National Football Liars

It’s Big Lie season again. Super Lie. Specifically, Super Bowl Lie. It’s that giddy time of the year when the National Football League trots out its claim that the city that hosts the Super Bowl can expect more than $350 million in economic benefits from the weekend of partying. Some host cities have claimed to reap $400 million, even $500 million from the phantom ripple effect — all of which goes to prove that if you pay a consultant enough money, he will come up with any number you want.

The projections are preposterous, say economists who have studied the actual economic impact of a Super Bowl. Philip Porter, economist at the Tampa-based University of South Florida, did some of the seminal studies deflating the National Football League’s claims back in the 1990s. I asked him about the impact of this year’s Super Bowl: “I’d say $50 million or less, maybe zero. It may actually cost you to host the Super Bowl.”

Says Roger Noll, economist at Stanford, “I’d say $30 million to $50 million.”

“About $35 million,” says Dennis Coates, economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

All three economists have written extensively on the so-called economic impact of pro sports, including the onetime events such as the Super Bowl, Olympics, and baseball All-Star Game.

One of the most perspicacious summations comes from Allen Sanderson, economist at the University of Chicago. “The National Football League can add and multiply, but it can’t subtract or divide,” says Sanderson. “If you take the number they give you and move the decimal point one place to the left, that’s probably about right.” That’s also the finding of Rob Baade, economist at Lake Forest College in Chicago, who did a careful study of the impact.

Economists who have looked at the so-called ripple effect of the Super Bowl, All-Star Game, college basketball’s Final Four, soccer’s World Cup, and the Olympics “generally find that the impact is overstated by at least ten times,” says Porter.

That’s because well-paid consultants with sticky fingers report gross figures, not net figures. “They count everyone that comes to town and the money they spend, but they don’t count the people who would have been in town anyway, and they don’t count expenses such as police and fire,” says Porter.

One of the best examples of this statistics-twisting is cited by Neil deMause, who runs the website and cowrote a book that was revised two years ago, Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. After basketball great Michael Jordan sat out a year before returning to the sport, Fortune magazine calculated that “his Airness was worth a cool $10 billion a year to the U.S. economy,” says deMause.

He explains, “Someone at Fortune took out a calculator and totaled up every economic exchange that was touched by MJ’s blessed hand: every pair of Air Jordans sold, every pair of Hanes underwear worn, every ‘Space Jam’ video rented. Total up all the Jordan merchandise, Jordan-endorsed products, and Jordan-linked TV contracts, and you get $10 billion.”

But what’s missing is what economists call the “substitution effect.” Says deMause, “Most people, presumably, would have watched videos and worn underwear even if Jordan hadn’t been around to tell them to do so.”

Similarly, there would be tourists in town even if there were no Super Bowl. And setting aside all hotel rooms for game guests can backfire. Porter explains that when Tampa got the 2001 Super Bowl, 35,000 rooms were reserved. Hoteliers insisted that the guests get a minimum seven-day reservation. But the guests only stayed for the weekend. The hotels did fine pocketing the money, but local restaurants, bars, retailers, and the like were shortchanged the rest of the week.

In Miami, the cost of a $150 hotel room can escalate to $450 on Super Bowl weekend, says Porter. But do hotel maids and clerks enjoy a tripling in their pay? Of course not. The difference goes to the hotel’s coffers. And the hotel is generally owned out of town. “Paris Hilton gets that [extra money], and she is not in Miami,” says Porter. (In fact, she may be in jail somewhere.)

“The Super Bowl does draw people from out of town, but these numbers get inflated because most of the money collected goes to the NFL or to the hotels, which are national companies,” says Noll. Local vendors, retailers, and restaurants do bring in some money, but the local tax take is $2 million or $3 million, says Noll. Generally, he says, the Super Bowl is “a modest benefit if you are willing to put up with the noise and traffic jams.”

