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A sociologist's take on stadium finance

A piece in the Dallas Morning News introduced me to Rick Eckstein, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Villanova. Eckstein has written a book called Public Dollars, Private Stadiums. It appears that the stadium finance issue is one that economists and sociologists can agree upon - pardon the obligatory dose of an economist's cyncicism - at least when it comes to the conclusion that professional sports leagues are engaged in serial robbery of the public purse.

Eckstein visited the Dallas Metroplex over the weekend, and had this to say about Arlington's contract to build a new stadium for the Cowboys. "You know, there's 'Fool me once; fool me twice' ... This is 'Fool me 30 or 40 times.'"

The DMN piece discusses Eckstein's thoughts on why the sports bandits succeed time and again at selling their proposal to a gullible public. I agree with him that voters are easily swayed by "the happy ads showing dads and their sons taking in a game, or the glowing appeals to community pride."

On a more critical note, I am not sure what sociology adds to the academic case against stadium subsidies. His vita has a number of papers on the topic, including "New Sports Stadiums, Community Self-Esteem, and Community Collective Conscience." No proper economist would be caught parading an argument under such a banner. Nevertheless, I'm going to check the papers out. And if the shapers of public opinion find arguments from sociology more persuasive than the distortions of "economic development" boosters, then I'm in Eckstein's corner.

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