David R. Henderson  

The Value of Sports

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Commenting on my post on sports, my friend John Goodman said that he was surprised that I am so into sports. People who knew me before I was about 32 are surprised too, one of the main ones being my wife. Here's how I came to see the value of sports.

When I was growing up, my father watched sports but he would usually get disgusted with his favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens, when they made mistakes. So when I thought about watching sports then, I thought about pain. Why have that?

But bit by bit as an adult, I saw that you don't have to watch sports that way. As one of my economist friends put it when I was in my early 30s, "When people point to a major league baseball player who screws up, all I can say is 'Man, he's good.'" So much of what I like about sports is the celebration of human accomplishment. Where else do you see news reporters celebrate the accomplishments of successful people? When a big company makes a huge profit, the reporters don't typically talk about how incredibly good many of the company's employees are. But they usually make an exception for sports. Not all of them, of course. But many of them do. And even when they don't, so many other sports fans do appreciate accomplishment in sports. So, along with my other reasons, I see sports as a way to bond with at least some of my fellow men and women.

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Phil writes:

I would have guessed that a Canadian anti-Communist, over the age of 50, who had a brother named Paul Henderson, would have had strong positive memorable experiences with sports! :)

Aaron Gordon writes:

Interesting take. I would have thought it would have to do with the measurable success and failure of players and teams. Unlike most professions, all the information on employee productivity is a matter of public record. We know, more or less, who is responsible for a team's success and who hinders it. In a field where we are often looking for answers that aren't quite clear, I find sports to be a nice respite from uncertainty.

David R. Henderson writes:

Touche. :-)
@Aaron Gordon,
Interesting thought. This could be a big part of it.

John Goodman writes:

Nice post.

mark writes:

I agree with Aaron Gordon. Also, if some of these business magazines started covering sports it would be all coaches and General managers all the time. They would spend even less time dwelling on randomness and the inherit skills of the players. Just hire Jack Welch with some scrubs and crush your competitors! I don't know how much sports reflect "real life" but is interesting seeing how different coaches project themselves. This is why, with its many flaws, I prefer the college game. Smart coaches know the limits of their abilities and they also know that their team isn't always going to be the biggest, strongest group(except elite programs)
out there. Dealing with that tension can make for an interesting story line.

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