Cities have computerized economic models that try to capture tourism’s ripple effects. Onetime events such as the Super Bowl befuddle those models, says Porter. If the price of a hotel room triples, the model may assume that three people, rather than one, came to town and conclude that three times as many T-shirts were purchased and restaurant meals eaten. The model may suggest that because of this manna, the city should build more hotels and restaurants and expand its airport, “but it is a short-duration effect,” says Porter. (In San Diego, city fathers want to expand the convention center because of one event, Comic-Con.)

One way economists try to measure actual impact is to look at tax revenues from before a game and after. Coates did a study of the 2004 Super Bowl in Houston. He figured that sales tax revenues might have gone up by $5 million. “For a city the size of Houston, that is piddling,” he says. Coates didn’t take costs into account. Houston’s comptroller did and concluded that, overall, the city came out only $900,000 ahead.

Boosters will claim that the city gets all that free publicity from a huge international TV audience, as well as worldwide press coverage. “But you have no idea what kind of press you are going to get out of it,” says Coates. Porter points out that because press people couldn’t find sufficient watering holes, Jacksonville became known as a sleepy town that rolls up its sidewalks at night. Coverage of a riot during Super Bowl time hurt Miami. At one Tampa Super Bowl, the media got obsessed with titty bars.

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Don, I wonder if anyone has done a comparison of these two similar businesses:

  1. NFL Franchises

  2. Strip Bar Franchises

They both use athletic young people to entertain men drinking beer.

Which business pays more in taxes?

Which business requires more police attention?

Which business gets more government subsidies?

Which business brings more tourist revenue?

While this may look satirical, it's pretty straightforward. Which business is better for the financial health of a community?

Yes, it's a given that both have enormous health risks for their employees. The average NFL player and average stripper both experience job related injuries, substance abuse problems, and forego educational opportunities to pursue their short-lived careers. But let's put that aside and just focus on the economics...which one brings in more tax dollars after we look at the civic costs of hosting such a business?

If it comes out the way I think it should, the city would be better off financially building the world's finest strip club than another stadium.

Response to post #1: There are some definite similarities and differences. Pro sports teams are generally owned by billionaires with political and organized crime connections. Titty bars are owned by wealthy gangsters with political connections. I doubt if titty bars get government subsidies. Both require much police attention. Titty bars may bring in more outside money than sports stadium palaces, although neither bring in a lot. You are right on the physical and substance problems of the participants. The athletes get far more money than the dancers, however. Both bask in shrieks of delight from fans. Best, Don Bauder


You are exactly correct. Strip clubs, because they operate 24/7/365 have economic impact.

An interesting point about crowding out surrounding a super bowl is exemplified by strip clubs. Because SB patron tend to give huge tips, strippers from around the country want to work in the host community during the event. Strippers pay the club owners for the opportunity to work the event and the club owners chose the pretiest and best endowed dancers from the lot, laying off any less attractive local talent. Hence, the money spent locally is not deposited locally, and the impact is nil.

Like the hotel's profits, you swipe your card in the host community but the deposit is made elsewhere.

BarnaclePhil Porter

Response to post #3: I don't know if you are the distinguished economist quoted in the column, but your economic analysis is impeccable. Best, Don Bauder

with all the money being made by the """sports""" being touted, its hard to think that the games are not "manipulated" to keep fans interested for the longest period of time.

and to call them athletes and not entertainers is just plain b.s.

Response to post #5: Certainly, rules favor continuous entertainment. For example, in football, rules changes generally favor the offense. That adds pizzazz. In pro basketball, big stars such as Shaq can get away with fouls that other players would be called for. It would be bad to have a superstar foul out. Also in basketball, players blatantly travel as they go in for a dunk. But dunks are crowd pleasers, so refs look the other way. Those are just a few examples. Best, Don Bauder

Well, if the NFL has its way, San Diego will not be vexed with trying to figure out how much "benefit" it gets from the next Super Bowl it hosts. It won't get another one, unless the lunatics surrounding Sanders actually can pull off a new stadium. Now that the Chargers have been eliminated from playing in this year's Super Bowl, the chances of getting the local electorate to vote to further impoverish the city with a huge stadium subsidy are much reduced. Eliminated? No, don't ever count the sports subsidy crowd out.

