What is the Marginal Revenue Product of Prayer?

It may well be that church attendance and membership are declining throughout North America, but chapel services in professional sports (baseball, anyway) seem to be gaining increasing acceptance. From the WashPost,

In 300 ballparks across the country, volunteer chapel leaders hold English and Spanish services for major and minor league teams. …

Once derided as a sign of weakness by managers and trainers, Christian prayers are now accepted and even encouraged before baseball games.

If you were a general manager who was indifferent about religion, what would be your attitude toward clubhouse chapel services? Would you encourage them?

On the negative side, not permitting clubhouse chapel services might make some players perform less well . In addition, denying them the opportunity to worship in an unused section of stadium facilities (in the bleachers or elsewhere) might be bad for public relations and hence ticket sales.

On the positive side, permitting players to hold chapel services on location might help them perform better; it might also be good for the club image.

I have never seen a systematic study of these hypotheses. My guess is that most general managers, regardless of their own attitudes toward religion, see clubhouse chapel services as having no effect on player productivity. I would also expect they see encouraging the services as not hurting the team’s revenue, whereas banning them might.

  • But why are sports different from so many other businesses?
  • Do Wal-Mart or Target provide chapel space for their employees? Do manufacturers? Not that I’ve heard of, though perhaps some do.
  • So why does there appear to be a postive net revenue for prayer/chapel in sports but not other businesses?
  • Does god have more of an interest in sports than in manufacturing or retailing?
  • Are athletes more likely to think that prayer/chapel helps their productivity?
  • And why do we hear about religion in baseball but not in basketball, hockey, or football?

What’s the difference?

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Author: John Palmer

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