John Oliver on sports shakedowns: “We replace stadiums even faster than we replace Spider-Men”

And here’s last night’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which not only gave a great overview of stadium shakedown craziness (I’m especially pleased that the Milwaukee Bucksmagic basketball put in an appearance), but which culminated in a rousing speech that needs to be shown in the 4th quarter of every sports venue negotiation until the end of time. Put down your breakfast and watch now:


21 comments on “John Oliver on sports shakedowns: “We replace stadiums even faster than we replace Spider-Men”

  1. Art on the walls, the finest leather seats, a fish tank that circles the stadium, swimming pools!!! Seriously, fans pay hundreds of dollars to…swim in a swimming pool…at a football stadium.I suppose the gym isn’t good enough for this folks. Make sense why the cost of a NFL stadium is a billion dollars. The fans have to have their toys and the owners aren’t shy on spending their money to get them.

  2. Oliver is a fantastic talent. He is as clueless as an economics prof when it comes to economics, but man can he ever do television.

  3. Somehow I’m thinking “as clueless as an economics prof when it comes to economics” isn’t going to catch on, as similes go.

    (Oliver’s did consult with several economists for this piece, btw. Though some of them — horrors — may work at universities.)

  4. As long as my smilies are better than Max McGee’s Herschel Walker simile, I’m happy. (Deep cut, I know, but it’s still the standard for bad smilies in my circles.)

    Any of the “economists” in Oliver’s piece not work at Universities?

  5. Ben Miller:

    Can you name one claim in Oliver’s piece on the stadium racket that is inaccurate? Explain to us how Oliver’s economics are weak.

    Competent research economists tend to have university affiliations, yes. Unless that university is George Mason University, whose brightest light in economics is a food blogger.

  6. Ben, would economists who work at politically connected construction or architecture firms been better? I suppose a conservative think tank might satisfy you, but a lot of those know stadiums are a bad deal too.

  7. John Oliver: Now banned in every sports stadium everywhere.
    Public funding for stadiums is a total waste & a loser. That female Arizona Coyotes fan is a complete loon & sounds like a total brat.

  8. I don’t get HBO but have heard that Oliver consistently takes on complex issues mainstream media often does not bother to analyze in-depth. This piece is brilliant and very fact-based.

    One person featured who is clueless about economics is MKE’s Mayor Barrett. He’s still out in the cornfield saying “If you build it they will come.” Not just about the arena but about a multi-floor bar mall the city will subsidize. $57M in direct cash and about $50 M indirectly, including handing over a garage the public built for $30M in 1988.

    Barrett says it’s not possible to have too many bars and restaurants “as long as they’re all walkable” from each other. Forget economics. He believes in governing by buzzwords.

    His line about some guy in China knowing the Bucks deserved to be an Oliver punchline. Is that supposed to be good for MKE’s economy?

  9. I don’t have HBO either, but most of the best bits are up on YouTube by the next morning: https://www.youtube.com/user/LastWeekTonight

  10. The fact is, the vast and loud majority of the populace is as stupid and idiotic as the woman berating Glendale’s Mayor. These morons see no correlation between their fandom, and their respective sport franchise’s Billionaire Owners extortion of the populace. If you asked these morons point blank, “OK, we can keep the sports team in town, if we cave to the billionaire owner’s demand and give him EVERYTHING he wants, and it will mean we will need to close down some schools, fire some police & fire department personnel, and your sales and property taxes will be going up…oh, just a bit…say 2-5%…those are low numbers, aren’t they!? BUT, your sports team you love so much will have the grandest stadium in the land (for the next 3 years until the “newness” wears off, and the billionaire owner wants…no, NEEDS a newer stadium at the publics cost)…can you live with that? Oh, and as a taxpayer who helped fund the stadium, you will also be provided with higher ticket prices, concession prices, and parking prices, and all those higher prices, and higher revenue will also be funneling back to the billionaire sports owner…that’s cool to, right?” EVERY ONE of those morons would agree to those terms, as do the politicians that salivate at the chance to throw taxpayer money at the billionaire extortionists.

  11. “The fact is, the vast and loud majority of the populace is as stupid and idiotic as the woman berating Glendale’s Mayor.”

    If this were really true, you’d see an awful lot more sports team owners pushing for voter referendums.

  12. A lot of people in Glendale have caught on to the scam. The city is the home to subsidized football, baseball and hockey venues. Glendale hasn’t gotten richer – indeed, the reality has played out pretty much as Dan M noted above: higher taxes, lower services etc. Yes, there is a recall effort underway against council members who supported yanking the Coyotes’ lease – we’ll see how that goes. Sometimes a dedicated minority can recall an elected official with a small constituency. But I get the feeling that more and more Glendalians are starting to see that subsidized sports are a road to riches for only a very few people, and they aren’t residents of Glendale.

  13. The scene with the Marlins prez tallying their take is priceless… Bucks prez Feigin said same thing with a straight face. “The NBA & Bucks want to be as opportunistic as possible.” That’s why they demanded MKE Mayor Barrett (Great Wall of China guy) hand over a city garage, pay to tear it down for the Bucks (to build a bar mall to run out the locals a block away) and then have the city pay $35M to build a new one and give the Bucks ALL THE PARKING REVENUE. He jumped up and down because he got the Bucks to agree to “go halfsies” on the parking income, while giving them them all that plus about $25M more. It’s pathetic. It’s like he’s too dumb to be overtly corrupt. And he’ll prbab;y get reelected cuz his opponents are even worse. And this is supposedly a Democratic stronghold.

    I think many people get too busy to look out for their own self-interest as taxpayers. Some are sheepish about liking to have a team. Critical thinking goes out the door. Fans and boosters behave like abused spouses terrified their partner will leave….

  14. Don’t forget that the Coyotes fan doesn’t even live in Glendale. http://deadspin.com/fan-wants-to-spend-other-peoples-money-on-her-dumb-hock-1710658161

  15. DGA: Oliver cited a study claiming that sports arenas don’t stimulate economic activity, which is obviously wrong.

    Tom: yes.

  16. “Oliver cited a study claiming that sports arenas don’t stimulate economic activity, which is obviously wrong.”

    And we have a winner for Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Obviously” in a Serious Screenplay!

  17. It’s funny how many people still believe that stadiums provide economic stimulus. It’s just kind of baked into the conventional wisdom.

    I love sports. But I’m sick of billionaire owners screwing over cities that can barely keep their schools and parks open.

  18. Ben,

    They obviously do, from you, your friends, and people like you. However, that activity probably doesn’t satisfy a normal cost-benefit analysis, as taught by pointy-headed academics who use arithmetic.

    Could you provide the names of any firms that obviously chose to stay or relocate to the Milwaukee area due to the presence of the Bucks or the building of the current arena?

    Could you provide any cities that have seen direct additional business activity due to a basketball arena?

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