PAY DIRT by James Quirk


The Business of Professional Team Sports
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 Despite the promising title, not much dirt--but plenty of dust--arises from this thorough but dull study of the marriage between the two American obsessions of money and sports. The first volume of two on the subject (the second to be written by other authors), this covers the player-reserve clause, free agency, salary structures, franchises, tax shelters, stadium and arena construction, and the effect of rival leagues on the business of sports. All four major professional team sports- -baseball, football, basketball, and hockey--are included, but the focus is on baseball, the oldest and wealthiest of the lot ($1.35 billion in annual revenues). Echoing other recent books on the subject, most notably Andrew Zimbalist's far more exciting Baseball and Billions (p. 912), the authors contend--with an arsenal of charts as backup--that free agency works as well as the old reserve system (under which each team ``owned'' its players) at keeping a competitive balance between teams; that owners are making a mint these days; and that the spoils of free-agency go to the superstars. More unusual is their contention--again backed by reams of statistics--that the popular belief that ticket prices are rising to keep pace with player salaries is, in fact, an inversion of the truth: Actually, increased gate revenues have paved the way for the jump in salaries. There's much more: teams as tax shelters; the history of rival leagues (e.g., the old American Football League), which usually go defunct but force expansion nonetheless; and so on. All this bears fruit on occasion, but the authors ignore their pledge to write ``with a general audience in mind,'' and load their text with jargon (``brute force data accumulation,'' etc.) and complex mathematical formulae. Makes the sports pages read like the stock pages. (Twenty-four halftones and thirty-three line illustrations.)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-691-04255-1
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1992


by Kelly Wilken