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Fans as Inputs

2009 October 7
by Phil Miller


After last night’s Twins/Tigers game – helluva game, no? – the announcers for TBS mentioned that the fans played a big part in the Twins win. 54,000 Twins fans hollering and waving their rally towels would have been impressive to see.

This isn’t the only time that fans have been noted as an important part of the game. Texas A&M officially calls their student body the 12th Man, and the team honors one of its players by having him wear the number 12. Basketball teams call their crowds the 6th man because of their effect. Gary Pinkel, the university of Missouri coach, has asked his team’s fans to wear gold to tomorrow night’s game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The last time this happened, Faurot Field in Columbia looked like grass meadow surrounded by maples turning color in fall: bright golds with reds interspersed throughout.

I’m the guy in the gold at the top of the picture.

There are a lot of things unique to the sports industry that make it interesting to economists. For instance, unlike other industries, a monopoly position is impossible to hold because the product is competition and, well, it takes two to tango (Billy Idol excused).

Another quality is that the consumer of the product can also be thought of as an input. I know that this has been mentioned in the research Cairns, Jennett, Sloane (1986), but I haven’t seen it discussed much. So I ask you, Sports Economist readers and co-bloggers, this: if fans are indeed both consumers and inputs, what are some of the qualities we should see in sports that we would see if fans were mere consumers.

In other words, suppose two theoretical models were built to explain a sport, say baseball. One of the models treat fans as simple consumers and the other model treats fans as consumers and inputs, what would be the difference in terms of the results?

Here’s one off the top of my head: inputs are paid for their effort. Consumers pay for their products. My sense is that ticket prices would be lower than if fans were merely consumers and not inputs.

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