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National Pastime

How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer

Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist

Publication Year: 2005

This is the story of two great sports. One is "America's game," while the other is "the world's game." Baseball and soccer are both beloved cultural institutions. What draws fans to one game is often a mystery to fans of the other. Despite superficial differences, however, the business and culture of these sports share more in common than meets the eye. This is the first in-depth, cross-cultural comparison of these two great pastimes and the megabusinesses that they have become. In N ational Pastime, Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist illustrate how the different traditions of each sport have generated different possibilities for their commercial organization and exploitation. They pay special attention to the rich and complex evolution of baseball from its beginnings in America, and they trace modern soccer from its foundation in England through its subsequent expansion across the world. They illustrate how Victorian administrators laid the foundation for Major League Baseball (MLB) and soccer leagues such as the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A, and the European Champions League. The authors show how the organizers of baseball and soccer have learned from each other in the past and how they can continue to do so. Both sports are rich in tradition. In some cases, however, these traditions—often arbitrary rules established by long-defunct administrators—have obstructed the healthy development of the sport. By studying the experiences of other sports, it might be possible to develop new and better ways to operate. For example, soccer might benefit from greater cooperation among teams as in baseball. On the other hand, MLB could learn from soccer's relegation rules and more open system of ownership, thus avoiding some of the excesses (competitive imbalance, uneven team resources) associated with monopoly. Nat ional Pastime does not advocate the jettisoning of all tradition to adopt wholesale the approach of another sport, of course. In an era of globalization, where business interests are increasingly looking to transplant organizational ideas in order to maximize profits, the authors argue that fan-friendly reforms may be necessary in order to avoid something worse. Ultimately, they propose no simple solutions, instead suggesting specific reforms to the organization of baseball and soccer, drawing on each other's experiences. Lively and accessibly written, this book is essential reading for business analysts, journalists, policymakers, and managers of both sports. Most of all, however, it will appeal to baseball and soccer aficionados, whether they root for the New York Yankees, Manchester United, or Real Madrid.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-8


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pp. 9-10

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pp. 11-16

...tions they have created, they have become cultural icons. In almostevery country of the world, the way that the national pastime is played isAs economists, we set out to write this book to emphasize the ways inwhich the different traditions of each sport have generated different possi-bilities for their commercial organization and exploitation. But we also...

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Chapter One. Introduction: The Fields of Play

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pp. 17-27

...power, the United States. You can buy a McDonald?s Big Mac on theChamps-Elys?es and anything from anywhere in the world on Fifth Avenue,but American sporting culture and the world soccer culture do not mix.League Baseball and president of Yale University Bart Giamatti wrote: ?It haslong been my conviction that we can learn far more about the conditions,...

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Chapter Two. The Origins of Baseball and Soccer Leagues

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pp. 28-63

...obsessed with cricket, but he is also on record as playing base-ball indoors, something perhaps only the heir to a throne can getaway with.3 Had it not been for the prince?s untimely death, his mad sonGeorge might not have ascended to the throne, the colonies might not haverebelled, and the world?s two most popular sports, baseball and soccer,...

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Chapter Three. How Soccer Spread around the World When Baseball Didn't

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pp. 64-99

...of Nations (forerunner to the United Nations) in 1919. Belongingto one has usually gone hand in hand with membership in the other. Forexample, nearly half of the founding members of the League of Nations(nineteen out of forty-two) already belonged to FIFA, and of the fourteennew members that joined the league in the succeeding seven years, nine also...

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Chapter Four. Pay for Play: The Development of the Baseball and Soccer Labor Markets

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pp. 100-131

...18, while Becks first played for Manchester United at age 17. Ofcourse, both are prodigiously skilled athletes. But in addition, bothhave film-star looks and squeaky-clean private lives, which make themamong the most attractive billboards in advertising.1 Both earn sums ofmoney that are almost unimaginable to their fans. Rodriguez signed a...

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Chapter Five. Fans, Franchises, and Financial Failure: Why Baseball Clubs Make Money and Soccer Clubs Don't

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pp. 132-161

...$700 million. Manchester United, with a stock market value of $1.2 billionand operating income of $92 million, is a bigger club than the New YorkYankees, with an estimated value of only $832 million and reported operat-ing losses of $26 million. According to Forbes, the top twenty Europeansoccer clubs had an average franchise value of $443 million, revenues of...

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Chapter Six. Watching the Money: Baseball and Soccer Broadcasting

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pp. 162-185

...a true story, a congressional researcher uncovers a plot to fix theGeritol, and forces them to testify before Congress. The researcher chal-lenges the owner of Geritol, played by Martin Scorsese, in private to denythat he had fixed the show. Scorsese replies nonchalantly that, of course, theshow was fixed, but that it didn?t matter. Even if the viewers knew, they...

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Chapter Seven. Uncertain Prospects: Creating Competitive Balance

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pp. 186-210

Cup was not graced with many great games, while the 2003 baseball seasonwas pretty exciting. But in either case, the word excitement would not fea-ture heavily. For purists, there would be some interest in seeing great playsand appreciating the performances of some stars, but for most of us itwould be plain boring. Even if you had not seen the game the first time...

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Chapter Eight. Crossing Cultures and Learning Lessons: What Americans Need to Know about World Soccer and the World Needs to Know about American Baseball

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pp. 211-232

...reflected the ideas and attitudes of contemporary Americans drivenby a more commercial spirit. The British ?noblesse oblige? required that allbe permitted entry into the world of soccer, but that everyone should knowtheir place. American businessmen, by contrast, set out to create an exclu-sive monopoly. As it expanded, soccer was first molded by the ideas of other...


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pp. 233-260


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pp. 261-279

Photo Insert

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pp. 280-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780815797647
E-ISBN-10: 0815797648

Page Count: 263
Publication Year: 2005