Cover image for Hard ball : the abuse of power in pro team sports
Hard ball : the abuse of power in pro team sports
Quirk, James P.
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Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 233 pages ; 24 cm
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GV716 .Q566 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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What can possibly account for the strange state of affairs in professional sports today? There are billionaire owners and millionaire players, but both groups are constantly squabbling over money. Many pro teams appear to be virtual "cash machines," generating astronomical annual revenues, but their owners seem willing to uproot them and move to any city willing to promise increased profits. At the same time, mayors continue to cook up "sweetheart deals" that lavish benefits on wealthy teams while imposing crushing financial hardships on cities that are already strapped with debt. To fans today, professional sports teams often look more like professional extortionists.

In Hard Ball, James Quirk and Rodney Fort take on a daunting challenge: explaining exactly how things have gotten to this point and proposing a way out. Both authors are professional economists who specialize in the economics of sports. Their previous book, Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports, is widely acknowledged as the Bible of sports economics. Here, however, they are writing for sports fans who are trying to make sense out of the perplexing world of pro team sports. It is not money, in itself, that is the cause of today's problems, they assert. In fact, the real problem stems from one simple fact: pro sports are monopolies that are fully sanctioned by the U.S. government. Eliminate the monopolies, say Quirk and Fort, and all problems can be solved. If the monopolies are allowed to persist, so will today's woes.

The authors discuss all four major pro team sports: baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. Hard Ball is filled with anecdotes, case studies, and factual information that are brought together here for the first time. Quirk and Fort devote chapters to the main protagonists in the pro sports saga--media, unions, players, owners, politicians, and leagues--before they offer their own prescription for correcting the ills that afflict sports today. The result is an engaging and persuasive book that is sure to be widely read, cited, and debated. It is essential reading for every fan.

Author Notes

James Quirk, until his retirement, was Professor of Economics at the California Institute of Technology. Rodney Fort is Professor of Economics at Washington State University. Together, Quirk and Fort wrote Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports (Princeton).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Quirk and Fort, two of the most prolific and respected members of the "sports economist" club, follow up their scholarly book Pay Dirt (CH, Sep'93) with a shorter volume that should appeal to popular audiences and those who love, study, or are affected by sports, including national public policy officials, big-city mayors, and taxpayers. Chapter topics include the historical background and evolution of monopoly power in professional sports leagues; the complementary roles played by the media, players and their unions, sports franchise owners, and league organizations; and, finally, local, state, and national politics. Special attention is given to one of the most vexing issues of the day--the abuse of power in the form of credible threats by owners and leagues to extract exorbitant concessions from local officials toward the construction of lavish, multimillion dollar sports stadiums. The authors conclude with their own prescription(s) for change. While largely an unbroken, free-flowing narrative, Hard Ball does contain useful tables and a short bibliography for the serious reader. That the authors are leading authorities in the field adds to their case; that on occasion they let personal feelings and perhaps nonrepresentative anecdotes take them too far afield detracts from it. All levels. A. R. Sanderson; University of Chicago

Table of Contents

1 The Scene of the Crimep. 3
2 The Mediap. 27
3 Unionsp. 49
4 Playersp. 75
5 Ownersp. 93
6 Leaguesp. 117
7 State and Local Politicsp. 139
8 Breaking up that Old Gang of Minep. 171
Tablesp. 187
Bibliographyp. 227
Indexp. 229