Archive for June, 2012

Friday Links

June 29, 2012
  • Nike passes $2 billion in soccer sales. (Total revenue for Nike was $24 billion, up 16%.)
  • Is the NBA done drafting international players? (The article is good, though it doesn’t go into the developmental structures in place in Europe for grooming talent, so it’s hard to to know what’s really going on.)
  • Jonathan Wilson offers and excellent tactical intro to the Euro 2012 final.   (The most interesting insight actually regarded Germany and whether Sami Khedira’s developoment into a better, more attacking player disrupted the cohesion in the midfield between him and Bastian Schweinsteiger.)




Thursday Links

June 21, 2012
  • A Real Madrid midfield of Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso, and Sami Khedira?  That would make a talented team even more lethal.  It’s the classic midfield trifecta of creator, passer, and destroyer.  (Though of course Modric and Khedira can pass, and Xabi Alonso can tackle, if clumsily at times.)
  • Poland and Ukraine are not likely to come out ahead financially from the Euros.  (It’s not about the infrastructure, it’s about the corruption.)




June 21, 2012

This NPR report on American consumption of alcohol is fascinating:

Out of every $100 American consumers spend, about $1 goes to alcohol. That hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.

But where we spend our money on alcohol has changed quite a bit. We spend a bigger chunk of our booze money in bars and restaurants. We spend less money buying alcohol at the store to drink at home.

As the article states, this doesn’t necessarily mean we go out more to drink.  Because the price of alcohol at the store has gone down over thirty years while the price of drinks in restaurants has gone up, it could be that we are just shifting our booze money around.

I think in the implications relating to soccer and sport are interesting parallel, and I’d be interested in knowing how the consumptive pattern of the average soccer fan has shifted over the past thirty years.  Do we spend more money at the stadium because prices have gone up, or do we spend less because more of us stay home to watch on TV?  Do we spend more or less on merchandise and shirts?

However, the most interesting part for me is this last nugget:

Of the money we spend drinking at home, more goes to wine and less goes to hard alcohol. The percentage of our booze dollar that goes to beer hasn’t changed much.

I’m very interested in how this relates to sports and how they fight for market share.  For instance, for the last thirty years the wine industry did not need to steal market share from the beer industry in order to grow; it just ate into the hard liquor market. (Whether they did this consciously, I don’t know.)

If you look at the lower tier sports in America, they might be thinking along the same lines: from which sport above us can we most readily poach fans and participants?  Since I talk about soccer here, it bears repeating where we stand in the pecking order in the US:

  1. American Football
  2. Baseball
  3. Basketball
  4. Hockey
  5. Soccer

I actually think the numbers here are not set in stone.  The NHL may be more popular than MLS, but then hockey doesn’t have the World Cup or international teams that visit and sell out large stadiums for exhibitions, so there is a degree here in which soccer’s popularity isn’t measured in full.

Nonetheless, if we are going to poach fans, it might behoove us to think about which sports are most ripe for plunder.  Target #1, and not just because it is #1, is football.  The sport is is so violent that fewer kids are going to be playing it in the next decade, and these kids might not ardently follow football as a result.

I think the slow pace of baseball also makes the sport ripe for plunder, since frankly the strategic subtleties don’t make up for the lack of consistent athletic dynamism during a game.  Basketball, on the other hand, if soccer’s biggest competitor and offers a very engaging, fast-paced experience that has some real advantages, such as higher scoring and a more frenetic pace.

Thinking more broadly, how does a sport go about poaching fans?  What does that mean?  I’ll have to think about that some more.


Australia, Ireland, US

June 20, 2012

Australia is similar to the US in that unlike the rest of the world, over the past two centuries it developed its own sports and soccer did not become one of most popular.  If you look at the attendeance figures here, you see that the most popular Australian sports are:

  1. Australian Football (#1 by far, doubling the attendance of #2)
  2. Rugby
  3. Horse Raising
  4. Soccer

Here’s Ireland:

  1. Gaelic Football
  2. Hurling
  3. Soccer
  4. Rugby

Here’s the United States:

  1. American Football
  2. Baseball
  3. Basketball
  4. Hockey
  5. Soccer

It’s fascinating how all three countries developed their own form of football different from that of the “association football” that arose from England (the “soc” in association is where the word soccer comes from).  It can’t be coincidental that all three countries are former colonies of England.

