Teaching Economics of Sports: The Big Leagues

From time to time I invite colleagues to write a guest post for The Sports Ethicist. In this post, I asked my ASU colleauge, Brian Goegan, to write about a model he uses for teaching “Economics of Sports”. Brian is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the 
Department of Economics here at ASU and uses this fantasy-like game to teach the his students about the economics of sports. If you are an ASU student and interested in sports, you should look into taking this course (as well as my Sports Ethics course).

The Big Leagues

Sports provide an endless number of great examples that can be used in the economics classroom, and countless teachers have drawn on them for a wide range of courses and topics. But for a class on the Economics of Sports, I thought I’d try making the example the lesson. In fact, I have built a syllabus which revolves almost entirely around an elaborate simulation of the sporting world which I call The Big Leagues.

In my section of 68 students, we have organized into 30 teams, each owned by a group of two of three students. In their groups, students must manage their franchise, making decisions about where to locate, how big and how nice their stadium should to be, what strategy to take to win games, what prices to set, and what coach to hire. As a league, students must also grapple with a Players Association and vote on the rules which will govern their league. All the while, they need to manage their books, and make sure they end the game with enough profit to buy their grade for this portion of the class.

By acting as the owners, students end up experiencing the lessons they’d learn from a Sports Economics class first hand. Leagues collude to keep player salaries down, and are combated by the players’ union that threatens to strike. When the league is dominated by one or two teams, and matches are no longer competitive, fan interest (and TV revenue) declines. My game also allows owners to dope their players in secret, boosting their performance at the risk of being found out, and each semester I get to see an institution deal with the fan and media wrath after a huge swath of players get caught, voting to impose fines and punishments on each other. They also have to work through complicated formulas and gut instinct to figure out what the profit maximizing prices for their tickets and luxury boxes are, the bread and butter of any good economics class.

The list of complexities goes on and on. Stadiums degrade, players develop across seasons, owners choose actions which influence both of those things, players have ‘suits’ which have combination effects when put on a team with other players, teams can field substitute players, different general managers and different coaches enhance different strategies both for profits and for wins, and contracts with players can include different clauses that give the teams different options down the road. The rulebook for The Big Leagues is 21 pages long, but as one of my students put it recently, “the more you play the smaller the game gets.” In other words, it is a lot easier to understand that it sounds. To make sure they get all the lessons the game has to teach, I devote about 50% of my class time to it. The other 50% is devoted to linking up their choices and outcomes in the game to the real world.

Given its complexity and startup costs, I wouldn’t expect a lot of instructors to adopt the game. And that isn’t even mentioning all of the spreadsheet maintenance and troubleshooting needed to keep the game running from season to season. What I can report though is its effectiveness. Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, little economic lessons are incrementally imparted with every decision the students make in the game, and they barely realize how much they’ve learned until I point it out to them. And given my discipline’s disinterest in finding alternatives to the lecture-based format, they also find it to be a refreshing change of pace.

If you would like to learn more about The Big Leagues, please feel free to contact me at brian.goegan@asu.edu.

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Extended Deadline for IAPS CFP

The deadline for the Call for Papers for the IAPS conference has been extended until April 7, 2016. The conference will be held September 20-24, 2016 in Olympia, Greece.

The official CFP and other information about the conference available at the IAPS website.

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PHI 394: Sports Ethics (Fall 2016)

SportsEthicsFall2016After having taught Sports Ethics at Rockford University for many years, I’m bringing Sports Ethics to ASU this Fall.

PHI 394: Sports Ethics

A study of moral issues in sports, including, but not limited to, the value of sport, the nature of sportsmanship, the prohibition of performance-enhancing drugs, the value of fandom, the social effects of sport, and the role of danger and violence in sport.

The class will meet Tuesdays/Thursdays 10:30 – 11:45 am.

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IAPS at APA: Defining Sport

This year’s IAPS session at the Central APA meeting in Chicago is featuring three papers that tackle issues in defining the concept of ‘sport’. I hope to see you there!

