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Football: The Economics of Sport

Football season is here and in full swing. Sports fans wait all year for this special time of the year, summer's ending, autumn's beginning and a weekend schedule similar to something like this: Friday night- high school football; Saturday- college football; Sunday- NFL.

As an economist, I find it interesting that the economics of sports (not just money) is a highly overlooked subject. When I say economics here I am specifically referring to choices because economics at its core is all about, well, choices and football is a pretty easy model to examine for several reasons: the game is limited to a specified time frame, the field stretches 100 yards, results are immediate, and whoever has the most points at the end of the time period walks away victorious.

Simple so it seems, but beyond that, factors determining the game's outcome must also be examined: coaches are motivated by their supporters, their own reputations, pride, and money; players are motivated to win by all means; referees are motivated to establish their authority on the field. and to please the crowd.

Have you ever truly thought about why players hit the weights and endure grueling practices all summer long? Why they sacrifice their bodies and perform jaw-dropping displays of athleticism that usually either become viral on the web or make ESPN's Top 10 Plays of the Week?

Have you ever wondered why coaches leave great jobs making wild amounts of cash with a supportive fan base for what they consider to be an even "better" job (Lane Kiffin, Pete Carroll, Bobby Petrino)? Have you ever wondered what gave a coach the audacity to yell at a grown man three times his size on the sideline, or why he launches heated rebuke to even his most favorite of pupils?

And these referees, all I can do is pray for these poor gentlemen. They get called everything, but a Child of God during games. But it is a wonder as to why even the most questionable of calls may swing in favor of the home team. What we saw this past Monday (9/24/12) in the now historic Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks last-second (dare I say game-winning) catch confirms my belief that referees rely on crowdsourcing, picking up on the mood of the crowd when making decisions. So as Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks down the field with the 12th Man behind him, the referees also picked up on the momentum and, so as not to lose the favor of the Seahawks faithful, called a "touchdown," to what was in actuality an interception.

Sports fans here is my point: football, just like most other choices we make is a matter of economics where we involuntarily factor return on investment, cost-benefit analysis, and comparative advantage. It is quite an interesting take on what drives the coaches, players, and referees to make the choices they make.

Comment and let me know what you think...

God Bless


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