By the way, here is what Gaelic football looks like, and here is hurling.  They seem to me to be the exact same thing, except where Gaelic football is played with a regular round ball, hurling it played with a small ball and stick.  And here is Australian Rules Football.  All three look like a lot of fun, if a bit rough-and-tumble for my taste.


Baseball’s World Classic

June 20, 2012

As I’ve noted before, David Stern is trying to organize a basketball version of the World Cup.  I had forgotten about the World Classic in baseball, but it looks like they are very organized about this tournament in 2013, and extended participation from 16 to 28 teams.  I don’t have much to say about this other than just like soccer, the level of play won’t be as high as the teams who play together all season long, but it should be fun.  And it will definitely promote the sport of baseball.

How to Blog

June 20, 2012

Note to self: re-read this post on blogging by Felix Salmon.


Why would two soccer sides try and score on themselves?

June 20, 2012

Check this out:

Wednesday Links

June 20, 2012


June 19, 2012

I’m going to stop and reflect a bit here.  I’ve been doing a lot of economics posts, I suppose because I’ve got this one huge idea I’ve been thinking about for a year and the need to express it several times in order to, I don’t know, expunge its urgency from my consciousness.  I can’t tell if this big idea that soccer is going to conquer the USA and consolidate its holding over the rest of the world is really that interesting to anyone else.  I feel like it should be, but I also feel like I should be blogging about other things too.

So what are those other things?  I’m going to try and incorporate some more philosophical, reflective pieces that are better written than some of the other things I’ve thrown up here in the past few days.  I’d also like to find some quirky things that don’t fall into the “trivial” category.  That means scouring the internet for sources, which may take some time to develop.

I also have some larger existential worries about whether I can sustain an interest in soccer enough to carry on every day.  I think I can, but I also could burn out or get discouraged.  For now, I’m going to barrel ahead.

Soccer and Baseball, Compared

June 19, 2012

A review of a book that compares the economic histories of soccer and baseball.  A lot of great stuff in the review, and I may just have to buy this book.  The book was written in 2005, and the authors identify problems for both soccer and baseball.  The soccer problems are largely short-term, but the authors feel that the sport needs to become more commercial and professional in the financial area in order to to combat the fact that a lot of teams are really badly run and lose a ton of money.  This is indeed already occurring, though I personally don’t have a problem with clubs going bankrupt.

Baseball’s problems are longer-term:

The problem in baseball, which the authors acknowledge, is twofold.  First, baseball’s
antitrust exemption has somewhat insulated team owners from focusing on the long term.
Second, its governing body is comprised of a collection of league owners with substantial
investments in their team, a collection which changes over time, and a commissioner who
is an employee of the owners.  Consequently, there has been little incentive to focus on
the long term and little of the strength and adhesiveness in league leadership necessary to
develop and implement long-term initiatives.

Simply put, the owners of baseball teams currently look to maximize their own revenue, but they have little incentive to grow the sport.  As a result, baseball is likely going to shrink as other sports move in and take over market share.

I personally would go further and argue that baseball more than any sport suffers from a high barrier to entry, if that’s the right word, for the new fan.  There are so many rules to learn and subtleties to the sport that when you combine them with the slow pace, it is very hard to win over new fans who already have other sport affinities.

I grew up with baseball and so the appeal for me was innate, but I thin the sport needs to change in some key areas to modernize itself.  Perhaps the main thing it has to do is speed up the rate of play.  Cut down on the time between pitches, the time between innings, eliminate visits to the mound from managers and coaches, and that would be a great start.

I would also recommend going to a soccer-style substitution system in which a manager has a full bench of subs but can only use a certain amount of them, say five.  That would eliminate the constant pitching changes and pinch hitters.