Time: Saturday, March 5: 12:15–2:15 p.m

Topic: Defining Sport

Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University)

Speakers:

  • Chad Carlson (Hope College) “A Three-Pointer: Revisiting Three Crucial Issues in the ‘Tricky Triad’ of Play, Games, and Sport”
  • Francisco Javier López Frías (Pennsylvania State University) “Broad Internalism and Interpretation: A Plurality of Interpretivist Approaches”
  • Kevin Schieman (United States Military Academy) “Hopscotch Dreams: Rectifying Our Conceptual Understanding of Sport with Its Cultural Significance” (Cancelled)

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Aaron Harper on Playoffs

One goal of my work is to promote and develop the field of philosophy of sport. This informs why I organized the Sport Studies Symposiums at Rockford University and continue to organize panels for IAPS at the APA. It is also part of why I write this blog, do a podcast (on hiatus currently), and tweet. It is a great pleasure to see a colleague whose work in its early form was presented in one of these avenues be published on a major platform.

The most recent case of this is Aaron Harper’s new publication: “”You’re the best around”: an argument for playoffs and tournaments” in the latest issue of the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. Aaron criticizes the arguments in the literature critical of the value of playoffs and offers a defense of what he calls Championship Pluralism. This is the view that there are multiple worthwhile ways of determining and deciding the best team or player.

Aaron presented an earlier version of this paper at the Central APA IAPS meeting in 2015. He and I also discussed the issues raised by his paper in a podcast in 2014. All the credit for this achievement is Aaron’s, but I am glad to have helped Aaron in a small way to develop his work from an idea to a publication.

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CFP: Philosophy of Play Deadline Extended

Submission deadline extended: March 1, 2016

Reason Papers: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies (of which I am a co-editor) is soliciting contributions for a Spring 2016 symposium on normative issues in play. The journal invites submissions that explore the nature of play; its developmental importance; and its role in human lives, values, and societies. We are also interested in explorations of the relationship between play and other human activities (such as other recreational activities, education, or work), structured vs. unstructured play, and children’s play vs. adult play.  Submissions are due by February 1, 2016. March 1, 2016

The CFP at Reason Papers.

Information on Submitting.

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Praiseworthy, but not Sportsmanship

Like most people, I found the story of Norton High School wrestler Deven Schuko and Dighton-Rehoboth wrester Andy Howard to be heartwarming and moving.

Andy, a special needs student with Down syndrome, was looking for a match and Deven, who hadn’t lost a match, agreed to wrestle him. Deven then let Andy win the match. In the process, Deven demonstrated maturity, leadership, and kindness. It was widely praised as a great act of sportsmanship.

I see this kind of praise of sportsmanship a lot in local press. It makes sense: people love these kinds of stories. I love them; they are uplifting.

That said, there is an aspect these kind of stories that I find troubling. There is an element of patronizing that partly undermines the moral value of these acts. Does Deven show Andy appropriate respect and honor by letting him win? I am not entirely sure, but since Andy, his friends, and family seem to appreciate what Deven has done here, I have no quarrel on that front.

Putting that question aside for now, I want to focus on the claim that this even an act of sportsmanship.

Stipulating that Deven’s act was praiseworthy, it is nonetheless incorrect to label it as an example of sportsmanship. Such acts are more about how we ought to live together as human beings; and less about the ideals of sport. Sportsmanship and morality are not the same thing. There are obvious overlaps and parallels, but doing the right thing is not necessarily the same thing as good sportsmanship (and, I suppose, vice-versa). It is a mistaken to label any good action by an athlete as a good sportsmanship (this holds, as well, for any bad action of an athlete as bad sportsmanship).

This points us to the important question: what is sportsmanship? At the core of most theories of sportsmanship is the view that sportsmanship governs or guides the participants’ actions within and related to the sporting contest. It is not merely the following of the rules of the contest; the focus is on the action within the domain of those rules. It is about how, in the context of the contest, the participants comport themselves; how they treat and deal with the other participants; and how they treat and deal with the officials, fans, and coaches.

So why isn’t Deven’s action in this particular instance a case of sportsmanship in addition to being virtuous? This wasn’t a true match (consider: would a college recruiter consider this match qua match as part of Deven’s wrestling track record?). It is more of a play-act, an exhibition, or a staged event. There is no criticism in that. But Deven’s action comes from, and is justified by, a concern about morality and generosity towards Andy; it doesn’t, primarily come from the nature of being a participant in sport.

