the Nextel Cup Series.

    Speaking to a group of reporters Saturday at Kansas Speedway, the site of Sunday's Banquet 400, France said NASCAR wants to take away some of the advantages enjoyed by powerhouses like Roush Racing (five teams, all in the Chase) and Hendrick Motorsports (four teams with one in the Chase).

    He said limiting the big multi-car teams to as few as three entries will make it possible for new team owners to enter the sport.

    I don't know much about NASCAR so I'll refrain from commenting, but co-blogger Craig or some of the folks at The Sports Economist might weigh in on the matter.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:41 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 05, 2005
    Jock Majors?

    It's now a bit dated, but the Jan. 17, 2003 Chronicle of Higher Ed contains an analysis of football players majors at several universities. Sports management, sociology, and liberal studies are popular at several universities. Interestingly 11% of the football players at Ward Churchill U. (aka Colorado) are majoring in economics.

    HT: Gary Roseman

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 05:16 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    October 04, 2005
    What are you doing with your life?

    The local fish wrap reports that Rangers GM John Hart has stepped down and that Jon Daniels is taking over.

    ARLINGTON — Rangers owner Tom Hicks wants to win a World Series.

    Responsibility for delivering that as general manager was transferred Tuesday from John Hart to Jon Daniels, a 28-year-old graduate of Cornell University with four years of major league experience.

    A young GM seems to have worked in Boston. Perhaps it can work here in Arlington - heck, it can't get much worse. At 28, I was happy to have a tenure track job and was still waiting for my first paper to come out.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 10:23 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 27, 2005
    Touchdowns c. 1905

    In the Sept. 27, 1905 NYT is a short article concerning Yale football:

    The first scoring of the season came to-day at Yale Field, when the Varsity, after a series of short and hard rushes, carried the ball back over the substitutes' goal line for a touch-down. Roome, Varsity half back, had the honor of being the first to score at Yale this year.

    What a far cry from today's ESPN highlights.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:39 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Pink Locker Room Update

    A month back I blogged on Iowa's pink locker room for visiting football teams. A rankled Iowa law professor is now protesting that the pink locker room violates NCAA rules.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:38 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 21, 2005
    Will the insanity never end?

    Minneapolis is the next city to drink the coolaid (misspelled to avoid trademark infringement) and propose a new stadium. In this case, the 68,000 retractable roof stadium is thought to cost $675m!! Cost breakdown is proposed as follows:

    The county and the team are proposing a financing package for the stadium that would have the Vikings pay $280 million of stadium costs. Anoka County would fund the same amount from a 0.75% countywide sales tax. State-issued general obligation bonds would cover roughly $115 million of the costs for on-site infrastructure and a portion of the retractable roof.

    Private contribution of 41% is a bit more than average over the past decade. as is the $9,926 construction cost per seat. Our boondoggle here in Arlington is supposedly going to run $650m for a 75,000 seat stadium - fifty percent public/private and only $9,000 construction cost per seat.

    The end of the story contains a little nugget worth thinking about:

    According to the county, initial estimates suggest that the project will, over time, generate a revenue surplus for the state in excess of $245 million.

    Sports economists have been howling in the wind for years, but here is yet more evidence (albeit indirect and unintentional) that stadiums are terrible investments for governments. Over the course of thirty years the entire project will yield the state (on its nominal investment) a 213% return? Sounds great, but according to my arithmetic this backs out to a 2.5% annual return on investment. Ouch.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:37 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 19, 2005
    Vintage Base Ball with Conan

    Conan O'Brien visits Old Bethpage to play 1864 vintage base ball.

    Speaking for Josh and myself, this isn't funny!

    [Warning: Ads on page not necessarily workplace safe.]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:21 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    SD Padres?

    As of today, the San Diego Padres stand in first place in the NL West division with a mediocre record of 74-74 (after a couple of wins this past weekend). They are 5.5 games up on the second place Giants with 14 games to go, and look likely to win the division possibly even with a losing record.

    Here's my vote for a new rule in the MLB that no team can make the playoffs without at least a .500 record.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 06:33 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 14, 2005

    OMG! After 3,195 games of backgammon played against the computer, I finally won with an actual honest to god "backgammon". See picture below!

    Btw, I use a nifty little freeware program called Quick Backgammon. The quality of the computer's play is described as "very competent" and is about at my level. I have a winning percentage of 53.8% (1720-1475) against it.


    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:43 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    September 07, 2005
    LA Wants the Winner's Curse

    Los Angeles announces that it will throw its hat in the ring for the 2016 Olympics. New York will likely also be in the running, but only one city per country can be nominated. Therefore the U.S. Olympic committee will make a decision about which city is more worthy the winner's curse.

    LA has hosted the games twice, and has a considerable amount of sports infrastructure. Unlike Beijing and Athens, the city would not have to build everything from scratch. Unfortunately, any bid from LA will likely have hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars to be spent on rebuilding the city's sports infrastructure.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:47 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 26, 2005
    First the Sox beat the Yankees...

    ...and now England appears capable of beating Australia after nearly twenty years of losses. With the first three Ashes (the name of the England/Australia series) tied 1-1-1, England has gotten off to a good start in the fourth five-day test. England scored 477 in its first innings whilst Australia has but 99 (after 5 wickets) in its first innings. Australia will need a very good showing tomorrow in the conclusion of its first innings if it is to avoid defeat (or another draw).

    UPDATE: England in fact won the fourth Ashes test match today (Sunday) pulling ahead in the series 2-1-1. After forcing Australia to follow on, England needed only 129 runs in their second innings to win (though it took them 7 wickets to accomplish the task). Now England needs to force only a draw to win the series.

    Confused? Go here for the rules.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:31 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 23, 2005
    Reykjavik Marathon

    On Saturday I ran the Reykjavik Marathon in 3:18:42 (7:35/mile pace), which is a new PR. The official results aren't up yet, but I think I was 30th out of 330 overall, 27th out of 258 among men, and 13th out of 54 among men 29-49. The time is still a bit off my necessary Boston Marathon qualification time (3:15), but close enough to make me happy.

    One really cool thing is that the winners of the men's full and half marathon are brothers from Sweden AND the winners of the women's full and half marathon are sisters from Iceland.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:50 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 22, 2005
    Pink Locker Room

    A news item:

    Iowa City, Ia. - You wonder what Bo Schembechler would say, assuming he regained consciousness.

    The sole refuge is two waist-level drinking fountains, cold and silver, floating like pinballs on the head of a strawberry shake. Aside from that, the new visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium is Barbie's Dream House on acid, a pastel nightmare. You feel naked without a little dog in one arm and a handbag in the other.

    Pink walls. Pink stalls. Pink seats. Pink ceiling. Pink carpet. Pink urinals.

    Of course there's an Arizona sheriff who dresses prisoners in pink underwear and striped uniforms.

    Hat tip: Southern Appeal

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:34 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 21, 2005
    Serious Riding

    My Berry College co-worker and biking buddy Aaron Jermundson has logged over 12,000 miles on his bike this year and ranks fifth in the BikeJournal.com rankings. Three other Rome riders are in the top 50. Yours truly is not logging miles and would be nowhere near the top 50.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:25 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 17, 2005
    Go 'Noles!!!!

    It looks like the NCAA may be backing down from its plan to ban FSU from using the Seminoles name and mascot. It turns out the NCAA based its decision, in part at least, on the basis of complaints made by one cranky member of the Oklahoma Seminole Tribe Council. The problem is that the very same tribal council had voted 18-2 not to oppose the use of the tribal name by FSU. (The Florida Seminole Tribe is solidly behind the university.) Here's the story. [Link via The Sports Economist]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 07:29 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 08, 2005
    Stadium Size and Season Ticket Sales

    Phil Miller of The Sports Economist had an interesting post on the Oakland A's decision to build a smaller ballpark to increase their season ticket sales.

