Tag Archives: Basketball

Do New Stadiums Lead to an Increase in Business?

Unless you’re familiar with the literature in this arena (no pun intended) or you know about Betteridge’s law of headlines, the title of this post is actually still an unresolved question for you. Well, I won’t delay the inevitable: according to research published earlier this year, the answer is no — new stadiums do no lead to an increase in business.

There are two things I want to talk about as it relates to this research. The first is Richard Florida. If this area is an interest of yours, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across him. Florida has been a professor for the last 20+ years and has written extensively on cities. Here’s a post I found from him within the last year that talks about the very thing that the journal article discussed:

The overwhelming conclusion of decades of economic research on the subject is that using public funds to subsidize wealthy sports franchises makes zero economic sense and is a giant waste of taxpayer money. A wide array of studies have shown that professional teams add virtually no income to local economies. In fact, some of them find that large subsidies actually have a negative effect, taking money out of the local economy. Aside from the jobs generated by actually building the stadium, most jobs inside the stadium—selling food and beer or working at team concessions—are low-paying temp jobs. It’s even worse for football stadiums, which are used for games at most a dozen times a year, and maybe a few more times for concerts or large events. Public economic development dollars can be put to much better use on things besides subsidizing sports teams and their wealthy owners.

Ultimately, the burden of public subsides falls disproportionately on small cities that are the least able to bear the cost. For example, a $200 million public subsidy for a new stadium ends up costing a small city like Santa Clara roughly $1,650 per resident, compared to just $50 a person for L.A. And, of course, teams in bigger cities, with their bigger markets and more revenue, often do not need subsidies at all.

The reason I raise Florida’s name is because I was surprised that I didn’t see his name mentioned in the journal article. To be fair, I don’t think that Florida has done any primary research in this domain, but I would have thought that even in the opening introduction or literature review that there may have been some reference to Florida’s constant discussion of literature like this.

Anyhow, the second thing I wanted to talk about is something that might not be measurable. Well, it might not be measurable in a simple way. As a former amateur athlete, I have a special place in my heart for sports. Certainly, there are plenty of things that one could classify as “wrong” about sports, but part of me still wants to defend it/them and I’ll be upfront: that might be part of what’s going on with this section of this post.

Something I didn’t see in the article (and probably something I wouldn’t expect to find in any well-written article) is a measure of (or discussion of?) the positive externalities that result from a city’s team winning the championship or even the spillover effects from the possible positive externalities. Now that’s a tortured sentence. I’m talking about how the residents of a city feel after their team wins the championship (in a given sport). Naturally, not everyone would be watching (or care), but for those that are fans of the team that wins, there would certainly be elevated levels of joy and happiness immediately following the victory. If there were studies done on this, I suspect that there might be comparisons to those who have won the lottery in that a couple of months after, lottery winners return to a similar level of satisfaction/happiness that they had prior to the lottery win.

I wonder, though, could we measure the economic gains for a city from this positive externality and the resulting spillover effect (in this case, let’s say the spillover effect would be the “pay it forward”-ness of joy from the fans of the team to the non-fans that the fans will be interacting with in the weeks following the city’s team’s victory). Even if there is a tangible effect that can be measured, I’m sure that any reasonable cost-benefit analysis would still conclude that a new stadium isn’t worth it for a city.

ResearchBlogging.orgHarger, K., Humphreys, B., & Ross, A. (2016). Do New Sports Facilities Attract New Businesses? Journal of Sports Economics, 17 (5), 483-500 DOI: 10.1177/1527002516641168

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Travel and Sports: Timezones Used to Have an Effect on Winning Percentage in the NBA

It’s probably not surprising to you to learn that when an NBA team travels east of its “home” timezone, it’s more likely to win and when it travels west of its “home” timezone, it’s more likely to lose. However, you may be surprised that this effect only bears out for games played during the day and more importantly, not for games played at night. This finding surprised the researchers who conducted the study as they expected to find an effect for games played at night in concert with similar studies about the NFL.

It’s important to note that the time span for this research that found this effect was in the 90s. That is, this effect with regard to day games in the NBA only accounts for the time span in the 90s (1991 to 2002, to be exact). When the researchers conducted a similar study for the years between 2002 and 2013, they found no significant effect for either the day or night games. The researchers suggested that by the decade of the 2000s, teams had been better at preparing for day games (when travelling west).

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In thinking about this research, I wonder about this effect for other sports. The researchers mentioned the work conducted on the NFL and how West Coast teams benefit when travelling east for games, but what about baseball?

MLB is different from two of the major pro sports (NBA and NHL), as it’s leagues (or conferences, if you prefer) aren’t split up between the West and the East. That is, in the NBA, there’s the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference. Similarly, in the NHL, they have a Western Conference and and Eastern Conference. In baseball (much like football), the two “conferences” are split up, but not necessarily on geographic lines. While there are divisions that are split up regionally within the conference, it’s very common for NFL teams to have to travel across the US to play another team on a semi-regular basis. And in MLB, travel from the East Coast to the West Coast (or vice versa) happens regularly.

