Tag Archives: United States

“Fairness” in sports

My brother Conor (when he’s not blogging about political theory) does some excellent writing about Barcelona’s dominant football team. A couple weeks ago, he took up the age-old topic of fairness in sports in the context of European soccer. In most European leagues, there are no salary caps, revenue sharing agreements, or redistributive drafts. Rather than coddling the worst teams, leagues bust them down a division. Conor defends the uncontrolled European league structures with a call to the benefits of an aristocratic class:

There’s no escaping it. [Barcelona’s] degree of perfection requires an unequal distribution of talent and resources. This concatenated brilliance is probably unjust when measured against nearly any standard of fairness—but it’s also as close as anyone has yet come to fulfilling that specific style of play. FC Barcelona are but one example. For instance, recent Chelsea squads have flirted with perfection of a wholly different style of play. They are no less aristocratic simply because they have refined different aspects of their squad. Their strengths may be different, but they are no less refined for that. Every coat of arms is different—the aristocratic task for each is to live up to their particular identity. Undemocratic though they are, no one will mistake them for ordinary.

For whatever else they do to The Game As A Whole (or As A Spectacle), aristocratic clubs elevate the stakes and—more often than not—the peaks of athletic achievement. If Barcelona regularly administers whippings to clubs in La Liga’s middle and lower echelons, their clásico jousts with Madrid have periodically taken both teams yet closer to the pinnacle of sport.

I find this topic endlessly interesting, especially the comparison between United States leagues and European leagues.  The United States redistributes less income proportionally than many other Continue reading

An idea for the MLS

I play for the Boston Rugby Football Club (BRFC) in the ten-team U.S. Super League (our country’s highest level of rugby, but there’s not even a website worth linking for the league). We’re in the midst of preseason conditioning in a high school gym, and I’ll pay for all my own flights to our away matches. We’ve had a different “home field” in Boston for each of the last five seasons, yet we’ve reached the league semifinals two years running.

Meanwhile, in Foxborough, MA, the New England Revolution share Gillette Stadium with the Patriots, but only draw a few thousand fans to most games. Major League Soccer is entering its 17th season. Most teams are not profitable (though the league is making progress). The MLS lags far behind the big four U.S. professional sports in gate receipts, total revenue, and media coverage.

Somewhere between these two poles, lacrosse, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and other sports struggle for attention. All these leagues are working towards similar goals but need Continue reading

Super Bowl gambling!

Yes, it’s the one time of year when gambling is tacitly accepted in the United States. By comparison, my buddy Tony reminded me today that Europeans can openly bet on everything from Charlie Sheen’s next girlfriend to the Facebook IPO. I’m not going to go through all the Super Bowl prop bets — that’s been done to death. Instead, I want to look at the line movements for the Super Bowl, which shed some light on how line setting works (hint: it’s not always about getting half the betting on each side of the line).

The Patriots opened as 3.5 point favorites in many books, but it quickly became clear that the Giants would get many more bets at that number. The standard argument is that Vegas doesn’t care if their line is “accurate” (in terms of the actual game outcome); they just want Continue reading