Response to post #7: I had to chuckle this morning. CCDC hired consultants on the question of a new stadium for the Chargers. The consultants said that in the average stadium, the subsidy is more than 50% of the costs. Hardly surprising. Anybody could have figured that out. And irrelevant for San Diego. Fabiani has already said the team and league might put in $250 million to $300 million, but the league is doubtful. Even if the stadium costs only $700 million (extremely doubtful), the subsidy would have to be well over half. The cost is much more likely to be more than $800 million, perhaps $1 billion. Best, Don Bauder

Response to posts 1 & 2: Fred, and this is meant as a compliment, I find that I can predict, within a few sentences, that I will see your signature when I scroll down far enough in most any given post. Patrons of both strip clubs and professional football teams in San Diego are usually left longing for more.

Response to post #9: In both cases, it's the big boobs -- on the strippers, and in the sports teams' front offices. Best, Don Bauder

Freddie Maaaaaas, Chairman of the Board of the Centre City Development Corporation, (CCDC) announced today that a Los Angeles consultant has determined that the City of San Diego's contribution to the proposed Spectacular Dan's Stripper Stadium (SDSS) is estimated to be 80% of the total construction costs.

Flanked by Dirty Dan spokesperson, Fab Fanny, Maaaaaas told the assembled reporters that this kind of financial arrangement is typical for the construction of such valuable civic assets.

"It's time to move forward and make San Diego a world class city," Maaaaaas said. "By investing in this popular and lucrative industry, San Diego can finally compete with Las Vegas for the tourist dollars we need to finance other projects, like the new monument to Susan Golding we've long planned for downtown."

Los Angelese entertainment consultant, Hugh G. Rection, of the law firm Bicker Back and Forth, said that in cities like San Diego, political leaders typically bend over backward to do whatever they must to keep the strippers in town.

Fab Fanny, who has long advocated for increased city investment in a downtown stadium, explained that this is a win-win situation.

"Oh, you can't imagine how happy this makes me," she giggled as Maas slipped a hundred dollar bill into her silver panties.

Some naysayers, such as Barnacle Porter, economist at the Florida-based University of South Tampa, claim that the city could invest this money in infrastructure, including long neglected roads and sewers. But the consortium of Fans, Stippers, and Politicians for a New Stadium, disagree.

Dan Shucks, owner of the Chuckwagon Bar and Grill, a downtown favorite of strippers and the Mayor, explained that without the world's larges strip pole, San Diego just can't compete with other cities.

"Ya know, when I see my girls up their swinging around with their legs spread wide, it makes me proud to be a father, and proud to be a San Diegan."

The Mayor, a long time friend of Dirty Dan, has indicated he'll ask the Centre City Development Corporation to fund at least $500 million of the costs of construction, largely in twenties.

"This is my vision for the city of the future," he said.

Response to post #11: Another wonderful creation from Fred. This should be sent out widely as the establishment and Chargers try to get taxpayers to plunk $700 million into a football stadium downtown. Incidentally, my favorite law firm is not Bicker Back and Forth, but another one, Dewey Cheatum and Howe. Best, Don Bauder

That was a creation???? I was gonna take lunch at the Chuckwagon tomorrow. Darn.

Hey, Don, here's one: Quibble, Carp, Nitpick and Pettifog.

Aside from substance abuse problems, don't forget that the workers in both fields are artificially enhanced to proportions never approached in nature.

The general audiences for both seem to care not a wit about the artificial enhancement, and in fact, workers of each often frequent the establishment of the other.

Birds of a a hugely inflated feather, so to speak.

Response to post #13: Yes, anybody named Pettifog would go to a law school and be a member of the bar. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #14: And the vernaculars are so similar. To wit: tight end, long snapper, spread, bump and run, wide receiver, strip, etc. Best, Don Bauder

Oh, this is too much;

Q-Was there anything during Mitchell Ziets’ presentation this week that gave you new insights about the financing of the stadium?

