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Playbooks and Checkbooks: An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports Hardcover – 5 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (5 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691127506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691127507
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 773,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Mr. Szymanski, an economics professor at the Cass Business School at City University in London, tackles the apparent paradoxes of the sports business in the head-on style of an N.F.L. linebacker. . . . He displays an impressive global knowledge of sports ranging from basketball and cricket to tennis and rugby, and provides a wealth of revealing financial information as well as entertaining sports trivia."--Harry Hurt III, New York Times

"Playbooks and Checkbooks is not a snoozer but a sleeper; equal parts eminently readable and wholly fascinating. . . . Szymanski's non-elaborated notion places his book with the best art history, for art also is a creature of its time."--David M. Gordon, The Browser

"Szymanski covers most relevant topics in modern sports economic theory in a very elegant and in my opinion comprehensible fashion. Personally, I really enjoyed his explanation of wage formation in sports labour markets, and his (sociological/historical) views on the development of sport as business. . . . It is well written, well structured and sometimes even funny."--Kjetil K. Haugen, Nordic Sport Studies Forum

From the Inside Flap

"A deft mix of sports, history, and accessible economic ideas. Read it and enjoy."--Tim Harford, author of The Logic of Life and The Undercover Economist

"I can think of no better introduction to the economics of sports than Stefan Szymanski's Playbooks and Checkbooks. With wonderfully accessible writing, Szymanski takes the reader through the organization of professional leagues, as well as the role both the government and media play in creating what we see on the field. This book should prove to be indispensable reading to anyone who wishes to truly understand the nature of modern sports."--David J. Berri, coauthor of The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport

"In Playbooks and Checkbooks, Stefan Szymanski has provided an excellent introduction to the major issues in sports economics. His treatment is lively, literate, lucid, and edifying. He does a marvelous job of explaining the dynamic of the sports industry in the United States and Europe, as well as presenting the underlying economic theory that helps us interpret how sports leagues, teams, and athletes behave."--Andrew Zimbalist, author of May the Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policy

"Szymanski artfully introduces the principles of sports economics for those new to the subject. This is an engaging, compelling, and very important book."--Leo H. Kahane, cofounder and editor of the Journal of Sports Economics

"This terrific book explains numerous sophisticated ideas in the economics of sports in plain English. It relates differences in modern sporting structure in the United States and the United Kingdom to differences in the evolution of technological, cultural, legal, and social developments across the northern Atlantic Ocean."--John Siegfried, Vanderbilt University

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom on 4 April 2011
Format: Hardcover
I studied the economics of sport as a module at Uni in 2008 as part of my degree in economics, and Mr Szymanski was mentioned quite a bit during my lectures and seminars. He really is a big name in the field, especially with regards to European football/soccer (despite being American).

Overall I'd say the book was good. It does exactly what it says on the tin, in that it provides a very good introduction to the field and points the reader in the right direction for further study by splitting the book into chapters based on specific areas (such as the labour market for sport or the effect of the media on sport), and for each chapter it lists all the most important and significant papers and books in those areas. It also provides a very good history of economic thought in the economics of sport, and also a really good analysis of the history of sport in general, from both an American and European perspective.

However, before reading this book I read, "How Markets Fail" by John Cassidy, a superb denunciation of the "Utopian" free market economics of the likes Hayek, Friedman etc. I was flabbergasted by the way that Szymanski accepted and promoted, without any mention of the disagreement amongst other economists, fundamentalist free market ideals such as the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and the Coase Theorem. He also, in the space of a mere few paragraphs, seemed to completely dismiss the main ideas of Keynesianism, without acknowledging that his ideas were often misinterpreted by the likes of Hicks and Modigliani, and that the ideas of Keynes were more than just deficit spending in times of recession.

Like I said, a good book, and for me the best part was probably the history of sport in the earlier chapters rather than the actual economic analysis later on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Wholly edifying 18 July 2009
By David M. Gordon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
With ~275,000 books published last year (~20,000+ books / month), you would think a few duds would slip through the cracks. Add the topic of economics, refined by the inclusion of sport, and you can rest assured the book to be a real snoozer.

Surprisingly, author Stefan Szymanski's new book, PLAYBOOKS AND CHECKBOOKS, An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports, is not a snoozer but a sleeper; equal parts eminently readable and wholly fascinating.

"In medieval Europe, sport meant either hunting or jousting -- a private affair for the privileged. The state offered little in the way of public entertainment and severely restricted the ability of individuals to congregate. Public assembly without the permission of the ruler or the state could mean only one thing: rebellion...

"Less august clubs soon flourished in the developing coffeehouse societies of London, where traders and lawyers might meet to do business, and journalists might meet to discuss the latest tittle-tattle. Journalism itself was a consequence of the withdrawal of the state, the abolition of censorship in 1695 creating an essentially free press. Freedom of the press went hand in hand with formation of clubs, since people needed to know where to find like-minded individuals with whom they could associate. In the early years of the eighteenth century, there was an astonishing explosion of clubs in England and Scotland, catering to every kind of pursuit, from science to the arts, to innocent pleasures such as music and the study of history, to serious moral reform and religious revival, and more profanely, to eating, drinking, and most of the remaining deadly sins. None of the activities were new, but their organization within the framework of a club certainly was. Thus clubs also emerged for the pursuit of pastimes such as horseracing, cricket, and golf... sporting clubs were established as much for the opportunity to mix socially with like-minded people as to play the game itself -- a function that golf, probably more than any other sport, fulfills even today.

"In English law, clubs and associations have no particular status. Anyone can form a club, for any legal purpose, without needing to obey any special rules... The absence of any legal status reflects the independence of such organizations from the control of the state. The fact that English law never interfered in the formation of associations by private citizens indicates how much freedom was left to individual initiative. By the end of the eighteenth century visitors to England became quite bored with the tendency of the English to proclaim their liberties and to declare that other nations lived in servitude. Contemporary Germans and Frenchmen often found this national pride quite puzzling, because they did not see what the English were free to do that they were not. But freedom of association did mean something. It was certainly not permitted elsewhere in Europe..."

And with that last quotation, you have the first glimmerings of what elevates this book above others -- the economics of sport (and, I dare add, all economics) does not rise from a vacuum, but is of a piece with the prevailing social, spiritual, financial, and moral zeitgeist. Szymanski's non-elaborated notion places his book with the best art history, for art also is a creature of its time.

Szymanski does not elaborate the notion directly because it is tangential to his narrative; he does elaborate it indirectly, though, in chapter 4 ("Sports and Incentives"). In that chapter, Szymanski discusses how the leagues, the clubs, and the athletes deal with the issue and phenomenon of doping, and what the fans should do about it.

My favorite chapter, though, is the final one, "Sports and the Public Purse." It is here that Szymanski ties all his seemingly loose threads into one gorgeous tapestry via an all-encompassing dissection of the Olympics Games as (crooked) business. The chapter also reveals Szymanski to have knowledge of the Austrian school of economics, if not a full-fledged member. The reader can almost see Szymanski's sly smiles and hear his quiet chuckles, when he tells of Olympics organizing committees that regale their audiences with the riches to come. Even Schéhérazade did not beguile her audience so completely.
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