The Bottom Line: A Book Review

In August I received an advanced copy of the latest book by Andrew Zimbalist. For those who regularly read this forum you might ask “Zimbalist wrote another book already?”

In 2005 Andrew Zimbalist and Stefan Szymanski published National Pastime – How Americans Plays Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer, a wonderful book reviewed in this forum last June. Earlier this year Zimbalist published In the Best Interest of Baseball? Once again this is a wonderful book, also previously reviewed in this forum, examining both the history of the commissioner in Major League Baseball as well as the career of current commissioner Bud Selig.

This month Zimbalist is at it again. Temple University Press has just released The Bottom Line: Observations and Arguments on the Sports Business.

This book is unlike anything Zimbalist has written thus far. From 1998 to 2006 Zimbalist wrote 118 columns for a whole host of different publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, Forbes, Newsday, Business Week, Washington Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Miami Herald, and The Sports Business Journal. Temple University Press has put all this work together into one volume.

What struck me first in picking up this book is that Zimbalist actually wrote 118 columns. So far I have penned two columns for the New York Times. Martin Schmidt has also written two columns for the New York Times and another piece for the Sports Business Journal. Our columns have appeared over the past five months, or basically one column per month. At this rate the two of us working together might be able to get to 118 columns in the next ten years. Zimbalist produced this output in less than ten years by himself, while he was writing several books and maintaining his job as professor of economics at Smith College. So the output alone is impressive.

Of course, quantity is not all you get with this book. A Zimbalist book always means quality writing as well.

As I read this book it occurred to me that this book is essentially the Andy Zimbalist Blog. If Zimbalist had a blog one might expect to see posts on team finances, competitive balance, the impact and value of stadium and mega-events, anti-trust and labor relations, college sports and gender equity, and even steroids. In essence, if it happened in sports business over the past decade, Zimbalist wrote a column that clearly illustrates how the application of economics can improve a person’s understanding of what we observe in the world of sports.

This point bears repeating. The advantage of this book is that it allows the reader to see how one of the foremost professors in sports and business analyzed each event virtually as it happened. So this book will take you back over the past decade and consistently teach you something new about professional and college sports.

As readers of The Wages of Wins would have noticed, we do not agree with everything Zimbalist argues. And as any observer of economics would note, economists disagreeing is not exactly a surprise. Despite our disagreements on a few issues, reading Zimbalist’s take on all the issues of the past decade is definitely worthwhile. Yes, the Zimbalist blog is a bit more expensive than The Wages of Wins Journal. But it is still well worth the price of admission.

– DJ