A-"One was that in virtually every case [of teams that have recently built new stadiums], the team had taken all construction risk exposure, as well as operating-deficit exposure. That was enlightening to me, that they would be willing to do that."


A-But I can say this: I think the possibilities and opportunities of a stadium in this location, if done the proper way, assuming a negotiation that makes sense for the city and the public, can be very, very exciting. To create an environment akin to L.A. Live

This clown, like the clown that was running CCDC before him, needs to lay off the crack pipe. If he thinks there is going to be a taxpayer paid Chargers stadium he is just nuts.

We are in a friggen depression. There is NO MONEY. In addition I doubt very seriously there would be construction financing available even if we could sratch together some cash.......

Response to post #18: It makes no economic sense. None. But the establishment, the mainstream media, and hence all the money, will be for it. Don't be surprised if it happens. Best, Don Bauder

Kind of hard to build a brand new stadium for the Los Angeles Chargers in San Diego.....

Response to post #20: Quite possibly. But remember, the Chargers have to WANT it to happen. They actually prefer L.A., but don't know if they can get permission of the other owners So they have several balls in the air. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #21: If the Chargers leave, another team will come to San Diego -- whether or not a new stadium is built. San Diego is the 17th largest U.S. market. Nashville is 38th, Jacksonville 40th, New Orleans 46th, Buffalo 47th. The league should want a team in San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

For the seat of the taxicab, sporting events definitely get the meter turning, but you would have to drive on the sidewalk to make a living in the traffic snarl I would expect in the proposed location downtown. Tearing down our present stadium is a bad idea at any price, let alone a cool billion and counting.

Response to post #24: Traffic and parking would be two roadblocks -- of many -- to the preposterous idea of a highly-subsidized downtown stadium. Best, Don Bauder

to 25

We should remember that the roads and communities around the present stadium were designed for the stadium, they were cow pastures before construction. The surrounding businesses grew naturally as a result of market forces. This natural coupling between public services and business can't be recreated by administrative fiat of the CCDC. All profit to downtown businesses will be the loss of businesses built on the promise of the City and the Chargers to stay on the present location until 2020.

Conservatives who support a downtown stadium should reread their Adam Smith and Edmund Burke.

Response to post #26: The ballpark district is proof of what you say. All those condos and hotels were built without any regard to market forces. Now they are durned near empty. The hotels are not generating tax revenue that was promised to voters to service the debt. The condos don't generate sales taxes, and less property tax revenue than advertised. The ballpark is a drain. Keep in mind that the San Diego establishment is not conservative; it does not believe in Adam Smith, market forces, or risk-taking. It believes in government subsidies for itself. Best, Don Bauder

Don, what do you think about the “Strong Mayor” vote being considered by the City Council to give San Diego voters the option of making the strong-mayor form of government permanent?

“Strong Mayor” Sanders has proven beyond all doubt that he is worst case scenario example of why San Diego must never elect another strong Mayor.

Some of “Strong Mayor” Sanders more outrageous acts of criminal negligence, corruption and incompetence that threaten all children and families in San Diego include:

o 2007 Firestorms killed far too many innocent people and destroyed far too much property due to Sanders’ refusal to provide adequate resources after lessons learned from the 2003 Murphy Firestorms, and his failures in leadership to coordinate firefighting resources with other California and Federal firefighting agencies. However he did create every possible opportunity to be on TV during the firestorms.

o Sanders caused San Diego's drinking water to become the 9th worst among the 100 largest U.S. cities as reported by you, making San Diego water virtually unsafe for human consumption.

o Continuing decimation of firefighting, and other public safety and health resources while enriching his personal fortune, and those of other San Diego Republican Party special interests and leaders at the expense of all San Diego taxpayers causing deficits go further out of control to the point where public safety and health are ever more gravely threatened for all San Diego families farther and farther into the future as long as his deficits remain out of control.

Response to post #28: The idea of a "strong mayor" connotes grit and toughness. That's why this so-called "strong mayor" is trying to find ways to subsidize a football stadium that will cost taxpayers around $700 million while ignoring critical issues such as infrastructure and water. It takes an ingot of steel between the ears to do that. See my column that appears tomorrow and Thursday. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #29:

Don, I want to Thank You for the forum you have provided for San Diegans to Fight Back against overwhelming, destructive corruption by our elected officials for the benefit of the San Diego Establishment.

