Last call to support Field of Schemes if you want fridge magnets before they’re gone!

As part of my new plan to survive the ongoing slow death of journalism, I’m going to be reminding readers quarterly instead of semiannually that you can support Field of Schemes by becoming Field of Schemes Supporters! (This doesn’t mean I’m asking any of you individually for any more money — the donation levels remain the same, $25 per year at the basic level, $100 if you can spare it and want bonus stuff like banner ads — just that I’m posting these reminders more frequently for anyone who may have missed the last one.) And I actually have good reason to be posting about it today, because I have urgent news, which is that the supply of FoS refrigerator magnets is running perilously low:

Eyeballing what’s left in the stacks on my desk — it’s really tough to count magnets, they’re magnets, they stick together — I’d say I have maybe 20 sets left, after which there will be no more reprints. (I may design a second set with different Stadium Grubbers Do The Most Amazing Things facts, but that remains to be seen, and in any case those would be different, not these.) So if you want to commemorate on your fridge the Texas Rangers‘ demand for a half-billion-dollar stadium so they could have air-conditioning or the Milwaukee Bucks‘ magic basketball — or got a pair of magnets already but want to complete your collection — act now! Or, well, soon, anyway.

In fact, I’ll even add a bonus incentive: If I can get ten new or renewing FoS Supporters by the end of January, I’ll post here a full-length article that’s been sitting on my hard drive waiting for a home ever since the demise of Deadspin. (It’s not huge breaking news, but it is informative and entertaining.) Plus, you will receive my undying appreciation for supporting the work I do here! That won’t stick to your fridge, though.




Become a Field of Schemes Supporter to help keep the stadium news flowing, this is how journalism works now

Hey, FoS readers, it’s that time again — the one (or two per year, tops) where I ask you to become a Field of Schemes Supporter so that I can continue to devote time to this website every day. I’ve considered switching to a Patreon or setting up a members-only newsletter like all the kids are doing these days, but for now I’m sticking with the tried-and-true membership system for a couple of reasons: One, you all seem to like it well enough, and two, I want all the information here reaching the widest possible audience, not reserved for a special few.

As for you special few who help make this site possible for the others to freeload on, you do get some exclusive rewards. First off, refrigerator magnets!

If you’re thinking, “Big deal, I already got two of these the last time I donated,” understand that there are three more variations that your fridge is currently bereft of, and they will wing their way to you upon receipt of your donation, whether Mini-Supporter or regular Supporter size. Make your kitchen the envy of other kitchens!

Second, as always, full Supporters get to place an ad of their choice in the top-right banner space on every page of this site. If you don’t have an ad but have an idea for an ad, I’ll help design one; if you don’t have anything to advertise but want to promote a worthy cause, that’s fine too.

And finally, you will get my heartfelt thanks, and, I hope, the heartfelt thanks of all those who read this site and can’t or don’t choose to donate. I continue to be amazed at how many people value the news and analysis on offer here, more than two decades after this site started, and there is absolutely no way I would have been able to keep it going without your financial support. To all present, past, and future supporters: You are the best, and you can tell your friends that I said so.

Thanks, and donate early and donate often!



Listen to an evening of Jim Bouton readings by five writers in his debt (including me)

On Thursday, I got to participate in Varsity Letters’ regular reading series in New York for a very special tribute to the late Jim Bouton, along with my friends Jay Jaffe and Paul Lukas and my new friends Mitchell Nathanson and Nick Diunte. I got to expand on my thoughts I wrote on this site about the times I’d met Jim, and also read one of my favorite excerpts from his book Foul Ball, which was about his attempts to save century-old Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from attempts by the local power structure to raze it and replace it with a publicly subsidized new stadium. You can hear my segment below (and also Nick’s hilarious show closer, which was centered on a supercut of Ball Four quotes from Seattle Pilots manager Joe “Shitfuck” Schultz):

Or if you want to relive the evening in order, start with the opening set, featuring Jay, Mitchell, and Paul:

One thing that didn’t occur to me until I got to the event and started hearing all these writers talk about how influential Ball Four had been on their work: Jim Bouton was not just a great writer, he was in some respects a visionary one. As I said in my talk, none of the outlets that I’ve written for — the Village Voice sports section, Deadspin, Vice Sports, Baseball Prospectus — could have existed in the same way without Jim nearly singlehandedly inventing antiauthoritarian sportswriting, changing Americans’ view of sports from superheroic white-hats-vs.-black-hats escapism to a much more nuanced view that recognized that people are people and the personal is political and it’s important to question things, always. If it’s incredible that this was a message that still needed to be heard 23 years after Jackie Robinson, and that still needs hearing today almost another half-century later, it makes it all the more important when a Jim Bouton shows up to deliver it.