    Apparently the notion that smaller stadia increase season ticket sales also has some support in professional football. From a recent George Will column:

    A glutton for punishment, Ford is vice chairman of another struggling entertainment entity, the Detroit Lions, who have had just three winning seasons in the last decade. Gesturing out the window of his 12th-floor office, toward the Lions' practice facility just a mile away, he notes that when the team reduced the seating at the Ford Field in downtown Detroit from 80,000 to 65,000, sales of season tickets shot up: ``Scarcity is not a bad thing.''

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:13 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 06, 2005
    Florida State Wombats?

    A little news item for your "political correctness" file:

    NCAA Bans Indian Mascots, Nicknames From Postseason Events

    Are they going to stop the FSU fans from doing the warchant too? I'd like to see the NCAA try that.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 03:59 PM in Politics ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 02, 2005
    Some comments on Rafael Palmeiro

    So Raffy (as he was called here in Arlington, and I assume in Baltimore) has been suspended for testing positive for steroids. The baseball world is in shock because Raffy had adamantly denied in Congressional hearings that he had ever used steroids, notwithstanding Jose Canseco's claims.

    While it might be true that Raffy tested positive for steroid, it would be a monumental lapse of judgement if he decided to take it for kicks or to ensure that he would hit his 3000th hit. Here are some of my initial explanations (in no particular order):

  • Raffy is an incurable addict to steroids and is willing to deny it to Congress and perhaps God himself.
  • Raffy's test result is a false positive.
  • Raffy told the truth to Congress and only just now started taking steroids
  • Raffy ingested steroids through some other medical procedure.
  • Raffy is the target of a sting operation

    I don't think he is an incurable addict. He has always been level-headed and he has not blown up like Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, and others. This doesn't guarantee that he isn't using - there are forms of steroids that do not entail massive bulk.

    The false positive is a possibility, however my understanding of drug testing is that if the first sample tests positive then the default is to test the second sample. Perhaps two false positives can occur on the two samples, but the odds are against it.

    It would seem pointless (and indeed ridiculous) to intentionally take steroids after his Congressional testimony. After the categorical denial that he gave he must have known that he would be one of the "randomly" tested ballplayers. Even if he thought he needed a little boost to get over the top in terms of the 3000th hit, if he only just now started taking steroids there wouldn't have been enough time for them to really help (as far as I can tell about such things).

    The two most likely explanations would seem to be one of the last two options. Either Raffy ingested a steroid or something that tests like a steroid (remember the poppy seed anecdote) in the process of some other medical procedure. Word has it that B-12 Cortezone shots will test like steroids, and perhaps Viagra (one of his promotional deals)? Upshot is that a doc or his wife, or anyone, might have innocently led him to test positive.

    The final option is the conspiracy theory - the sting. Who knows if there is someone that is out to get Raffy, spikes his soda, laces his aftershave, whatever. We have seen such antics directed towards teachers, rival lovers, etc. If Raffy sufficiently pissed off the wrong person/people is it inconceivable that he could have ingested steroids without knowing, even if he is careful about what is introduced to his blood stream?

    If he is unable to retract the accusation, it is likely that he will unfortunately be grouped with the other players we know are/were doping. Does it mean that he is not Hall of Fame material, I am not one to put an asterick beside an entire career, but others are likely to.

    My policy prescription? Make everyone take steroids. If they choose not to take steroids they do so at their own risk. Folks like to see the ball fly far, and perhaps steroids helps that along. Instead of trying to police all ball players, perhaps it is more efficient for everyone if we assume that the players are taking steroids and leave it at that. Okay, j/k.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 06:32 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    August 01, 2005
    Must Have Been the Little Blue Pill

    From ESPN.com:

    In remarks prepared for a conference call Monday, Palmeiro said he had accepted his punishment and could not explain how the steroids got into his body.

    "I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period," he said. "Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body, the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program."

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:40 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 27, 2005
    How valuable are the Olympic Rings?

    The IOC is famous for cracking down on people "inappropriately" using the five- rings logo that symbolize the Olympics. The IOC currently sells the right to use the Olympic logo on a two-games cycle (winter and summer) for between $50 million to $75 million - there are 11 contracts currently let out.

    The IOC is anxious about selling more TOP (The Olympic Partners) spots lest the price fall too far, which seems to have opened up an arbitrage possibility. The folks on the Beijing Organizing Commitee have decided to create the missing market in Olympic advertising by selling their own partnerships to companies from around the world. Johnson and Johnson, along with Anheuser-Busch and VW, Addidas, and others, have signed on as partners with the BOC for the right to advertise during the Olympics (but evidently not using the five-ring logo). AB is the international beer sponsor of the Olympics (thank goodness).

    Has the IOC essentially painted themselves into a corner with their logo licensing? $50-$75 million for two games with the rings versus $15 million for one summer games without the rings? For at least the 2008 games, I'd wager that, when there are a billion eyes staring at your ad during the games, whether a ring-logo is on the ad or not is inconsequential.

    more here

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:07 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 20, 2005
    Markets in Everything--Kenyan Runners

    Morning Edition, July 20, 2005 · Some of the best professional runners in the world are from Kenya. But lucrative contracts are luring Kenyan athletes to run for Bahrain and Qatar. Officials in Nairobi are not happy.

    Listen here; similar story here.

    Nod to MR for the markets in everything notion.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:54 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 16, 2005
    Aftermath of a Hicksian Paradox

    So the NHL strike is ended with a collective bargaining agreement that sounds a lot like the original offer by the owners last year. Local hockey team owner Tom Hicks announced that the Dallas Stars would lower the upper deck tickets from $25 to $10. The Stars website announces:

    The Dallas Stars today announced the hockey club's season ticket prices for the 2005-06 season. The Stars have reduced prices on every season seat by an average of 16.0% per seat, the lowest prices for the club since it moved into American Airlines Center.

    Part of the overall reduction in prices includes making over 500 tickets available for only $10, both on a season ticket level and individual game price. In addition, fans will be able to purchase season tickets in the lower bowl of American Airlines Center for as little as $50 per game.

    These are some huge discounts as far as sports ticket pricing goes. The Anaheim Ducks have slashed the lowest price tickets from $25.00 to $9.50 per game (a 62% reduction!) and have lowered season ticket prices by approximately 6%. Most of the other team sites I hit had not announced ticket prices for the upcoming season, but outside of Detroit, expect to see prices drop considerably across the league.

    Our local Fox Sports affiliate (which shows most of the Stars games) is replaying the 1999 Stanley Cup run of the Stars. Tonight's game is game 6 of the Sabers-Stars series that went to triple overtime before the Stars won it all in sudden death. I don't know if that game is being broadcast in other parts of the country, if other exciting games of local regional flavor are being shown, or if no hockey at all is being shown. Nevertheless, what a great way to get people excited about hockey once again - pull out one of the best games ever. Maybe they should have waited until the players made it to camp, but it is probably never too soon to try to rehabilitate the league.

    After the 1994 baseball strike, per-game season ticket prices actually rose an average of 1.5% across the league; the largest decline was 4.6% (the Detroit Tigers) and the greatest increase was 34.3% (the Colorado Rockies moved into their new stadium that year). Many baseball teams simply held nominal prices fixed, but I don't think hockey will be able to get away with that.

