Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, September 03, 2019 :::

I don't think I've mentioned this here, but I've been thinking about it for a long time, and who knows  The recent hook is discussion of how much the men's national soccer team is paid and how much the women's team is paid.  There are various statistics and counter-statistics, but I want to raise a question that seems to me to be obviously prior to most of the others, largely unaddressed, and quite non-obvious in terms of its answer: to what extent should a team's pay be determined by its success?[1]

Economically, sports leagues are obviously in the entertainment business; those that persuade people to pay more to be entertained by them are presumably entitled to that extra money.  College sports teams tend to become more popular when they do better (against the other teams that they play); there is also a (looser) cross-sectional correlation where-in teams that tend to do better are more popular than teams that don't.  I believe this holds up largely in professional sports as well, though I'm less sure of it; I certainly have the impression that the Chicago Cubs, in the second half of the twentieth century, had more popularity (relative to other major league baseball teams) than on-field success.

Sports analytic attempts to value players almost always attend solely to the player's effect on the team's ability to win games; I can think of very few occasions when a player seems to have been hired or paid more for a more entertaining style of play (with likelihood of winning held constant).  This may simply be my ignorance; I welcome any anecdotes people have, especially ones that don't involve anyone named Veeck.[2]

Within league it seems likely that imposing an incentive structure focused on winning creates a more entertaining product league-wide.  Sports analytics, again, tends to tease out how many dollars a win costs in a given league; those wins are constant-sum within the league.  I haven't seen research that tries to predict the revenues of a league as a function of anything about the players' talents or actions, though this seems very much like the kind of research that could exist without my having come across it.  I'd like to know, in particular, to the extent that you could attribute revenue generation for the league to different members of the league, how the pay to a team or its players depends on its own revenue generated, its on-field success, and the total league revenue.

Ultimately, in principle, it seems very likely to me that there's a setting in which a bad team that brings in little revenue directly, in a good league brining in a lot of revenue collectively, might be worth more than a good team bringing in more revenue directly but in a league that brings in comparatively little revenue collectively.

[1] In other words: why aren't all professional sports leagues WWF wrestling?  or Why do NBA teams make more money than the Harlem Globetrotters?

[2] I know little about the NBA, and have the impression that there are people who find slam dunks entertaining and there are players who gratuitously perform them; perhaps they have a financial incentive to do so, or perhaps I'm misinformed.  These aren't mutually exclusive, either.

::: posted by dWj at 1:35 PM

I don't know about players being clearly paid extra for fan experience contributions unrelated to winning, but it seems like players can be fired, at least occasionally, for reasons other than poor play.
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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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