As a bonus reader challenge, anyone who can correctly identify all the Bouton-related gear we were wearing (Mitchell had to leave early and missed the post-event photo shoot) wins the people’s ovation and fame forever:

Thanks, FoS readers, for your invaluable support (now please give me money and I will send you cheap trinkets)!

We’ve been through Giving Tuesday and holiday gift-giving and year-end donations, and now it’s time for me to ask: If you have any coin left over, please consider throwing a bit my way to become (or remain) a Field of Schemes supporter! This site takes a considerable amount of time and expense to keep up with, and paid ads don’t pay much of the bills, so I’ve been fortunate enough that you readers have been willing to toss your loose change in the tip jar to help keep this site going into its third decade.

This year, in addition to my undying appreciation (estimated retail value: incalculable), FoS supporters at every level will get a brand-new token of my esteem: a pair of newly designed Field of Schemes refrigerator magnets, featuring some of your favorite stadium scam facts in a design honoring the “Did You Know?”–style cartoons on 1970s sports cards:

In addition, donors at the $50 and $100 level will, as always, get a slot in the rotating ad space in the top right corner of this site (for six months and one year, respectively) to do with as you please. (I can help design ads if you have an idea but no artistic skills, and donating ad space to a favored charity is always welcomed.)

And, of course, you’ll get me continuing to produce this site, for free access to all, for another year. I still have plans for a couple more FoS 20 interviews before this 20th anniversary year is over in April, and some other ideas for special projects in the hopper as well, all of which are much easier to devote time to when I don’t have to scramble for other ways to pay the bills.

And whether you choose to become a Supporter or not, thank you all for helping make this site more than just one person shouting at clouds, but rather a community, with your insightful comments, your emailed news tips, and your Mark Davis quips. In the increasingly lowest-common-denominator world that is the internet, this site manages to continue to have daily conversations that are funny and free-wheeling but also mostly serious and respectful, and that is a rare and valuable thing.

And now, let’s all celebrate another year of observing stadium and arena scams by watching the Milwaukee Bucks‘ old arena get blown up, just 30 years and a few months after it was opened, solely because the team’s owners wanted a new one and pretended the NBA would force the team to move without one. (Form for signing up for or renewing your Supporter status is below the video.)


Programming note: Please nobody swindle any cities while I’m gone, thanks

I’m going to be traveling the next week and a half, so posts here may be lighter than usual. (Or may not be; I’m told they do have the internet where I’m going.) Please use the comments for this post as your open thread for anything that comes up that I don’t immediately address, and normal programming will resume on the 21st.

And now, to tide you over, here’s some abandoned Olympics facility porn, courtesy of USA Today. Enjoy.

Please become an FoS Supporter to help this website, here is a video of a cat climbing a stadium wall

I usually try to make my semi-annual call for FoS Supporters — that’s my special term for you folks who help keep this site running by kicking in a few bucks in exchange for some cheap trinkets, ad space, and a warm feeling of helping make the world a better or at least more informed place — in June when readers aren’t all off on vacation, but I missed that target this year, so instead I’m going to have to SHOUT EXTRA LOUD to get your attention!!! And, because I’m feeling in an extra-generous mood, show you a video of a cat climbing up the outfield wall at the Miami Marlins‘ stadium:

For those who are new to the world of FoS Supporters, there are three membership levels, each with different rewards:

  • For $25 a year, Mini-Supporters get a Field of Schemes pin, a set of Field of Schemes trading cards, and an electronic copy of my 2016 book The Brooklyn Wars.
  • For $50, Six-Month Supporters get everything above plus the ability to place an ad in the top-right banner space, which will be viewed on a rotating basis with other member ads. (I’ll help design the ad if you have an idea but no graphic design skills.)
  • For $100, One-Year Supporters get everything above, but the ad banner stays in place for one year.

Mostly, though, your support is what enables me to take the time to keep reporting on stadium and arena shenanigans on a daily basis, as well as pursuing extra projects like the FoS 20 interview series (I just recorded the fourth installment yesterday, and it’s a good one) and moving this site to a more robust server, something that’s been on my agenda for a while now but has been awaiting a free weekend or two to arrange all the logistics. I continue to be amazed and moved by the fact that you all are willing and seemingly eager to chip in to help with this project that shows no signs of winding down as it enters its third decade.

So whether or not you choose to become a member or renew your membership this time around, seriously, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, for commenting, and for sending me the latest jaw-dropping stadium news items. Money is great — it literally pays the bills! — but a community of people eager to debate the modern sports stadium game is priceless. Thanks for coming along for the ride.