Indeed, the loser Chargers have become a metaphor for loser San Diegans who refuse to fight back to restore Democracy controlled by San Diego voters instead of special interests who own and control our elected officials.

But the saddest thing is that even your excellent Fight Back "Scam Diego" Blog has proven that San Diegans do not want to fight for their rights, much less fight back for Democracy and the future for their families.

The READER has done better than any other news organization to inform San Diegians of the corruption that is destroying quality of life in San Diego, and you have thus proven that there is truly no effective way to fight back against the San Diego Republican Establishment From Hell.

We should remember that the roads and communities around the present stadium were designed for the stadium, they were cow pastures before construction. The surrounding businesses grew naturally as a result of market forces. This natural coupling between public services and business can't be recreated by administrative fiat of the CCDC. All profit to downtown businesses will be the loss of businesses built on the promise of the City and the Chargers to stay on the present location until 2020.

By Psycholizard

You are too honest, ethical, have too much common sense and are too logical. Hence you could NOT work for either the City, CCDC or Spanos.

Response to post #30: Not only is the Reader the best in exposing establishment corruption, it is the ONLY media outlet in town really digging into who runs the place, in my opinion. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #31: Yes, Psycholizard is too sensible and honest to work for any of the entities you named. Best, Don Bauder

The BIG DAY is here! Good day to post a comment on this thread. Agree with you that the immediate benefits of hosting a Super Bowl are way overstated. But there are other benefits that are subtler and not as easily captured. There are a lot of cities that may be deemed capable of holding a Super Bowl and yet don't carry it off well, as your article demonstrates. A city that is both able to host a big event, and does it well, where everybody goes away happy, that lends a certain status and stature money can't buy.

Any city where this many major and minor league sports teams are located is a happening city; again, you can't buy that kind of cool. I don't want the Chargers to leave San Diego, though that's what it may come to. They would be foolish to move to Los Angeles. But it would be better for them to go than for us to throw tax money at them keeping them here. I especially don't want them to build where they are planning to build now. That would be the end of my community.

Just saying, the day we lose the Chargers is the day we lose more than what's immediately apparent on the bottom line.

The day this city loses the Chargers is a GREAT day indeed for this city! :-D Bringing the Super Bowl here will just make bigger douchebags out of Charger fans. Last night I printed out all 50 seasons of the Chargers. Pathetic to say the least. 14 coaches in 50 years? And you dorks bitch about Al Davis? AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Pot? Meet kettle! The Packers have been around for 90 years and have only had 16 coaches.

Sometime soon, I'll be posting a detailed W/L record for the Chargers Vs. EVERY team in the league so I can put this bulls*** talk of, "The Chargers OWN(insert team here)!"to bed.

Response to post #34: I don't want the Chargers to leave San Diego either. If they depart, for L.A. or anywhere else, somebody should step forward and sue both them and the NFL. I don't agree that the Chargers are a great ECONOMIC plus for San Diego, but at least when they are playing well, they give an EMOTIONAL boost. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #35: I don't think it will be a great day for San Diego if the Chargers leave. They are making plenty of money at Qualcomm. The team is more competitive than ever; the argument that it needs a new stadium to be competitive is nonsense. If the Spanos family insists it must have a new stadium in San Diego, it is much better off financially than either the city or county. It has the resources to build the stadium itself. But as I said before, it won't do so; it knows that a stadium used only 10 times a year for games is an economic loser. Best, Don Bauder

Well, as I tried to outline in my post, I think the emotional is the economic. A city that can host a major league baseball team and an NFL franchise is just short an NBA basketball team on the path to glory. I think pro basketball and soccer will come back here in the future. But even what we have now says a lot about us as a city, and economically we profit from that cachet; losing an NFL franchise could be devastating in those terms as well.

