Inning 2: The Market for Pro Sports
(Part 3 of 3)
We like to think of sports as a touchstonea source of comfort and stability in an uncertain world. The hometown team is supposed to be our team for life.
If fans had to travel over roads like
these, the market for pro sports might never have expanded
beyond the big eastern cities.
But the reality is that pro sports is a dynamic business. Markets evolve and teams move from one city to another. The Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves and then the Atlanta Braves. The NFLs Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis and then Phoenix. The Minneapolis Lakers moved west to become the Los Angeles Lakers.
Until the 1950s, pro sports was mainly an eastern, big city phenomenon. There were no major league baseball teams south of Washington, D.C. or west of St. Louis. The same was pretty much true for football, basketball, and hockey.
Just look at the NBA and NHL standings for the 1955-1956 season. You can count the teams on you fingers.
Times have certainly changed. In the NBA, only the Celtics and Knicks are still in the same city. And as for the NHL . . . well, teams are playing ice hockey in places like Dallas and Phoenix.
Demographics and technology had a major impact on the pro sports market during the second half of the 20th century:
- Transcontinental air service made it possible for teams to travel farther and faster on road trips.
The Dodgers Team Plane, 1950s.
- Television helped to expand the pro sports
market by putting more fans in touch with the games. The
number of U.S. households with television sets went from 8,000
in 1946 to 59.5 million in 1970.
Watching TV together, 1957.
- Affordable, efficient air conditioning helped
to make Sun Belt cities like Dallas and Phoenix more comfortable
places to live. Example: Between 1940 and 1990, the population
of Phoenix went from 106,818 to 983,403.
- Government investment in highway construction and a surge in car ownership encouraged economic growth in Sun Belt communities and turned them into attractive sports markets.
Everyone knows the old cliche. Guys spend fall Sundays watching football and consuming the maximum yearly allowance of junk food, while their wives and girlfriends wonder what kind of moron can watch more than one game in a day.
So, why did 500 women show up at the New England Patriots stadium on a Tuesday evening in November 1999? Was it some kind of protest?
Not at all. The women were fans. They had paid $25 each to attend "NFL 101," a workshop designed to help them learn more about professional football. And for the second year in a row, the event was a sellout.
Players and coaches talked to the women
about the essentials of footballpenalties, scoring, official
signalsand offered hints for enjoying the game. Video clips
on the evening news gave every indication that a good time was had
[Go to Top]