    Baseball attendance had essentially recovered to its pre-strike levels by the end of the 1996 season - attendance would have likely have recovered faster if prices had dropped significantly in the 1995 and 1996 season. However, given the game's history it is likely that baseball team owners rightly predicted that attendance would recover on a timely basis. Those who argued that baseball was dead after the 1994 strike were a bit premature.

    What damage has been wrought on hockey attendance will be an interesting question. I bet the hockey team owners are correct in predicting that in-house demand will not quickly recover at the pre-strike price levels. The more team sthat drop their prices will be a strong indication of fan disenchantment, which lower prices are an attempt to purchase.

    An even more interesting question will be what happens to television viewership. Hockey already knows its in trouble in this area from previous trends, which is why the league wants more scoring and fewer stoppages in play. Hence the proposed rules changes aimed to increase scoring (yet again). However, I am not convinced that it is a lack of scoring, or even the fighting, that keeps people from watching hockey on television. I think it is a game that most people don't understand and it is very fast (which is good for some and not so good for others) on television.

    There is old news here at NHLCBANEWS.com and I assume the CBA will be posted here when it is official. Here's one of the old CBAs for comparison purposes.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 09:03 PM in Economics ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 12, 2005
    Charleston Peak Trip Report

    It wasn't all "work" in Las Vegas.

    On Sunday co-blogger Frank and I set off at 6:30 a.m. from the South Loop trailhead parking lot (only 45 minutes from the Las Vegas strip) headed toward Charleston Peak (elev. 11,919')--8.5 miles and 4269' in elevation gain away. The weather was perfect with complete sun and a starting temp in the upper 60s.

    After hiking steadily uphill on seemingly endless switchbacks for 2 miles or so we finally got a good view of the mountain [see picture]. Charleston Peak is the tallest mountain in southern Nevada (4th tallest in the state) and the only peak in the Spring Mountain range above the tree line. Although the snow is usually gone by July, the larger than usual winter snowfall meant that there were still many snowy spots to negotiate.

    After about 2+ hours, 3+ miles, and 2000'+ of elevation gain, Frank decided to turn back leaving me to head for the summit alone. This was Frank's first foray into hiking at elevation in the west, and he did very well to get this far.

    After leaving Frank, I picked up the pace and passed two groups of hikers along the way. At about 11,000' in the middle of a large scree field, I came across some beautiful flowers [see picture] and made it to the summit alone [see picture] at 11:00. From the top you can see parts of Las Vegas (but not the strip) to the southeast and Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada to the west. It was pretty windy and almost cold so I didn't linger. At 11:15 I headed back down the same trail and was back at the car by about 2:15.

    There are a number of shorter day hikes (such as Cathedral Rock) in the area and I highly recommend this area for anyone travelling to Las Vegas. It's a great way to beat the heat if nothing else.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:57 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 06, 2005
    More Uses for Google Maps

    Until recently, runners have had to guess at their running distances or get in the old family station wagon to use the trip odometer to trace the course. The disadvantage of this is that you can't always take your car the same way you run (one-way streets, trails/bikepaths, etc.). There are new popular GPS units for runners that claim to do the job, but these need a clear line of sight to the sky and tend to get confused around tall buildings or under heavy tree cover.

    Here's a great new application for Google Maps that allows you to double click your way around any course to determine your total distance.

    It works perfectly as far as I can tell.

    [HT: Dave Reed]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:58 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    To Kelo or not-to-Kelo? or "Shut-up and learn to love Kelo"

    The land grab in Arlington is likely to get ugly in the next few weeks. In today's Star-Telegram:

    Owners of 26 properties in the path of the Cowboys stadium project could face condemnation if they don't make a deal with the city soon.

    The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to begin condemnation proceedings on the properties. Those owners have had at least 30 days to review the city's offers.

    Thank you Justice Souter, et al. The city admits it doesn't want to resort to eminent domain, but they have no choice. The voters voted for a stadium (before we knew where it would be located), the city/team decided where the stadium would go (acting as our delagates or trustees?), and these folks need to "get over it" and move on. Sound familiar? Did the Court anticipate that the language in Kelo would have such direct relevance so soon?

    However, there was a nice quote from one of the non-annointed, i.e., not a Supreme Court Justice:

    Norma Matthews, who lives in south Arlington, said the city is usurping the property rights of residents.

    "It is not the American way to bully the poor, to take their homes away from them and give them to a billionaire," she said.

    Alas, Norma, you are so naive. Arlington is not stealing property from Person A and giving it to Person B. As our mayor has so often repeated, Arlington will own the $700 million dollar stadium and will rent it to Jerry Jones for two million per year (the equivalent to renting a $100,000 house for $285 per year - not likely a profit-earning move on the part of the house owner but a great deal for the renter!).

    Norma, embrace Kelo, learn to understand the benefits of Kelo, make "a deal" with Kelo

    The siezed property isn't going to be given to a billionaire, just rented to a billionaire for the next thirty years - after which the billionaire would have the option to purchase the then-dilapidated stadium for a cool million dollars (today the 75 acres for the stadium is appraised at $27.1 million).

    There's a bit of irony there that I haven't thought about before. Today, a run-down neighborhood and a trailer park has a taxable value of $27.1 million. After building a $700 million stadium, allowing it to depreciate over 30 years, and internalizing the specific-asset nature of the stadium, the best deal the city can strike with the team is to sell it for $1 million? Arguably the land will be worth more than $1 million in 2040, which is evidence of the massive rent transfer from the good folks of Arlington to Jerry Jones. However, assume the city extracted all of the residual value of the stadium in the $1 million deal, what would this say about the "value" of a stadium?

    Okay - off to grade.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:22 AM in Economics ~ in Law ~ in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    July 05, 2005
    Hey babe, what's your sign VO2 Max?

    Endurance athletes want to know. But unless you're an endurance athlete you've probably never heard of VO2 Max or even care what it is.

    So in honor of Lance Armstrong's attempt at a seventh straight Tour victory, it's time for a little tutorial (UPDATE: Armstrong took the yellow jersey today.)

    VO2 Max measures the amount of oxygen your body can consume (i.e., burn) per minute per kilogram of bodyweight. An average thirty-something healthy male has a VO2 Max of about 40 meaning that he can use no more than 40 ml of oxygen per minute per kilogram of weight. Lance Armstrong by contrast reports a VO2 Max of about 84 to 85, but even this is a bit lower than the highest-ever recorded VO2 Max of 93.

    If you're a runner and want to know your VO2 Max, you can avoid the expensive test and estimate it based on your recent race times. Based on yesterday's 5k race result (20:11), my VO2 Max is about 49.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 04:46 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    June 14, 2005
    FSU has God on its side

    (1) Coach Bobby Bowden is widely known as Saint Bobby

    (2) And now FSU's (suspended) QB claims to be God.

    Those Gators and 'Canes haven't got a chance next year I tell ya.

    [Hat tip: Todd]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 10:40 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (29)

    June 13, 2005
    The beast won't die!!

    After the Jets stadium was submarined last week, the hopes of NYC 2012 - the winner's curse known as the 2012 Olympics - seemed all but dashed.

    But no!! The plan has been revised with an alternative stadium built for the New York Mets. From this story:

    The $600 million replacement for Shea Stadium would be paid for by the Mets, built on the Shea parking lot and be completed in time for the 2009 baseball season.

    Hmmm...I smell a "but" coming, and two paragraphs later the other shoe drops:

    The city and state would contribute $180 million for improvements to the infrastructure around the stadium and pay another $100 million to convert the stadium to Olympic use. Total cost to remodel the stadium for the Olympics is estimated at $250 million.

    What a deal. According to the story, the Jets stadium was going to "cost" $2.2 billion (probably off by 10% at least) with the Jets kicking in (supposedly) $1.6 billion. That seems a bit higher than I remember, but okay.

