While at the beach

Posted on August 4, 2007 by


This past Wednesday morning I received an e-mail from Tim Lemke of The Washington Times. Lemke was working on a story examining whether or not there was any real impact in professional sports from scandals (such as the recent behavior of NBA referee Tim Donaghy).

Lemke’s story, entitled Nothing Like a Good Scandal, appeared on Thursday with the following quote:

David Berri, a professor of applied economics at Cal State-Bakersfield, noted last week there is rarely a strong correlation between bad news and attendance, going so far as to publish a chart showing attendance actually rose approximately 50 percent in the eight years following baseball’s Black Sox scandal in 1919. In a contribution to the Sports Economist blog, Berri argued journalists have made too much of the recent negative stories surrounding sports leagues.

“The media has an incentive to sensationalize each story it covers,” Berri wrote. “We have heard that player strikes and lockouts threaten the future of sports. Competitive balance in baseball must be resolved or baseball will be doomed. Steroids must be addressed or baseball will be forever harmed. And now, the NBA will never be the same because a referee has a gambling problem. When we look at the attendance data we see that the media is often ‘crying wolf.’ The reaction of fans is just not consistent with the dire predictions of media members.”

What is interesting, at least to me, is that on Wednesday I was at Pismo Beach with my family. This was the second day of a brief vacation I took with my wife and daughters. My computer was left in Bakersfield, so I did not see Lemke’s e-mail until we returned home Wednesday evening. By the time I was able to get a hold of Lemke on Thursday morning, his story had already been published. In essence, I was interviewed on Wednesday without any effort on my part.

This was actually a great way to do an interview. One problem with actual phone interviews is that in the course of a conversation with a reporter I tend to say something silly. And there is a tendency for these silly statements to end up in the paper. By answering Lemke’s question via my comments at the Sports Economist blog, the silly stuff never got said and so it was left out of the article.

I should note that two other academics — Paul Swangard at the University of Oregon and Orin Starn of Duke — were actually interviewed by Lemke, and we seem to all have a similar take on the impact of these scandals.

Swangard observed, “In some ways, they’re saying one thing and doing another as fans. Maybe this is just a good manifestation of how sports have changed for the consumer. Rather than being about tradition, it’s just another form of entertainment. As long as it remains entertaining, that’s all that matters.”

“In some ways, the question arises as to whether those who cover sports are out of touch with their readers. It’s easy to throw stones, but we all need to appreciate and understand why fans are unwilling to shift their spending and behavior.”

And Starn added, “I can imagine a tipping point being reached where [fans] might tune out, but I think we’re very far from that.

In essence, all three of us are making the same point. Scandals are not likely to have much of an impact on the welfare of a professional sports league.

Another Rise in the Rankings

The interview with Lemke was not the only thing I missed this past week. Brian Gongol – of Gongol.com – provides traffic rankings for the major business and economics websites. His rankings are posted each month, and for August we made quite a leap.

The first time the WoW Journal was ranked was in May. At that time we ranked 43rd in page views (out of 111) and 45th in visitors (out of 115). In June we were 38th in page views and 41st in visitors. Last month we rose to 33rd and 38th in views and visitors. In sum, for three months we had made modest progress in the rankings.

In August, though, our ranking rose fairly dramatically. This past week Gongol revealed that our July traffic placed us 18th in page views and 14th in visitors. Gongol indicates that per day about 2,000 people stop by The Wages of Wins Journal.

Frankly that is a fairly amazing number of visitors. I do want to say thanks again to everyone for making this place a part of their day. Hopefully the research posted here makes for worthwhile reading (and if it does, hopefully that trend can continue).

– DJ

Posted in: General, Sports Econ