National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer

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Brookings Institution Press, 2006 - Sports & Recreation - 263 pages

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.


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National pastime: how Americans play baseball and the rest of the world plays soccer

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A Briton--Szymanksi (Winners and Losers ) --and an American--Zimbalist (May the Best Team Win )--join their sports knowledge to compare and contrast baseball and soccer. The latter, referred to as ... Read full review

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Introduction The Fields of Play
The Origins of Baseball and Soccer Leagues
How Soccer Spread around the World When Baseball Didnt
Pay for Play The Development of the Baseball and Soccer Labor Markets
Fans Franchises and Financial Failure Why Baseball Clubs Make Money and Soccer Clubs Dont
Watching the Money Baseball and Soccer Broadcasting
Uncertain Prospects Creating Competitive Balance
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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About the author (2006)

Stefan Szymanski is professor of economics and strategy at the Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London, where he specializes in the business and economics of sports. His publications include two books on soccer: Winners and Losers: The Business Strategy of Football (Penguin, 2000) and Il Business del Calcio (Egea, 2004). Andrew Zimbalist is Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College. He has published fifteen books and has consulted for players associations, governmental bodies, cities, owners, corporations, and international development organizations. His books include May the Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policy (Brookings, 2003) and In the Best Interests of Baseball? The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig (Wiley, 2006).

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