“A’roundin’ third and headed for home … It’s a brown-eyed handsome man …” — from “Centerfield” as recorded by John Fogerty
This week my beloved Cubbies begin their first World Series title defense in 109 years, if my math is correct. My husband, a diehard New Orleans Saints fan, warns me that things will never be the same now that the Cubs have climbed the mountaintop.
He says he suffered through decades of losing with the Saints; then, when they defeated the Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl, a brief period of joy was actually followed by a lingering sense of ennui. The Saints had finally won it all. What was left to hope for? What could possibly top being world champions? As Peggy Lee (thank you Leiber and Stoller) sang in her 1969 hit, “Is That All There Is?”
Beyond the glorious feeling of being champions and discarding the longtime loser label, at least there are significant economic benefits associated with a winning sports team, right? At least that’s what I always assumed. Turns out, though, the financial impact of professional sports franchises on local economies is actually fairly negligible, regardless of the quality of the team. Why? Because residents enjoy a finite amount of discretionary income. If they don’t spend it at the ballpark, they’ll spend it somewhere else instead, usually in restaurants, stores or at other special events. Or perhaps by investing the money in a business. So if a sports team moves away, there is no real loss to the area’s economy. The dollars still get spent, usually locally, just on other things.
A California city controller conducted a study that stated that the economy around the Staples Center might actually improve if the Lakers moved away. Victor Matheson concurred. Matheson, a sports economist at College of the Holy Cross, noted that traffic congestion and activity associated with a sports team can actually repel folks from living, investing and shopping in a community. Sports economist Michael Leeds said in a marketwatch.org article, “Are Pro Teams Economic Winners for Cities?,” “If you ever had a consensus in economics, this would be it … There is no (economic) impact.”
Local officials frequently and fervently disagree, though, and here’s where things get complicated. Civic pride and identity are involved. What city or state wants to lose their team? Local business owners in downtown Cleveland assert that their operations have been revitalized since LeBron James returned to play there. The governor of Missouri offered the Rams $400 million to stay in St. Louis rather than move to Los Angeles, but to no avail.
My hometown has a myriad of professional sports franchises. And I want them all to stay in Chicago, especially one of the baseball teams. Go Cubs.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.