The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport

The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport

The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport

The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport

Excerpt

Every day sports are played. Teams win and teams lose. Joyous fans celebrate each win while losers dream of better days. With each event, numbers are recorded. These numbers tell us who won, who lost, and more importantly, these numbers tell us why some fans are so happy and others so sad. The question “why?”, though, is difficult. To know why, one has to understand the stories the numbers tell.

This is where we step into the picture. As professors of economics, we have been trained in the art and science of statistical analysis. In fact, this is our job. Our job is to use statistics and math to study economics. Of course, no one told us what specifically we should study. So while sports fans go to work each day at a job they may love or hate, we go to work every day applying our skills to the study of professional sports. Yes, we get paid to study sports.

What have we learned from our studies? We have learned that the numbers generated by sports are poorly understood. Much of our research, which employs the standard tools of economic theory and statistical analysis, contradicts what we hear repeated by sports writers and the players and coaches working in professional sports.

Much of this research has appeared previously in such academic journals as the American Economic Review, Economic Inquiry, Applied Economics, and the Journal of Sports Economics. Unfortunately, these journals are not generally read by many people. So the stories we have told have not been widely heard. And that is the basic problem. Although there may be “fans” of our work, we think we can count the number of “fans” on one hand—and we probably do not have to use all our fingers. Granted, it is not the size of the audience but its enthusiasm that matters. Nevertheless, we would like to bring our work to a wider audience.

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