Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

I Didn’t See Tom Brady in the Supermarket Today

I saw three people wearing Tom Brady jerseys in the supermarket today.  I don’t watch football and I am bad with faces, but I would venture a guess that not one of the three was the Tom Brady who will be playing in the Super Bowl today.  For one, none of them looked the part.  If forced to provide a description of Tom Brady, I would go with somewhere north of 6 feet, fit, athletic and most importantly, somewhere else.  I don’t know where the Super Bowl is being played today, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t in Long Beach, CA.  (Breaking:  I pulled out teh Google, which tells me the Super Bowl is being played in Houston.)

But I was wondering – what possesses grown men to wear a jersey with Tom Brady’s name and number on it?  Of course, the question generalizes to any other athlete.  You don’t see people wearing a jersey proclaiming themselves to be anything other than athlete.  I get why nobody wears a jersey with, say, Andrew Wiles name on it, and he was last year’s Abel Prize Laureate.  Few people would recognize what the Abel Prize is about, who Andrew Wiles is, or what Andrew Wiles did to deserve the Abel Prize.  But we also don’t see people wearing a faux-Marine corps uniform with James Mattis’ name tag on it, and Mattis was pretty damn popular among military personnel long before The Donald put him up for Secretary of Defense.  Ditto now dead Stormin’ Norman, and he was widely known in his day.   To go back a war or two, I doubt anyone was wearing William Westmoreland get-ups either.  In fact, I cannot think of any field other than sports that results in people dressing up as other people when neither Halloween nor fraud is involved.

So what is it about sports that generates that sort of behavior?  And what is that behavior representing?  It is very unlikely that anyone is actually fooled into believing some middle-aged out-of-shape guy wearing a Tom Brady or a Stephen Curry jersey is the person whose name is on the jersey so it’s gotta be something else.  I also don’t see how wearing one of those jerseys confers any sort of simpatico or affinity.   I say this as someone who has on occasion worn jerseys from one or another soccer team (though none with a player’s name and/or number on it).  In each case, however, the jersey was a gift, and I made a point of wearing it when it the gifter was likely to see it.  So what am I missing?


A Finger Exercise for Dr. Black

The good doctor quotes the Paper of Record:

Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

and gets distracted a bit:

With something like a stadium the issue is a bit trickier, though it’s clear that they’ve stupidly erred on the side of way too much parking.

Let’s make this easy. We’ll ignore that it was never difficult to park at Yankee Stadium before. (Driving there is another issue.) Let’s just look at expectations of parking needs by Stadium Seating Capacity:

2008 – 56,936

Now – 50,291 (52,325 SRO)

Looks to me as if Seating Capacity is down more than 10% in the new ballpark. Now there are other changes—ticket prices raised, for instance, and I believe more corporate tax deductions “luxury boxes”—that might have affected the number of people who drive to Yankee Stadium positively.

But there were no other major infrastructure improvements: the 155th Street bridge that I used to walk to games over hasn’t been widened, the FDR and the Harlem River Drive are still the same, the bridges all have the same capacity (though the tolls went up on several of those, which might shift people from driving).

Given that, what would you expect to happen if you added parking capacity?

Corollary question: If you were a member of the neighborhood, and knew all of the above in advance, what would your reaction be to losing park space for commercial parking lots?

It Takes a Village: Scarcity, the NCAAs, and the Decline of U.S. Manufacturing

I don’t remember seeing any of this type of story last year. But this year, Socialism stories abound from the Midwest.

My ex-roommate* sends this link to a story about Butler Bulldogs’s Senior Matt Howard’s family being able to attend the NCAA Finals tonight in Houston (video link here).

Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated covered the macro territory. The 12.7% unemployment rate, up from a few years ago and still 2nd-highest in the state of the 92 counties. The population of “about 13,000,” which puts the decline since I graduated high school at worse-than-Detroit levels—but that makes sense since most of the factory work over the previous forty years was Ford-related as the town once referred to as “Little Detroit” lost competitors to larger areas and consolidation.

Winn’s article, not to mention several other recent pieces about Howard’s childhood make it clear that it really does take a village. From the NYT piece:

His mother, Linda, who credited her faith for helping her raise 10 children, said strangers would stop and ask, “Are you the lady with all the kids?” before dropping off bags of clothes. “Maybe everything didn’t fit,” she said. “But we didn’t complain.”

Bryan Caplan’s noted in his presentation at Kauffman that he knows no one who is liquidity-constrained in their ability to raise children; rather, it’s time allocation that stops them. I suspect he needs to get out more.

And now the city with 12.7% unemployment and a dim future has once again reached into its collective pockets to make certain that Matt Howard’s family gets to see their son’s/brother’s final college game, which also happens to be for the NCAA Championship.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

As I said, I didn’t see stories like this last year. Last year, there was still another year for Howard and the Bulldogs. Now, there is no possible future NCAA Championship; this is the last time this can ever happen. An economist would tell you that people recognized the Scarcity Value and dug into their pockets accordingly.

So not only did it take a Village to help as best they could to raise the ten Howard children, it took a Village to enable the family to go to Houston to see now-senior Matt Howard and the rest of the Butler Bulldogs play—win or lose; I hope win—for the NCAA Championship.

Ex ante, it’s a great decision. Ex post, it will still have been one.

Musical accompaniment: Tom T. Hall, of course.

*For whom Mike Mandel took a picture of Tyler and Natasha Cowen at last week’s Kauffman Economic Bloggers Forum, since he and Tyler were once ranked (by Tyler) as the #1 and #2 chess players in the area. Sadly, neither went into the sport as a full-time professional.

Corrective Note

A few years ago—probably four, though maybe more—I was doing some research at SIBL when the National Sport of Canada came on the television screens.

It wasn’t that I stopped to watch; that loyalty had been previously established. It was that everyone else who was walking between the floors stopped and watched for at least five minutes, and often longer.

So when the NYT declares that curling “has captivated the Type-A world of Wall Street almost by accident” as if this were news, I can safely state that it has been so for a while.

(h/t the blog of the London Review of Books)

A Difference in National Priorities

AIG is bankrupt, but Manchester United still wears their logo.

However, when Dutch bank DSB Bank NV filed bankruptcy, Stephen Colbert had to step in to sponsor U.S. Speedskating?

Maybe the Dutch understand Sports Economics and the Americans don’t?*

*J.C. Bradbury, Dennis Coates, Skip Sauer, to name just three, would dissent from the last statement. But they might believe the Dutch pay better attention.

What We Learn from Sports

Compare and contrast:

Philadelphia, after a first-time-in-25-years win:

The School District of Philadelphia – as if to prove you don’t need miserable weather to rain on a parade – has no plans to close for a victory celebration, no matter how momentous the occasion might be.

“Our expectations are that students will report to school just like any other weekday – and report on time,” said Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the school district, this morning.

An entire Georgia county, before a midseason football game:

Call it a case of the Red and Black flu.

Tired of struggling to find enough teachers to staff its classrooms on the Friday before the annual Georgia-Florida football game, the Clarke County (Ga.) School District — which includes Athens, home of the University of Georgia — decided to cancel school altogether.

As a Philadelphia native, I’m proud of the first decision (which was, undoubtedly, be honored in its breech). As an MBA from the University of Georgia, I’m embarrassed.

But not so much as the UGA fans probably are.