Let us begin with a confession: We are both sports fans and economists and, as a result, our worldview is curiously schizophrenic. Sports are an emotion-laden pastime by nature. Like all fans, we enjoy the old “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.” We “root, root, root for the home team,” hate the “damn Yankees,” and “just wait until next year” with the best of them. But as economists, we put aside these emotions and assume that cool rationality rules the world. (Even as economists, we know that this is not entirely true. But, this lens has proven useful to in our professional lives.) Our eyes are open. We see that reason can get us only so far as we seek to understand how the sports industry works. As the old Sioux grandfather, played by Chief Dan George, in the movie Little Big Man said, “Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.” But when it doesn’t, the failure of rationality can still point us in the direction of better explanations.
We wrote this book because the economists in us began to see that many preconceived and deeply emotional notions in sports are simply not true. And upon further consideration, we began to see that these “misunderstandings” actually hinder the games we love. When we realized that these wives’ tales were not only plain wrong but also a drag on sports fans, players, and the industry alike, we had to do something. Also of a sudden, we found ourselves in a new role—that of myth busters. Myth busters typically approach their targets by pointing out how a belief, previously held dear, is simply incorrect. However, in our opinion, this approach doesn’t go far enough. We also try to explain how these beliefs exemplify some ideology (that college sports leach off of universities), or serve the interest of specific