I was totally opposed to Petco Park and I live close enough to it to occasionally have to deal with the traffic hassles. But I also go to the games there and have a great time. Those empty condos and hotels will someday be filled to capacity and what looks expensive today will look cheap in future decades. They will pay off for the City eventually, I think (maybe I'm being optomistic).

Likewise with the Chargers. I oppose spending tax dollars to support billionaires. However, if the city can do other things to keep them here, maybe something can be worked out. "Something" is the term us people who aren't economists use to indicate we're fuzzy on the details. :)

Response to post #38: Sure, the ballpark district condos will fill up "some day," and so will the hotels in the district. First, however, San Diego must do something about those water pipes that are more than a century old downtown. Water is not getting to some of the higher stories in those condos -- one reason among many why they are not filling up. Those of us who opposed the ballpark scheme in 1998 argued that eventually what's known as the ballpark district would flower. But it was futile to push it by just building there and expecting people to flood in. The market should settle such matters. Best, Don Bauder

I agree with #38 about Petco, not only does it host enough games to make a positive economic impact, the future looks nothing but bright on that ballpark being a total positive in the future. I don't disagree with those who cite past claims of dirty doings when the deal was hatched, but when all is said and done, in a decade it will begin to pay off.

But a football stadium is a different cupcake. You're looking at eight regular season games, two or less pre-season games, and maybe a play-off game or two every year. At what point will the return on that investment be realized? I have a feeling that if an initiative is put on a ballot, people will probably vote for it, regardless. But it is also possible that in such a case, the best thing for the City of San Diego, economically, would be the Chargers quick move to Los Angeles before a ballot initiative can be introduced. I would feel badly for San Diego Chargers fans, but then again, the team would only be a couple of hours away.

Response to post #40: If Petco begins to pay off in ten years, it is a loser. And I repeat what I have said before: if the Chargers leave for L.A., Vegas or some other place, the NFL would put a team in San Diego, the nation's 17th largest metro area. However, if there is a strike or lockout in 2011, everything goes on hold. Best, Don Bauder

Well let me say this: You want to talk about losers, the area where the ballpark and all those hotels and condos were built was a total and complete loser so far as I can tell. Downtown is slowly but surely turning into a vibrant urban center, of which Petco is a part. I think the same would be true if the Chargers built on that wasteland down by the Bay. And it, along with the Convention Center expansion, could possibly lead to the beginning of finally doing away with at least some of the heavy industrial down in that area. I don't buy for one minute what they will say about jobs and affordable housing, the same lie used to build Petco, but there can't help but be physical improvements into that area of town. It still doesn't outweigh the negatives: precious tax dollars spent on billionaire sport team owners, and the loss of my community. So not worth it.

Response to post #38: If you think the NBA and Major League Soccer will come to San Diego, while you are building that new football stadium, you might want to look into a new arena, and a soccer-specific stadium. MLS won't come to San Diego without one, and forget about the NBA; they will never play at the current Sports Arena. So, all you will need is, oh, I don't know, maybe another $500 to $600 million. I'm sure Mayor Jerry can find that kind of scratch just laying around.

Response to post #42: The city poured $300 million into Petco. So it was deeply in the hole from the outset. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #43: How about subsidizing a professional badminton team? Or a professional quoits team? The sky's the limit. Best, Don Bauder

Come, come, Mr. Bauder. :) If we ever want to grow out of this awkward adolescence we are currently stuck in, and become the city New York and Los Angeles never became, then we are going to have to break eggs and make sausage. Ugly beginnings make for good meals in the end. I'm immensely grateful you are in the kitchen supervising the cooks and making sure they aren't taking any shortcuts or spitting in the food, but don't forget where the process should lead. We lifelong residents who haven't bailed eventually will see at least the beginnings of one of the great cities of the world, God willing and the creek don't rise.

And the South will rise again, right? ;-D

Response to post #46: Instead of eggs and sausages, how about corn flakes? That is, empty calories. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #47: The South DID rise again. But Confederate money never did come back. Nor did slavery, thank goodness. Best, Don Bauder

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