    If the Mets stadium plan goes down in flames, what team is next? The Yankees, the, Rangers, or the Islanders? How about the Knicks? We are out of options - perhaps build a stadium for the local professional lacrosse team? (oops, NYC doesn't have one)

    The long and short is that the proponderance of evidence suggests that public investments of this magnitude in stadiums are simply not justified on willingness-to-pay or positive externality claims. I would wager that NYC is not much different than Arlington, Sacremento, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh in this regard. Sports economists have been howling in the wind about this for years, and we have had some impact, but not a lot.

    Die, beast, die!!!

    Read More »

    Posted by Craig Depken at 11:49 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (23)

    June 07, 2005
    Sanity in New York?

    This is big, and to me unexpected. The New York "state" panel that needed to vote unanimously to approve state funds for the Jets Stadium in Manhattan failed to do so!!

    If a public stadium on Manhattan is truly dead, the savings to New York citizens would be substantial: $300 million in city money, $300 million in state money, and untold billions saved if NYC doesn't get the 2012 Olympics (which it seems Paris is likely to win). I will withhold my final victory dance for when the Jets announce that, like the Giants, they will pay for their own stadium.

    Victories seem to be few and far between in the stadium mess - savor them when they occur, however shortlived they may be.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:02 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (1)

    June 06, 2005
    Just Filthy

    Josh Smoker a sophomore pitcher for GA state champion Calhoun HS had a 12-0 record and a--get this--0.09 ERA. That works out to 1 run allowed in 100 innings of pitching. His teammate Brodie Pullen was 12-1 with a 2.28 ERA, numbers that would be top most pitching staffs. Story here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:24 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (27)

    June 02, 2005
    Lie of the day

    A New York State Supreme Court judge has thrown out Cablevision's lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA sold the NFL Jets the land for a new stadium on Manhattan for $250 million when Cablevision offered $400 million. The MTA claimed it considered non-monetary concerns when determining who to sell to. Cablevision claimed the bidding process was rigged (it likely was) and was illegal.

    Politicos in the Big Apple are excited because their hopes of being awarded the winner's-curse known as the 2012 Olympics are still alive.

    From the judge came a true statement:

    "An analysis of the MSG arguments and the MTA powers leads to the conclusion that the MTA did not act in an arbitrary and capricious manner," ruled state Supreme Court Judge Herman Cahn, according to the New York Daily News.

    I agree that the MTA didn't act in an arbitrary fashion - it knew exactly who it was going to sell to all along.

    However, the biggest lie is at the end of the story:

    "It is a complete victory for the MTA, the Jets and the public," Claude Millman, a lawyer for the Jets, said in a statement.

    I see only one "winner" in the mix and it's not the MTA and especially not the public.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:49 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (20)

    Gretzky as a "Shock"

    Just finished Ken Dryden’s The Game and I can see why it has received so much acclaim over the years. It is as engaging as Ball Four and yet very different. Ball Four deals more with the day-to-day grind of what it is like to be a professional ballplayer. The Game does that, but it also delves much deeper into its respective game and the people who play it.

    I was particularly struck by his analysis of how hockey has evolved over time. Consider his description of Gretzky’s influence on the game:

    … For five seasons between 1982 and 1986, the Edmonton Oilers averaged four hundred and twenty-three goals a year, when no team in one season had ever scored four hundred goals before. Gretzky himself averaged two hundred and seven points, when no player in a single season had ever gone higher than one hundred and fifty-two. In the past defenders and teams had learned to devise strategies to stop opponents with the puck. Without the puck, that was interference. But now, if players without the puck skated just as hard, but faster, dodged and darted to open ice just as determinedly, but more effectively, as those with the puck, how did you shut them down? Goalies had learned to devise strategies to stop shooters with big slapshots coming down the wing. Wearing equipment that barely protected their bodies and left much of the net exposed, they couldn’t move far enough fast enough. So they moved out of their nets to cut down the angle, so they didn’t have to move at all. But now if that big slapshooter did not shoot, and instead passed the puck to a teammate across the ice, how did the goalie prepare to stop both? It took defenders, teams, and goalies some time to learn.

    In economic terms, Gretzky was a “shock” – a disequilibrating force that goalies and defensemen were eventually able to respond to and return the game to something of a long-run steady state. As someone who grew up playing hockey during the Oilers heyday, this makes me sad, because you saw plays you rarely see anymore, such as end-to-end rushes by defensemen. Dryden’s analysis makes me realize how rare that was and how we are unlikely to ever see that again.

    Posted by Joshua Hall at 12:01 PM in Sports  ·  Comments (0)

    Bidding for the Nationals

    This WaPo article details the bidding for Nationals, including a bid from George Soros. Most interesting to this Braves fan is the bid by Stan Kasten, former president of the Braves. I've heard that if his bid is successful, Kasten might look to hire some of his former Braves staffers, including some prominent front-officer personnel.

    BTW, I still think the team should have been named the Rent-Seekers, Scandals, or Porkers.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:34 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (2)

    May 27, 2005
    Cambodian Midget Fighting League

    No, there isn't such a thing, but apparently there used to be until the league owner had his 42 fighters challenge a lion. Story here--note the bit about the Cambodian govt approving the event as long as it got a 50% cut of the proceeds. Death and taxes ...

    Hat tip: Todd

    UPDATE: Mark tells me the suspicious sounding article is indeed a hoax. Details here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:30 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (2)

    May 25, 2005

    The NFL just awarded the 2009 SuperBowl to Tampa. So much for promising the 2009 Super Bowl to New York if the Jets got their new stadium. Does this mean that if the Jets get a stadium the 2010 Super Bowl will go to New York, or the 2011 Super Bowl?

    Wait a second. The NFL promised us the 2011 SuperBowl for building the Cowboys stadium. Would the NFL have the gall to promise the same Super Bowl to two different cities?

    The land grab here in Arlington began yesterday. The first three houses have been approved for purchase - at least one for more than appraised value.

    The old Eastern Star retirement home, which is on 30 acres of nice property, is being seized for the stadium. The original plan was to seize 75 acres of land, but this has now increased to 165 acres. The main problem? It isn't clear if the Rangers and the Cowboys will be able to share parking!! Please.

    Now, there is a developer who would like to use the Eastern Star land for a hotel, condominium and retail development. It isn't clear from whom he would buy the land - the Cowboys, the city of Arlington, or the original owners of the Eastern Star retirement home.

    My bet? He would buy the land from the Cowboys.

    Let's see. The city of Arlington purchases private property with the not-so-veiled threat of eminent domain in their back pocket. The taxpayers of Arlington get the bill for that. Then the city gives the land to the Cowboys who then turn around and sell it to a developer.

    Sounds like a winning deal to me. Here's some more at Heavy Lifting

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:57 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (1)

    May 24, 2005
    More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Baseball Usage

    Story here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 04:39 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 23, 2005
    More JC and Mazzone

    The NYT has also picked up on JC's Mazzone Effect research--this article even has quotes!

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 09:00 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 22, 2005
    Marathon #2

    I ran the Cleveland Marathon this morning to beautiful skies and mild temperatures.

    Final Times: 3:29:56 (clock); 3:29:27 (chip)
    Placements: 250/1600 Overall; 222/1114 Men; 31/185 Men 35-39

    All in all a good day.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 07:04 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 20, 2005
    Repeat After Me: Voluntary Exchange is Mutually Beneficial

    I saw this quote in the comments section of a sports blog:

    "I have to say that these personal attacks, though slightly funny, are just petty. I guess it comes with making so much money at our expense, but I wish everyone who posts could get grilled this bad for making mistakes at work, especially those connected to pride and overconfidence."