So, I wonder, if because there’s more frequent travel to the East/West Coast for baseball teams, would we find an effect (regardless of day/night games)? If I had to hazard a guess, I suspect not. Although, I wonder, if like the researchers did with the NBA, there’d be an effect if we were able to look into the past. Maybe there’d be an effect in MLB if we went back to the 80s or maybe even the 70s.

ResearchBlogging.orgNutting, A., & Price, J. (2015). Time Zones, Game Start Times, and Team Performance: Evidence From the NBA Journal of Sports Economics DOI: 10.1177/1527002515588136

What I’ve Learned as a Fan That I Wish I Knew as a Player

In my youth, I played quite a bit of baseball. Well, actually, I played a number of sports, but baseball was the one I was involved with the most. Baseball is one of those sports where there is some level of subjectivity. For example, when the umpire calls a pitch a strike when you think it’s a ball. Or, when you’re sliding into second and you think you touch the base before the fielder tags you with his glove. Of course, with instant replay now instituted in professional baseball, some of these calls are more likely to be ‘right.’

Switching gears for a moment: this past weekend, the Brooklyn Nets beat the Toronto Raptors — by one point — to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs. The Raptors trailed for most of the game and by double-digits deep into the 4th quarter. However, they made it really close at the end and, in fact, had a chance to win the game with less than seven seconds in the 4th quarter. The reason I’m bringing up this game and this series is because there were quite a few controversial calls by the officials. And that article only mentions the calls made in the last game.

When I was younger (and playing competitively), I would have stewed for hours after the game because of what I perceived as a “bad call.” I would have blamed the umpires for the part they played in my team “losing” the game. Even as a fan when I was younger, I would blame the officials of whatever sport I was watching for the poor calls that negatively affected the team I was cheering for.

After watching the series between the Nets and the Raptors, there were certainly times when I disagreed with the way the referees saw a play (and on many occasions, so did the announcers). Even still, as any good athlete will tell you, they’ve got to play well enough that a call by an official doesn’t mean a win or a loss. That doesn’t mean that a call from an official won’t disappoint you, but you’ve got to put it out of your mind and move onto the next play. I’m not implying that some of the poor calls affected the Raptors (or the Nets), but I’d be surprised if they didn’t even just a little.

With that being said, as a “fan,” it’s so much more enjoyable to watch a game and not stew about a bad call long after it’s over.

What Do You Do When You’re THAT Much Better Than The Competition?

The Miami Heat have won the last two NBA championships and they’ve been to the finals for the last three years (losing in Game 7 of the finals before winning back-to-back championships). So far this year, they’re one of two teams in the Eastern Conference (as of this writing) to have a winning record. The other team being the Indiana Pacers, whom many think will challenge the Heat for the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. If we take a peek at the Western Conference, we see that there are quite a few more teams with winning records. In fact, there are five times as many winning teams in the West than in the East.

I’m not here to talk about the parity in the NBA conferences, even though it’s clear that there is, but instead, about the Heat and their competition. That is, they’ll play most of their games against the Eastern conference, of which there are only two teams with winning records. Given that the Heat have been an elite team for the last three years, it’s not surprising that a they’d have to resort to “games within games” to stay focused.

After reading that article on SB Nation, I thought to myself how difficult it must be for the Miami Heat coach (Erik Spoelstra) to keep his players focused, not only as each season wears on, but as each game wears on and each quarter wears on. The Heat have played 23 games so far this season and have won 17 of them. While they’re not in first place in the conference (that title belongs to the other winning team in the East, the Pacers), they’re well above the 3rd place team in the conference. For a team that plays that much better than its opponents on a nightly basis, one can see how it might be easy for the players to lose focus. Heck, it’s possible that a few of those six losses came as a result of the team losing focus after having outplayed the other team through the first few quarters of the game.

The reason I’ve raised this issue is because I was thinking about the success of a “games within games” strategy. For instance, let’s say that the “game inside the game” for today’s game is that we’re going to try to get the ball to the guy down low. That is, the strategy is to beat this team by using a certain player in a certain way. I wonder what happens when it gets down to near the end of the game and the score is close — do you abandon that strategy? And if you do, how do you get the players who hadn’t been as involved ready to go now that it’s the key time in the game?

A games within games strategy can be successful, but I worry at what cost.

This also reminds me of one of the chapters in Michael Sandel’s book that we reviewed about 6 months ago — the idea of fines and fees. In particular, the idea that parents pay their kids to read. By doing so, parents are incentivizing a certain behaviour. The worry, from some, is that by paying their kids to read, the kids will no longer derive the same joy out of reading if there’s no incentive involved. If we apply that to this situation, I wonder if the strategy of using the one player in that one game might pervert the incentives for the team. And not just in that game, but over the long haul. Maybe the players don’t then have the same incentives as before when there aren’t games within games.

