Best Laid Plans
No matter. Some people are born into stadium financing deals, and other have stadium financing deals thrust upon them. I am neither. I've got 29 years' experience as a baseball fan, and three semesters of economics behind me. That's it.
Steven Pearlstein's column has received plenty of attention from Kornheiser's radio show and John's blog. Unfortunately, it's a newspaper column, so it gets about 1000 words to make its case. So there's only a brief discussion of the monopoly power of MLB owners' ability to extort stadiums that they ought to build themselves. James Quirk and Rodney Fort's Hard Ball: The Abuse of Power in Pro Team Sports, published in 1999, should have been the last word on this, but it's a little lazy.
I paid for this microphone, so allow me this digression. Think of your favorite restaurant. Imagine it asking the District to buy it a new stove or it would move to Virginia. The Mayor's office wouldn't even take the call. If your favorite restaurant (Bardia's New Orleans Cafe on 18th Street at Belmont) can't make do with its current stove, the city doesn't really care. For the life of me, I can't understand why THE NEW OWNERS CAN'T PAY FOR THEIR OWN DAMN STADIUM, just like Bardia has to buy his own stove.
Yes, I know. Federal Baseball, 1922.
In 1922, the Supreme Court’s Federal Baseball decision unanimously upheld the right of the sixteen franchises of Major League Baseball to exist as a monopoly, rejecting a lawsuit brought by the owners of the Baltimore Orioles of the defunct Federal League. Putting on baseball games for profit was “not trade or commerce in the commonly-accepted use of those words,” wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The interstate transport of uniforms and players was “incidental” to the business, which are “purely state affairs." John Helyar has noted the ruling “was a piece of fiction, one that would grow sillier with each passing year. But it undergirded everything about the way baseball operated.”
Here's my little fantasy: That businesses pay for their expenses, that governments pay for their public goods, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Crazy, I know.
Jack Evans has correctly said that twenty years from now, we won't remember how the thing got paid for, we'll just be happy that the team is here and wonder why the lines are so long at the bathroom, and when the rocket car will be returned from the shop. Maybe I'm paraphrasing.