    The quote is part of an exchange about the Braves awful closer Dan Kolb; much of the exchange is garbage so I don't want to dignify it with a link. Kolb has been rotten, but baseball players don't make money at our expense. They make money in exchange for providing us a service--entertainment--and both parties benefit. Some players don't perform up to the expectations at the time teams sign them to contracts, but Kolb is hardly alone in this regard.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 01:17 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (77)

    WSJ on the Mazzone Effect

    Congrats to my friend JC of Sabernomics for having his work on Leo Mazzone cited in today's WSJ "By the Numbers" column. JC's Mazzone studies are here and here.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 11:31 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    May 19, 2005
    Half Dome Trip Report

    Ben Powell (San Jose State University) and I left our camp in Curry Village in Yosemite Valley at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 15, 2005 with the intention of hiking to the summit of Half Dome (8842' elev.). The high Sierras have had tons of snow all winter including a good storm the weekend before so we weren't sure that we'd be able to get to the top. The weather this day was perfect though--sunny and 75 for the high in the valley and about 60-65 at 8000'. We had heard conflicting information from people the evening before--some said it was impossible and others said it should be doable. We decided that we'd just have to see for ourselves so we were on our way.

    Half Dome of course is the signature mountain in the valley with its sheer north face towering nearly a mile above the valley floor. See picture. The hike is long at around 16 miles with an elevation change of about 4800'.

    We took the (aptly named) Mist Trail past Vernal and Nevada Falls. The water volume was amazing as the winter snows have been much higher than normal. After Nevada Falls we took the John Muir Trail through the relatively flat Little Yosemite Valley around the south side of the dome. Many hikers do the Half Dome hike as a two-day hike by camping here. In fact, I don't think anyone on the Half Dome Trail on this day started from the Yosemite Valley floor like we did.

    The final apprach to Half Dome is from the east. See picture. We hit snow not long after ascending from the Little Yosemite Valley. Fortunately, other hikers had blazed the trail and the snow pack was firm so we were able to walk with only moderate difficulty.

    Finally we reached the base of the massive granite wall of Half Dome itself. Not being technical climbers, Ben and I were going the "Cables Route"--they have two steel cables that allow you to make your way up the last 800' of the trail and 400' of elevation (making for about a 50% average grade!). During the summer season, the cables are "up" with posts and boards that work almost like steps and railings, but they're still "down" this time of year--that is they're just there on the rock. No matter. We proceded to pull ourselves up Batman and Robin style. See picture.

    After reaching the summit, we found ourselves alone on the massive (football field sized) top of the dome. See picture. (One hiker, probably the first of the day, was coming down just as we began our climb on the cables, and five others were behind us. So we figure only 8 people summitted this day. About 20 more were in the area but declined to attempt the cables. For comparison, in the height of the summer season some 500 people per day will reach the top. To be up there alone for any amount of time is really special.)

    The couple who came up behind us took a picture of the two of us. See picture. And Ben proceded to scare the s$%t out of me--the man has no fear! See picture.

    The way back down was uneventful and we got back to our tent cabin by 5:00. We were surprised that we didn't feel that sore. Finally we headed to the bar to drink heavily telling anyone who would listen about our day!

    The most eventful thing was the next morning. It rained hard all night and we were one of the last cars to get out of Yosemite Valley before they closed the flooded roads for almost the next 24 hours.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 07:47 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (3)

    "Researchers: To win in sports, wear red"

    "If winning is everything, British anthropologists have some advice: Wear red.

    Their survey of four sports at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens shows competitors were more likely to win their contests if they wore red uniforms or red body armor."

    Include me in the skeptics, at least until I read the underlying study or I read that it has been extended to cover more than four sports.

    Full story here. Hat tip: Kara.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 02:17 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (2)

    May 16, 2005
    Does Jerry Jones Play Tennis?

    From today's Rome News-Tribune:

    "Nina Lovel has a vision for a new tennis center. As a member of the Rome Tennis Advisory Council, she wants a facility that’s bigger, better and has more courts in one place.

    With close to $10 million pumped into the community each year from tennis tournaments, she isn’t the only one.

    City, county and Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority officials are interested in replacing the current 16-court facility on West Third Street with a larger one on Riverside Parkway.

    One reason is money. The Georgia State League Championships, currently occupying 70 courts in seven locations across the county, is expected to bring in around $2 million during the four days it’s here."

    Reminds me of a certain Dallas Cowboys stadium fleecing.

    More seriously, if tennis tournaments are such gushers of money then why doesn't some entreprenuer spring for the $750k that the article reports would be necessary to build a new tennis center? Even if the new tennis center could capture only 10% of that magical $10m that tennis tournaments bring to Rome, it would pay for itself in only 1 year. Not many investments pay for themselves that quickly! The fact that no one in Rome--or anywhere else apparently--builds a private facility suggests that the $10m is a wee bit inflated.

    An anecdotal reason to suspect it's inflated: While eating Friday night at a restaurant that should be one of the beneficiaries of tourist spending, my better two-thirds, Pee Wee, and I observed less than a dozen people in tennis attire. While some may have changed clothes there couldn't have been too many tennis players eating there because the restaurant was only half full.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:06 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (1)

    May 14, 2005
    On ticket prices and salaries

    To follow up on Frank's entry on ticket prices and salaries in baseball (and sports in general), I went to my handy database and pulled up real salaries and real ticket prices (both in 2000 dollars). I generated an indicator variable for whether real salaries increased or decreased from year to year, and an indicator variable for whether real ticket prices increased or decreased, (salaries in 2000 $XX.XXm and ticket prices in 2000 $XX.XX).

    Here are the raw means for MLB teams from 1991 through 2001 (312 observations):

    Variable | Obs Mean Std. Dev. Min Max
    rtixup | 312 .5064103 .5007621 0 1
    rtixdown | 312 .4935897 .5007621 0 1
    salup | 312 .6858974 .4649031 0 1
    saldown | 312 .3141026 .4649031 0 1
    year | 312 1996.147 3.156791 1991 2001

    Only a little more than 50 percent of the time do real ticket prices increase from year to year. Approximatley 68% of the team-years correspond to increases in team salaries.

    Here are means conditional on whether salaries increase or not:

    -> salup = 0

    Variable | Obs Mean Std. Dev. Min Max
    rtixup | 98 .5 .5025707 0 1
    rtixdown | 98 .5 .5025707 0 1

    -> salup = 1

    Variable | Obs Mean Std. Dev. Min Max
    rtixup | 214 .5093458 .5010848 0 1
    rtixdown | 214 .4906542 .5010848 0 1

    Just barely more than half the time that a team's real payroll increases does the team's ticket prices also increase. That's not a lot of evidence for causation. Unfortunately, we don't hear this in the press. How about every time real ticket prices increase? (last set of numbers)

    -> rtixup = 0

    Variable | Obs Mean Std. Dev. Min Max
    salup | 154 .6818182 .4672901 0 1
    saldown | 154 .3181818 .4672901 0 1

    -> rtixup = 1

    Variable | Obs Mean Std. Dev. Min Max
    salup | 158 .6898734 .464016 0 1
    saldown | 158 .3101266 .464016 0 1

    The similarity of the conditional means suggests that salary increases are probably not the cause of ticket increases.

    More over at Heavy Lifting here and here.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:06 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (29)

    May 11, 2005
    Quality control at BYU

    Nicholls State (a fellow-member of the proud Southland Conference) has been placed on 4 years of probation by the NCAA for academic fraud. Specifically, football and basketball players dropped out of NSU courses and enrolled in on-line correspondence (oxymoron?) courses at Brigham Young University:

    He [NSU president Stephen Hulbert] said the university registrar noticed last August that nine athletes who had withdrawn without grades from Nicholls State courses or had below-standard ACT scores had gotten Bs and B-pluses in on-line correspondence courses from Brigham Young University.