Of course, I’m not an NBA basketball coach (or even a high school basketball coach), but I think it’s still an idea worth considering.

Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Earlier today, I saw a tweet from Mental Floss about the home run derby. In fact, it wasn’t about the home run derby that happens the day before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, no, it was about the home run derby TV show from back in the 1960s. After being reminded of the home run derby from the 60s, I wondered, can there be too much of a good thing?

My first thought is, no! I love the home run derby, as do many other baseball fans. It’s a fantastical display of ability by some of the greater sluggers. There’ve been quite a few memorably home run derbies. There was Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1991. He hit 7 more HRs than the second place hitter. This was particularly memorable for me because it took place in Toronto (my hometown). There was also Josh Hamilton from 2008 when he broke the record for most HRs in one round, but went on to lose the home run derby. There was also Ken Griffey, Jr. in the last 90s. He won back-to-back home run derbies in 1998 and 1999. He still has one of the sweetest swings in the history of the game.

Then, as I thought more about it, maybe seeing the home run derby once a week would begin to take some of the shine off of the event. Maybe if the home run derby happened once a week, we wouldn’t have the once a year, mid-summer classic, to look forward to for the display of towering home runs.

Thinking about this also made me think about the slam dunk contest. It’s one of my favorite parts about the NBA all-star game. Watching the creativity of some of the best “slam dunkers” is really entertaining. If there were a slam dunk contest every week, would that be too much?

Other than actually producing the show, there’d be no way to know (for sure). If I had to hazard a guess, my guess is that it would be too much. Part of the fun of the home run derby and the slam dunk contest is that it only happens once a year. The amazing feats of ability are rare (at least in their display in this context). And that rarity also adds to the fun of the event. We know that at the end of the night, we won’t be seeing the feats again for another year.

The Underhanded Free Throw: An Unnecessary Image Problem

About a month ago, I had a basketball game on in the background while I was working and I heard one of the announcers (Jeff Van Gundy) say something about an underhanded free throw. When I first heard it, I chuckled a little bit and then I thought about it more… why don’t some NBA players should free throws underhanded?

The point of basketball is to score more points than your opponent. If you can be more effective (read: score more) shooting free throws underhanded than you can overhanded, what argument could you possibly make for not shoot underhanded? The only things that come to mind:

1) It’s how we’ve always done it; and

2) It looks “stupid.”

Are there two arguments that are more lacking in substance? “It’s how we’ve always done it,” is the kind of argument that perpetuates a business’s lazy policies on innovation and lead to its eventual demise. “It looks stupid,” is the same kind of defense we can expect from a playground argument.

It turns out, the idea of underhanded free throws is not new. I found this video on YouTube of Rick Barry shooting underhanded free throws and saying how he was once talking to Shaquille O’Neal (one of the better players to play basketball, but one of the “not-so-good” free throw shooters) about shooting free throws underhanded:

So, if Rick Barry, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history can shoot free throws underhanded, what’s stopping everyone else?

Every Game Counts The Same: Does It Really?

In most sports, there is a “regular” season and a “post” season. That is, the teams play against it each other for a set number of games to jockey for position in the playoffs. As I write this, I’m thinking about in particular, as it is getting very near to the end of their season. As the season comes to a close, many teams are either jockeying for position in the playoffs or they are struggling to remain one of the teams that will get to play in the playoffs.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the relative importance of each game, ie. “every game counts.” Some people like to say that games at the end of the season “count more” than games at the beginning of the season. They’ll tell you quite a fancy story about how and why the games at the end mean more to a team than the games at the beginning of the season. And I want to believe them. I want to believe that there’s a formula that accounts for “time” in the relative importance of games. To my knowledge, there isn’t and a game won in the beginning of the season is equal to a game won at the end of the season.

Looking at it mathematically: there are 162 games in a season. So, every game is worth 1/162nd of a team’s record. If a team wins a game on May 6th, that game is worth 1/162nd of that team’s record. If a team loses on June 12th, that game is still worth 1/162nd of that team’s record. And if a team wins the last game of the season (!) that game is still worth 1/162nd of that team’s record.

I think where a lot of people get confused or misled when it comes to games at the end of the season meaning more is because of the cultural bias. It is often written of and spoke of that games at the end of the season mean more than games at the beginning of the season. As a result, people begin to believe this and say it themselves (creating a bit of an ). At the end of the day (literally), the last game of the season has the same weight on a team’s record as a game at the beginning of the season.

Note 1: this line of thinking doesn’t apply to those sports that use a more sophisticated way of measuring the success of their teams. For instance, some sports, like soccer, often use “goal differential” as a way of distinguishing the relative placement of their teams.

Note 2: for sports that have such relatively “short” seasons like the NFL, one could argue that a game later in the season is worth more because of the various tiebreakers that are used for Winning percentage, etc., but the sentiment of every game counting the same still holds.