The Ordinary Business of Life
Peanuts & Crackerjacks is intended primarily for students in high school economics and social studies classes. It examines a number of issues, including:
- How the pro sports market evolved;
- How leagues gained market power;
- Why athletes earn as much as they do;
- The sources of pro sports revenues;
- Why tickets cost so much;
- Why there is such a high level of economic conflict in modern pro sports; and
- The globalization of pro sports.
During the 1940s and 1950s, members of the
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played the
game as it was meant to be played.
Its guiding philosophy comes from Alfred Marshall, the renowned British classical economist, who defined economics as "the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life."
The beauty of Marshall's humble definition is in the connection it makes between marketplace activity and other aspects of life. Peanuts & Crackerjacks focuses on that connection. Its main goal is to help students use economics as a framework for making sense of their own lives.
Crowds at sporting events used to roar with excitement. Now they're just as likely to snarl.
With every passing day, sports seem to offer less haven from harsh reality. Owners threaten to move their teams to other cities unless taxpayers foot the bill for new sports facilities. Players and their agents hold out for salaries that exceed the gross domestic product of a small country. And if ticket prices keep rising, a family of four will have to file for financial aid before attending a professional game. . . . Provided, of course, that the game hasn't been canceled because owners and players are at each other's throats again.
It's all enough to make fans yearn for the golden age when sports were a simpler pleasure and everyone played for the love of the game. Except that there never was a golden age of sport. Professional sports have always been, for the most part, about money.
So, nothing has changed, right?
Don't believe it!
The economic balance of power between owners and players has shifted dramatically since the mid-1970s. Owners are no longer absolute rulers, and players have much more control over their own destinies. It has been a difficult adjustment for everyoneowners, players, sports reporters, and fans.
Baseball statistician (and philosopher king) Bill James gets right to the heart of the matter:
The economics of baseball today still seem bizarre to many of us because we grew up in an age when a few rich and powerful men, using propaganda and the press, were able to steel their idea of the Natural Order of Things. Their idea, carefully designed for our comfort, still echoes in our subconscious, banging off what is, and creating the notion that something must be amiss in a world of such large dollar signs.
Art Shires signing autographs at Braves Field,
That goes for football, basketball, and hockey, too. Like it or not, the underpaid hometown heroes of yesteryear have been replaced by highly paid hired guns, and things will never again be the same as we remember themor as we imagine they once were.
Peanuts & Crackerjacks explores
all these issues and more.
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Voluntary National Content Standards
The specialized language of economics may make it easier for economists to communicate with one another, but what about everyone else? All those Greek letters and jargon-laced sentences are enough to terrify nonprofessionals.
Scorecard vendor, Braves Field, Boston, 1935.
And that's unfortunate because learning the basics can be painless. The Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics provide a useful tool for identifying and mastering essential economic principleswithout the jargon.
The standards were developed by the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE), in collaboration with several other educational organizations and foundations, including:
- the National Association of Economic Educators;
- the National Council for the Social Studies;
- the American Economic Association Committee on Economic Education;
- the Federal Reserve System;
- the National Association of Business Economists;
- readers of the Advanced Placement Exams in Economics; and
- a specially convened group of university economists.
Funding for the Voluntary National Content Standards project was provided by:
- the AT&T Foundation;
- the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation;
- the Foundation for Teaching Economics.