    What? Were is the quality control at BYU? Is BYU offering the on-line correspondence courses as a cash cow?

    The benefits of cheating in football at the Division I-AA level are not that great, however the costs might be relatively high (at least for Nicholls State):

  • The exclusion of the school from Southland Conference television packages in football and men's basketball.
  • Four years of probation, and forfeits of five [football] victories in the 2003 season.
  • A one-year loss of one basketball scholarship and a two-year cut in the maximum number of football scholarships.
  • Football coaches will have seven fewer off-campus recruiting days

    Strange things were also afoot in the women's volleyball program:

    The volleyball team also was fined $10,000 and forfeited its conference championship. But Potuto said it was for a mistake rather than fraud - using an ineligible course to calculate a player's grade-point average. That player has graduated, Hulbert said.

    One interesting tidbit about the limits on scholarships:

    [Football] will be restricted to 60 scholarships - instead of the maximum NCAA-permitted 63 for class I-AA - for the next two years. That won't affect the number Nicholls awards because it hasn't been able to afford more than 60 for years, spokesman Michael Logue said.

    Non-binding punishments are not likely to alter behavior.

    Where is BYU in all of this? My libertarian streak doesn't like the NCAA cartel in many ways, and I agree that NSU bears the cost of the actions of its representatives, but if NSU is using correspondence courses to pad grades, so are other schools. Who is to blame - the dealer or the user?

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:19 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (18)

    May 07, 2005
    Laffer Curve of Life II (Chicago Marathon Results)

    DoL reader, Dirk Eddelbuettel (a big ol' hat tip to Dirk--NEW: read his blog here), replicated my marathon finishing time model using the data from the 2004 Chicago Marathon (which was his first marathon). Here's the estimated equation:

    Time = 321 - 2.33(14.51)Age + 0.0406(19.84)AgeSq - 30.95(59.58)Male - 13.37(25.77)OutOfState

    R-Squared = 0.1295
    Number of Obs = 33070


    Time = the length of time in minutes to finish the marathon
    Age = age in years
    AgeSq = age in years squared
    Male = a dummy variable (= 1 if male; 0 if female)
    OutOfState = a dummy variable (= 1 if from out of state; = 0 if from Illinois)
    (t-stats in parentheses)

    The results are pretty similar. The "optimal" age comes out to be about 28 years old, a bit younger than in my model. The women did a bit better relative to men at Chicago finishing about 30 minutes behind. And the out of staters did about 13 minutes better than the Illinois residents.

    Take note of the incredibly large t-stats. 33,000+ observations will do that! (This is one of the many reasons why "statistical significance" is an overrated concept. It's easy to find "statistically" significant results if you have enough data.)

    [Update to my earlier post. I forgot to include my R-Squared (0.2012) and number of observations (403). So my model did have a slightly better fit. This is not surprising as the Chicago Marathon attracts both elite runners and a large number of very slow ones compared to the small Towpath Marathon I studied.]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 01:13 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (24)

    May 02, 2005
    The Laffer Curve of Life

    I had a few minutes to kill today in between final exams and decided to run a regression using the data from the 2004 Towpath Marathon. Here are the results:

    Time = 329 - 3.22(2.56)Age + 0.0487(3.29)AgeSq - 42.7(9.52)Male - 4.76(1.09)OutOfState


    Time = the length of time in minutes to finish the marathon
    Age = age in years
    AgeSq = age in years squared
    Male = a dummy variable (= 1 if male; 0 if female)
    OutOfState = a dummy variable (= 1 if from out of state; = 0 if from Ohio)

    (t-stats in parentheses)

    My priors were that Age would be negative and AgeSq positive indicating a Laffer Curve relationship--getting older will lower your times for a while but eventually getting older will increase your times. According to these results the optimal age is 33 years old. Yikes! I'm past my prime already.

    Males ran faster than females as expected--by about 43 minutes on average.

    Out of State runners ran slightly (and statistically insignificantly) faster by about 5 minutes. I had thought that people who travel longer distances to run may be better runners.

    I am happy to report that I ran it about 20 minutes faster than predicted based on my age and sex.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 04:06 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (28)

    April 28, 2005
    Prediction: Major scandal at the IOC

    Okay, given the past behavior of the IOC, perhaps the prediction is not that much of a stretch. However, immediately after announcing who will suffer the winner's curse of hosting the 2012 Olympics, the IOC will hold 28 sequential votes (evidently on the same day) on each of the different sports in the summer program. Failure to win majority support and the sport will be dumped. Twenty eight votes in a row? Sounds like a marathon on C-SPAN.

    From this article:

    The last sport to be removed from the Olympic Games was polo in 1936.

    In 2002 the IOC decided to cap the numbers of sports at an Olympic Games at 28, the number of events at 301 and the number of athletes at 10,500.

    At that same session in Mexico City Rogge proposed that baseball, softball and modern pentathlon be dropped, and golf and rugby added.

    However IOC members resisted and no vote was taken.

    Three years ago the sports earmarked to be dropped were able to rally support and launch campaigns that ultimately saved their status.

    With every one of the Olympic sports up for the vote in Singapore there is no obvious target and IOC insiders believe this will make it much harder for vulnerable sports to rally support.

    Certainly Rogge remains unsentimental. "It is clear that no sport has an eternal right to be on the Olympic program," he said last week.

    Whew. I am glad to see that olympic events do not have rights. For a minute there I was expecting the opposite - after all it is the Olympics.

    Yet to claim that there is no obvious target would seem to be a stretch. Swimming, gymnastics, track (most events at least), and basketball are likely safe. The various sports federations want to keep their respective sports in the summer olympics because to do so elevates their sport relative to non-olympic sports, providing psychic or monetary rents. Thus, with no obvious target the uncertainty should increase the overall amount of rent-seeking efforts (lobbying, bribes, etc.).

    As one person in the article stated:

    There are going to be 28 separate votes, one after the other," one high-ranking official told Reuters. "Will the IOC members really be able to, or be prepared to, concentrate fully on each vote? I'm not so sure. A lot of people are worried and concerned about this vote.

    Well, if you line their pockets with a lotta-dolla-bills, I am sure the good folks at the IOC would be able to, indeed would be prepared to, "concentrate fully on each vote." I would be surprised if the vote in July isn't followed by another major scandal within the IOC.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:07 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (25)

    April 25, 2005
    Pythagorean Wins and Manager Skill Revisited

    In this post last August, I expressed skepticism that the difference between actual wins and Pythagorean wins (the number of wins predicted by runs scored and runs allowed) is a meaningful measure of a manager's skill. This observation was motivated by an article in the Weekend section of the WSJ which argued that actual wins-Pythag. wins is a good indicator of managerial skill.