My point here is not at all to criticize Deven or Andy. As a philosopher, I believe it is important to understand the concepts we employ and to employ them correctly. I know to many this sounds like empty semantics, but applying sportsmanship too broadly or too narrowly can lead us to misunderstand it. This can mean that it becomes less effective as normative guide of our behavior.

Here’s a potential concern. In the case of Deven and Andy, it seems like Deven is showing proper generosity and respect to Andy. But this would not always be the case; indeed I think this is the proverbial exception that proves the rule. Imagine a different scenario. Drake is like Deven: he is one of the top wrestlers in his state. Andrea is female wrestler but there are few females in her weight class against whom she can compete. She hasn’t competed much and has never won. She is looking for one more match before graduating. Drake decides to accept a match. Is the lesson he takes from Deven and Andy that he should let Andrea win? That would be the wrong lesson (imagine Andrea’s proper outrage at learning of Drake’s plan). Sportsmanship tells competitors to treat opponents with proper respect by offering appropriate effort and competition. Drake, in this case, ought to match Andrea’s effort and compete against her on the basis of fair and equal respect for each other and the sport.

But this is not what is going on with Deven and Andy. Deven is providing for Andy the experience of what it would be like to win a wrestling match. Given this context, there is no demand on Deven that he offer the requisite effort and competition. In other words, it is not a case of sportsmanship; sportsmanship is not the relevant concept.

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Reminder: CFP: Philosophy of Play

Submission deadline approaching: February 1, 2016. March 1, 2016

Reason Papers: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies (of which I am a co-editor) is soliciting contributions for a Spring 2016 symposium on normative issues in play. The journal invites submissions that explore the nature of play; its developmental importance; and its role in human lives, values, and societies. We are also interested in explorations of the relationship between play and other human activities (such as other recreational activities, education, or work), structured vs. unstructured play, and children’s play vs. adult play.  Submissions are due by February 1, 2016. March 1, 2016

The CFP at Reason Papers.

Information on Submitting.

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Job: LECTURER IN SPORT STUDIES

The University of Iowa has announced a search for a lecturer in Sport Studies. I thought some of my readers might be interested. https://jobs.uiowa.edu/faculty/view/67947

The University of Iowa is seeking a sport studies scholar for a three-year renewable lectureship teaching in the sport studies curriculum of the Department of American Studies. The position is effective August 17, 2016.

The teaching load is four undergraduate courses each semester; teaching assignments might include Inequality in American Sport; Women, Sport and Culture; Sport in America after 1900; and Race and Ethnicity in Sport. Teaching in the summer session for additional salary is also a possibility. Some undergraduate advising will be expected.

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Philosophy of Sport: CFA/P

Conference CFA:

International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS)

The 44th IAPS conference will be held September 20-24, 2016 in Olympia, Greece sponsored by Fonte Aretusa and hosted at the International Olympic Academy. The deadline for the CFA is March 31, 2016.  More info.

British Philosophy of Sport Association (BPSA)

The annual BPSA conference will be held April 4 – 6, 2016 at the University of Brighton, School of Sport and Service Management in Brighton, England. The deadline for the CFA is January 25, 2016. More info.

Journal Call For Papers:

Reason Papers: Philosophy of Play

Reason Papers is soliciting contributions for a Spring 2016 symposium on normative issues in play. We invite submissions that explore the nature of play; its developmental importance; and its role in human lives, values, and societies. We are also interested in explorations of the relationship between play and other human activities (such as other recreational activities, education, or work), structured vs. unstructured play, and children’s play vs. adult play.  Submissions are due by February 1, 2016.

CFP: Communication and Sport

This is a call for manuscripts for the C&S journal: “C&S publishes research and critical analysis from diverse disciplinary and theoretical perspectives to advance understanding of communication phenomena in the varied contexts through which sport touches individuals, society, and culture. “

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Filed under CFP, IAPS, Philosophy, play, Site Announcements, Sports Studies