Is It Really The Economy?

Sports & The Economy
Sports & The Economy

Over the past couple weeks, I've been trying to keep you up to date on the latest in sports business and how the industry is being affected by the economy. I've tried my best not to be alarmist and to tell you the real story. But I'm afraid that some stories written by others are a bit overboard.

Case in point, a recent story about a Yankees auction that took place at Madison Square Garden this weekend.

Here are the first couple lines of the Associated Press story:

"Not even Yankee pride can overcome the poor economy. The last ball hit out of Yankee Stadium didn't leave the auction block Saturday in a memorabilia auction celebrating Bronx Bombers history. The ball, smacked by catcher Jose Molina on Sept. 21, was one of several big ticket items that failed to sell in early bidding at Madison Square Garden on a trove of Yankees artifacts. It was expected to fetch up to $400,000, but was pulled after offers fell short of the suggested opening bid of $100,000."

Something I've learned about being a journalist is that everything needs context. Without context, a story is garbage.

Alone, this fact about the ball is interesting. Combine that with other items that failed to meet its reserve or items that sold for lower than expected and you apparently have your story. The economy is the culprit.

But everything needs context. And here is your context.

1. The Yankees weren't putting on the auction. An auction house named Guernsey's was putting on the auction. Why is this important? Because if it were the Yankees people might have actually known the auction was going on. I don't mean to take a shot at Guernsey's, but I'm a reporter who keeps a keen eye on the collectibles business and I had no idea that the auction was taking place. There's a hint of this in the seventh paragraph of the story, where it says that "about 100 people" were there. You're not going to sell everything if 100 people show up. Trust me here. The amount of people showing up had nothing to do with the economy and had more to do with the fact that people didn't know about it.

2. The main example is the final home run ball hit out of Yankee Stadium. The fact that the ball didn't get an opening bid of a quarter of the reserve price has less to do with the economy and more to do with the fact that the ball just isn't worth that much. Tainted or not, Barry Bonds' final home run ball (No. 762) sold for $376,000 in April. Who are the wizards who thought the last home run at Yankee Stadium hit by a lifetime .237 hitter who has 19 career home runs was worth more than the all-time record ball?

3. Another lot that was mentioned, which supposedly was an indication of the economic downturn, was a collection of 15 World Series and American League championship rings that once belonged to former Yankees owner Del Webb. The article cited the fact that the auction was pulled after the high bid of $325,000 fell short of the $700,000 estimate. I don't know. Seems like the fact that someone was willing to pay an average of more than $21,000 a ring, all with then name of a non-player on them seems pretty fair to me. I'm not sure you would have gotten much more for that during the dot com bubble.

Was this about the economy? I doubt it.

Questions? Comments?