    While putting off writing my final exams this morning, I decided to catch up on SABR's "By the Numbers." Thomas Thress has articles in the May and August 2004 issues that support my skepticism. In the May issue (scroll down to p.19), he modifies the Pythag win formula for home and road wins. (The modification reflects the fact that home teams that win use fewer innings to do than do visiting teams.) In the August 2004 issue (scroll down to p. 3) he then examines the relationship between home and road deviations from predicted home and road wins. (For example, did the Braves win more games on the home and on the road than would have been predicted based on the number of runs they scored and allowed both home and away?) If the difference between actual wins and Pythag. wins is indicative of managerial skill, Thress argues, then there should be a correlation between the home and road residuals. He finds no statistically significant evidence of such a correlation.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 12:33 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (24)

    April 20, 2005
    Tour de GA Rolls into Rome

    Pee Wee and I are just back from watching Lance Armstrong finish third in the second stage of the Tour de Georgia. We were about 150 meters from the finish line and Lance was among a group of cyclists sprinting for first but, alas, he came up short. If last year is any guide, he'll smoke the field on tomorrow's time trial over Mt. Alto.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 08:16 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (31)

    April 18, 2005
    Rationality of NFL Draft

    While taking a break from some yardwork over the weekend, I kicked back with the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine. It contained a short article on this paper which purports to find market inefficiency in the NFL draft. I haven't yet read the paper (it runs some 60 pages) but the magazine version suggests that two pieces of evidence are an overvaluation of the top pick and an undervaluation of later picks. (Pick 43 has had a good run over the last 10 years--9 of the 10 picks are still in the league and they include Julius Jones, Corey Dillon, and Muhsin Muhammad.)

    The first part strikes me as plausible--I doubt Eli Manning is going to be so much better than Philip Rivers that the Giants should have forked over an extra first, third, and fifth round pick to get Manning. (Of course, one should measure marginal revenue product rather than the mere effect on wins--Eli might have a bigger effect on ticket sales than Rivers.)

    The second part--at least as reported in the mag--is less convincing to me. Suppose that draft choices are binomial events--success or failure--and the the probability of success is close to 1 for high picks and declines as the draft progresses. It would be entirely possible that some spot in the draft (maybe pick number 43!) would seem to be a sweet spot because over some relatively short (maybe 10 years) period of time there had been a run of successful picks. Stated differently, the finding that 9 of the last 10 picks at spot 43 are still in the league is no reason to conclude that the probability of success does not decline as the draft progresses. (Note also that still in the league depends on flukey things like injuries, not just the efficiency of the draft.)

    Again, I have not yet read the full paper so I might not (or more accurately, ESPN The Mag might not) be doing justice to the paper. After reading it, I might add more.

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:38 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (45)

    April 17, 2005
    My Saturday night...

    was not spent engaged in the high-arts, but instead rooting around in the low-arts in the form of the Texas Rangers (who, by the way, are "exploiting" their fans early in the season). I was offered a "free" seat in the Tris Speaker box at the Ballpark, er Ameriquest Field, in Arlingotn tonight and watched the Rangers lay an egg - 8 to 0 against the Bluejays. Twice the Rangers walked the bases loaded and then hit the next batter - both times the result was the same.

    The luxury box was nice - fourteen regular seats outside and a couple of tables inside with a fridge and a sink, and a private bathroom. Unfortunately, the box is not "stocked" with anything and the crowd I was with didn't bring much.

    It was my first big league game in quite a while without a beer. Shock and awe from some who know me, is Depken sick, has he gone over?

    None of the above. Interestingly enough - you can't buy a beer from the regular vendors and carry it up to the suite. You can carry hotdogs, and such, but not the booze. The nice lady who came to the suite was willing to sell beer, but only six at a time and for a bit more than you would pay with the pedestrians. I wasn't in the mood for six expensive beers and so went without.

    The Rangers lost out on some revenue from me, but then I am small pickings. The suites around us were packed with the typical corporate guest types - mostly employees, I would assume - who were all sufficiently eating and drinking on the company's tab that my little boycott went unnoticed.

    The beer limitations might be the decision of the Rangers, but then it might have something to do with Texas state law - which wouldn't be surprising. Today's fishwrap had an article about the lack of beer sales at Texas Motor Speedway, where tomorrow's NASCAR race will be held.

    What!? They don't sell beer at the TMS? They must sell beer at TMS, after all it's NASCAR.


    Evidently state law does not allow the selling of beer where people can bring their own. Anyone who has been to a NASCAR race, or been anywhere near a NASCAR race, knows that BYOB is standard operating procedure. Hence plenty of beer being drunk, just not sold by TMS.

    It has taken nine years for the TMS folks to get some action started in Austin, but it looks like they will get the special exemption rent-seeking theory would predict.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:04 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (25)

    April 15, 2005
    Drink more water! Drink less water! What's a runner to do?

    Runners should think twice before reaching for that water bottle: A study confirms that drinking too much can be dangerous, even deadly, for endurance athletes. [Story.]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:15 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (26)

    April 12, 2005
    How many Red Bulls does it take

    to buy a soccer team? From Amusement Business:

    The billionaire creator of Red Bull energy drink has decided that competing in Formula One racing and sponsoring a variety of extreme sports teams isn't quite enough exposure in the jock market.

    Dietrich Mateschitz, who swooped in to buy Jaguar's Formula One team in November, now has purchased struggling Austrian soccer club SV Salzburg -- and set some lofty goals.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 04:38 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (7)

    Tiger's shot at the 16th

    Video here - 60 second version is the better of the two. See the shot that will go down in history (it would only be slightly less memorable if Tiger hadn't won the tournament) before the PGA/Nike/CBS makes them take it down.

    Yeah, I suppose Tiger is pretty good.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:14 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (2)

    April 10, 2005
    Team owners are altruists?

    So says Kirk Wakefield, chairman of the Marketing department at Baylor University. In yet another example of the differences between economists and the rest of the world, Wakefield commented in this story that :

    his only concern is the Rangers' debt ratio. Forty-four percent of the team's value is tied up in debt, according to the magazine.

    But owners generally don't stress over the bottom line the way corporations on Wall Street might, he said.

    "The owners probably don't get into it for making money," Wakefield said. "I think a lot of it is, in an altruistic sense, it's a service to the community."

    Hmmm...tell that to George Steinbrenner. We are supposed to believe that team owners get into the business of baseball (or any other sport) to give us all warm fuzzies?

    Economists have long recognized that team owners gain some utility from owning a team, and they might trade off some profitability for increased utility. But behaving altruistically implies that team owners are concerned with the utility of their consumers, which they are not (except to make sure that consumers gain enough utility to keep coming to the games). Tom Hicks, owner of the Rangers, has never come by my seat in right field to ask about my utility.

    Team owners are typically depicted as evil capitalist pig-dogs busy shaking down cities for stadiums, trying to collude to keep wages down, trying to break the unions, and turning a blind eye to doping and other bad behavior. Evidently, that is all wrong. Team owners are really altruists.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 01:59 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (24)

    April 07, 2005
    Robust inference on four - er six - observations

    For the record, you might want to mark April 6, 2005 because last night :

    Playing without their ailing manager, the Red Sox rallied for five runs off Rivera in the ninth inning -- helped by Alex Rodriguez's costly error -- and beat New York 7-3 Wednesday to avoid a season-opening sweep.

    Haven't looked it up, but this is one of the worst outings I have ever heard Rivera having. On the other hand, the worm might have turned in the whole Red Sox- Yankees drama as:
    The All-Star closer has blown his last four save chances against the Red Sox, including two in the 2004 playoffs, and six opportunities in all against Boston since the start of last season.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 12:25 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (25)

    March 31, 2005
    Indian cricket facts of the day

    On Saturday, April 2, India and Pakistan begin a series of 6 one-day cricket matches. One-day matches are much more lively than the notoriously slow "test" cricket matches. A one-day match takes only about 8 hours including the lunch break (one team bats before lunch, the other after); a test match typically run five days (each team bats twice through its lineup). By limiting each batting team to a fixed number of deliveries to swing at (normally 300), one-day cricket radically reduces the incentive to bat defensively. In test cricket, where deliveries are unlimited and where -- unlike baseball -- the batsman needn't run once he strikes the ball if he doesn't think it safe to do so, I once saw England's captain Nasser Hussain bat so defensively that he made only one run off his first thirty deliveries.

