Patrick Hruby of Sports on Earth wrote a long, long, long (did I mention it’s long?) article yesterday on “sports welfare” that touches on many, many issues during the course of its length, which is clearly an example of this “long-form journalism” that several sites are now trying to reclaim by running articles that are so long that—
So anyway, here are some of Hruby’s more notable points, condensed to human scale:
- Getting rid of sports welfare could solve the “fiscal cliff,” because MONEY.
- The Tiger Woods Foundation and the Baseball Hall of Fame have both received federal grants.
- The public cost of stadiums between 1991 and 2004 could have built three aircraft carriers.
- Judith Grant Long’s new book “Full Count: The Real Cost of Public Funding for Major League Sports Facilities” estimates that the average stadium costs $70 million more than its sticker price thanks to hidden subsidies. (Note: Book not actually called that. Also, Long’s updated figure for hidden subsidies is now $106 million.)
- The Cincinnati Bengals stadium deal was a real bad one for taxpayers, something you may have heard before.
- Sales taxes are regressive, and car rental taxes hit out-of-towners who may not even be going to the stadium.
- Bill Veeck came up with some creative sports tax loopholes.
- Tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities cost the federal government a whole lot of money.
- Major League Baseball is a co-owner of Sports on Earth, which is disclosed in this article but not in other baseball articles on the site.
- College athletic departments are non-profits, but they pay their head coaches a whole lot of money.
- The Pentagon sponsors a NASCAR team.
- Sports team owners (and Mitt Romney) want to cut government spending, but not on themselves.
Okay, so add it all up and what do we have? A whole lot of useful links to interesting articles on various elements of the big-money sports industry, certainly, and a helpful reminder — if we really needed one — that many rich people hate government spending except when it’s on things that they like. That’s an important subject for mainstream sports sites to be tackling, so it’s good to see that Sports on Earth (which was launched this summer as a joint venture of MLB Advanced Media and USA Today) is taking it on.
If there’s a weakness to this piece, it’s in making clear what exactly Hruby thinks should be done about this, other than cut it out already; there’s little discussion of the campaigns (mostly city-by-city) that have been conducted to fight sports subsidy deals, or what legislation has been proposed to rein them in. Maybe that can be the topic for a 4,500-word followup.