A WoW Anniversary

Posted on May 27, 2007 by

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Last month was the anniversary of The Wages of Wins Journal. This month we mark another anniversary, the anniversary of our first book being published. I thought I would note this occasion by reviewing the story behind both the book and the title.

The Wages of Wins Story

Three years ago Marty, Stacey, and I were just three guys who had published a number of papers examining various issues that fall under the umbrella of sports economics. In the summer of 2004, Martha Cooley of Stanford University Press approached us about writing a book.

I believe all three of us had the experience of reading a book in the past. And I am pretty sure we all owned a book or two. None of us, though, had ever written a book. So with no experience, we said “what the hell.” (okay, we didn’t really say that, but I am sure we must have thought something along these lines).

After submitting a proposal in the fall of 2004 (which was subject to blind peer review), we signed a contract in December of 2004. Within a few weeks an assistant to Martha asked me if we could have the book finished in February of 2005. My reply noted that no one had started writing, and although our lack of book writing experience prevented us from knowing this for sure, we were fairly certain that we could not write an entire book in two or three weeks. After a bit of discussion we agreed to deliver a manuscript in September of 2005.

The summer of 2005 was fairly intense, but by September we indeed had a completed manuscript. This manuscript was also subject to review (and numerous edits – you cannot believe how many times I have read this book) before a final manuscript was completed in February of 2006.

In May of 2006 this completed manuscript was finally sent back to us as a finished book (complete with a cover and everything). So as noted, this month marks the first anniversary of The Wages of Wins being published.

The Title Story

The original title of The Wages of Wins was “Games with Numbers” (the title of Chapter One). This was our working title until August of 2005, when Martha told us that we needed a new title. Alan Schwarz – the one who described our book as “Freakonomics Meets ESPN” — had written a book in 2004 entitled The Numbers Game (an excellent book which we cited more than once). Martha thought our titles were too similar, so we had to pick something else.

We considered a large assortment of possible titles, but nothing seemed to make everyone happy. One night I was driving to California State University – Bakersfield (where I teach) and I started thinking about the main story we were telling. As readers know, the main story is that payroll and wins in basketball, baseball, and football do not have a strong correlation. We introduce this point in Chapter One, offer more discussion in Chapter Three, and return to this subject in Chapters Nine and Ten.

Given the importance of payroll and wins to our tale, I began playing around with these words in my mind. Somehow I went from payroll and wins, to wages and wins, to The Wages of Wins. This combination sounded interesting, so I sent it around to people for feedback. After some discussions we agreed this title was a good choice.

Of course there was only one problem: I had no idea what the title meant. The Wages of Wins? What the hell (said “hell” twice in one post, how edgy of me) is that supposed to mean?

Nevertheless, I added a paragraph into Chapter Ten where I detail what I think the title means. Basically if you create wins in the NBA by scoring, your wages are quite high. But if your wins are created by non-scoring factors, your wages tend to be lower. So “The Wages of Wins” depends on how you create the wins.

The Impact of The Wages of Wins

Like Freakonomics – another title with an unclear meaning – The Wages of Wins title served its purpose. It made our book a bit more distinct, which I guess is a good thing. Certainly the book has received far more attention than three economists writing a book for a university press could have expected.

Much has of course happened in the year since this book has been released. A year ago I was an Associate Professor of Economics at California State University – Bakersfield. Today I am an Associate Professor of Economics at California State University – Bakersfield. See, much has changed.

Okay, my job is still the same (and this is true for Marty and Stacey as well). But the book has allowed us to talk with a whole bunch of people, including a few “famous” folks like Malcolm Gladwell, Alan Schwarz, and Allen Barra. Although some of the people who have read our book (or not read it, but just heard about it) are unhappy with us (mostly Iverson fans), it appears the reception of our book was largely positive. And this is about all you can hope for with your first book.

By the way, for those who are wondering…there is a plan to write another book. Assuming we start writing soon, it should be available sometime in 2008.

– DJ

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