    It is difficult for Americans to fathom how popular is India-Pakistan cricket. But Ramchandra Guha's superb book A Corner of a Foreign Field (previously mentioned here) gives a useful statistic (p. xiii):

    When [Indian star Sachin] Tendulkar is batting against the Pakistani swing-bowler Wasim Akram, the television audience exceeds the entire population of Europe.

    It's so popular among NRIs (non-resident Indians) that an Indian restaurant here in St. Louis (where I picked up takeout tonight) is showing all six matches live on a big-screen projection tv at $7 per head per match -- even though the matches start at 10:25pm local time!

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 10:40 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (1)

    Jets get to build stadium on Manhattan Island

    According to Reuters:

    The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday awarded the National Football League's Jets the right to build a stadium on property the transportation agency owns on Manhattan's West Side.

    The Jets' $720 million bid to build above MTA rail yards was chosen over a $760 million offer from Cablevision Systems Corp. and a $1.05 billion bid from TransGas Energy Systems, helping boost the city's chances of hosting the 2012 Olympics.

    If the Jets were going to build the stadium themselves, then I wouldn't have a problem. However, that is not the case - the city of New York and the state of New York will kick in $300 million each.

    Total predicted cost of the stadium? Drum roll....$1.9 billion (I almost typed million) "instead" of the paltry $1.4 billion initial estimate. I would tack on at least 15% to the $1.9 billion estimate to get the final cost.

    All of this to help NYC get the 2012 Olympics. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:13 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (5)

    Amateur Coaches

    Are college coaches paid so much because college athletes are paid so little? I don’t believe in the wages fund, but I do think even a neoclassical model can hypothesize a link.

    When the NCAA attempted to restrict assistant coach’s salaries, the courts determined that this violated the Sherman Act. (I don’t think the NCAA ever attempted to restrict the salaries of head coaches.) However, the same court finds no problem with restricting college athletes to a hot meal and a room. Nevertheless, colleges compete for exceptional athletes with offers of hidden perks and a discounted product, a college education that many players don’t want. A true amateur sport would have amateur coaches instead of million dollar managers who profit from players who are paid less than their marginal worth to the university. Underpaid athletes support a hierarchy of wealthy beneficiaries that shamelessly espouse the benefits of amateur sports. This hypocrisy promotes fraud and cheating in the college recruitment of athletes and detracts from the university’s educational mission.

    Why doesn't the NCAA restrict coaches to room, board and tuition?

    Posted by at 11:31 AM in Economics ~ in Sports  ·  Comments (1)  ·  TrackBack (25)

    March 29, 2005
    Pam Reed Runs 300 miles!

    60 Mintutes ran a story about Dean Karnazes and Pam Reed on Sunday. They are among the leading "ultra marathoners" in the world. 60 Minutes made a big deal of the fact that women are competitive with men at the elite level in this sport--a point I made some time ago in this post.

    Dean Karnazes won last year's Badlands Ultramarathon (135 miles) and Pam has won it twice before. Dean had been known for having run longer than anyone else ever--262 miles. But it just broke today that Pam Reed ran 300 miles !

    [Update: It took her about 80 hours.]

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:10 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (9)

    March 25, 2005
    Headline is backwards?

    From Amusement Business comes this headline:

    Red Sox remain committed to Fenway Park

    Okay, so now we know that the Red Sox are not committed to Fenway Park.

    In other sports news, New York City unions evidently made history by pledging not to strike during the 2012 Olympics, if the Olympics are held in New York City - gee, don't do us any favors. There was no indication whether the unions might go on strike during the Olympics if they are not held in New York City:

    President of New York's Building and Construction Trades Council Ed Malloy said: "This no-strike pledge is probably the biggest commitment we have given in the history of organized union labor.

    "The Olympics is the greatest event in the world and I believe we are the greatest city in the world with the greatest labor force."

    The biggest committment by organized labor was to promise to do their friggin' job? The IOC should deny NYC's bid for the Olympics on the grounds that it cow-tows to unions.

    The Jets have been promised the 2010 Super Bowl if they build a new stadium on Manhattan Island? Arlington has been promised the 2011 Super Bowl. So, when does Houston get back into the mix? Jacksonville? The Super Bowl has become the one-and-done promise of the NFL. Next year the SB is in Detroit!? Even people who live in Detroit don't want to be in Detroit in February. My prediction, however, is that the Detroit SuperBowl will have the largest economic impact of any SuperBowl in the past thirty years - almost all of the tourist money will be new spending and not substitute spending.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 02:16 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (0)

    Anglophile sports history factoid of the day
    Nineteenth-century England gave the world the railroad, electricity and the theory of evolution, but also football, rugby and hockey. The major team sports were all invented in one island, as were the popular racket games of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. Men have raced and punched one another since the invention of fire, but it was Englishmen who gave athletics and boxing their modern forms. Only two of the great games of humankind are not of English origin: basketball, which was patented in New England in the 1890s, and golf, the contribution of the Scots across the border.

    That's the opening paragraph of a history of Indian cricket that I picked up this morning for a mere £2 in paperback, remaindered (it was £20 in hardcover last year -- glad I waited), Ramchandra Guha's A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport (London: Picador, 2002). Okay, you can quibble about the exclusion of baseball, ice hockey, and beach volleyball from Guha's list of "the great games of humankind", but the contribution of 19th century England to sports is still pretty impressive.

    And don't forget that 19th century England also gave us the theory of comparative advantage.

    Posted by Lawrence H. White at 09:04 AM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (1)

    March 24, 2005
    On the Economics of Baseball Stadia

    I heard Jim Bouton (of Ball Four fame) on the radio today. He was talking up his 2003 book, Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark.

    The book is about his attempt to save an old wooden ballpark and attract an independent league baseball club to Pittsfield, MA--all with private dollars. But he runs afoul of the locals who want to build a new stadium with (you guessed it) taxpayer dollars. In the radio interview he called taxpayer funded stadia a "national disgrace." Ah, another book for the summer reading list.

    Posted by Robert Lawson at 09:08 AM in Economics ~ in Sports  ·  Comments (0)  ·  TrackBack (0)

    March 22, 2005
    A two-party bidding war.

    The New York Jets have upped the ante in their bid for a stadium site on the island of Manhattan. Current bid, $700m. Now it is Cablevision's turn.

    Story here

    Posted by Craig Depken at 03:08 PM in Sports

    March 19, 2005
    Which one is faster?

    A Mercedes A Class, E class, or Maclaren Grand Prix?

    I'll give you one guess.

    Posted by Craig Depken at 08:14 PM in Sports

    March 14, 2005
    Congressional Steroids Circus

    George Will rightly tears into the looming Congressional steriod hearings.

    An excerpt:

    "The one witness eager to testify is Canseco, who is flogging a book in which he accuses many players of using steroids. Jeff Merron of ESPN.com read the book -- has Canseco done that? -- and found:

    Canseco says that during spring training 2001, when playing for the Angels against the Mariners and their second baseman Bret Boone, ``I hit a double, and when I got out there to second base I got a good look at Boone. I couldn't believe my eyes. He was enormous. `Oh my God,' I said to him. `What have you been doing?' `Shhh,' he said. `Don't tell anybody.''' But in five Angels-Mariners games that spring, Canseco never reached second base.

    He recounts game six of the 2000 World Series -- which ended with game five. He recalls baseball in 1982 being ``closed'' to Latinos -- although there were 62 major leaguers from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and more from other Latin countries."

    Posted by E. Frank Stephenson at 10:23 AM in Sports

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