Become a FoS Supporter, because my website subsidy demand is stuck in city council committee

Now that I’ve kicked off the Field of Schemes 20th anniversary celebration with my Roger Noll interview, it’s time to remind FoS readers that this site — or, at least, my ability to devote the time to updating this site each morning — exists thanks to your support, or more specifically the support of those of you who chip in as FoS Supporters. I’m really proud to have kept this site going for two decades without resorting to paywalls or what have you, and I’m equally proud of you all for allowing me to do so via your generosity, in exchange for a few trinkets and that warm fuzzy feeling of helping call attention to the ongoing stadium subsidy madness. Seriously: Thanks, everyone who has ever donated, or retweeted, or commented, because I literally could not do this without you — and not just in the millennial sense.

As a reminder, here’s the stuff you get when you become an FoS Supporter:

  • For $100, full-year supporters get a stylish Field of Schemes mug, a Field of Schemes Supporter pin, a set of Field of Schemes stadium trading cards, an e-book copy of my 2016 book The Brooklyn Wars, and one year of ad space (running in rotation with other site supporters) in the top right corner of this page — you can either provide your own 90×250-pixel ad, or I can design one for you. (If you don’t have anything you personally want to advertise, feel free to promote a favorite charity.)
  • For $50, half-year supporters get everything except the mug, and the ad space only lasts for (wait for it) half a year.
  • For $25, minisupporters get the pin, cards, and ebook, but not the mug or ad space.

If you want the goodies to wing their way to your door, please remember to include your mailing address in the notes field; if you don’t want any goodies, just say “no goodies” and you’ll receive only a thank-you email.

As always, I am hugely appreciative of anything you can give. After all, this site is 20 years old now, so clearly it’s time for me to start thinking about building a new one with air-conditioning.




Field of Schemes celebrates 20 years of yelling at cloud

This April will mark 20 years since the publication of the first edition of Field of Schemes, which was the same month (more or less) that saw the launch of the first embryonic form of this website. Which means that, depending on how you choose to look at it, either we should be celebrating two decades of examining the strange world of sports subsidies and educating the world about it, or bemoaning that this is taking a lot longer than we thought.

We’re going to have some special programming here this year to mark the anniversary, which I hope to announce more about in the next week or two. But for now, let me just speechify for a second about the view from 20 years in:

As I’ve noted many times in various radio appearances over the years, when Joanna Cagan and I first got the idea for our book, we thought that we were capturing a snapshot of a peculiar moment in time, where we’d one day look back and think, Man, remember those days when cities were throwing public money at private stadium and arena deals? Was that a trip or what? Needless to say, that’s not quite how it’s worked out: We actually were capturing the first glimpse of the new normal, a world where getting public cash for erecting building after building is seen as an integral part of the sports business model, not to be given up until it’s clawed from team owners’ cold dead fingers.

While some things have changed over the years — in particular, the age at which sports venues can be declared obsolete with a straight face continues to plummet towards zero — the basic rules of the game have remained remarkably consistent: It’s why, when we wrote the most recent update to the book, the chapter “The Art of the Steal” running down the standard stadium playbook only needed to be updated with “The Art of the Steal Revisited,” noting more recent examples of the same tactics. I’ve come up with some innovations in describing this mess — that first edition didn’t feature any references to vaportecture or the Casino Night Principle — but, despite occasional glimmers of hope, the mess itself has remained largely unchanged, except for the dollar figures reaching ever more skyward.

All of which is to say, we’re all probably stuck with each other for a while yet. I know I didn’t plan on this being my life’s work (well, part of my life’s work, anyway) way back in 1995 when Joanna and I first discussed writing a short article drawing parallels between stadium plans in New York and Cleveland, but here we are, and I’m not about to give up show business now. So strap in, ready your best Nelson Muntz laugh, toss a couple of shekels in the tip jar if you see fit, and I’ll work on getting that special programming ready — because if you can’t celebrate being trapped in the same national nightmare for 20 years, what can you celebrate?

Thanks for your patience, FoS supporters, now here’s some fresh swag

This has been a bit of an up-and-down year for this site — thanks to my Village Voice responsibilities, I’ve been more pressed for time than usual, which means the breadth of coverage here hasn’t been quite as sweeping as in the past. (If you’ve been waiting on the latest about plans for a new minor-league arena in Richmond, my apologies.) I’m tentatively hopeful for a saner work schedule in the coming months, so the posts here should be a bit more consistent going forward.

So with it being time for my biannual funding appeal, I’d like to offer supporters of this site something that is 1) special and 2) easy for me to fulfill, so you don’t end up waiting on me to find free time to learn how to silkscreen T-shirts or anything. (Brooklyn Wars Kickstarter backers, sorry about that.) And I think I’ve come up with something good: An updated version of the Field of Schemes coffee mug that I used to offer here for sale. I still need to finalize the design (CafePress redid their templates since I did this last, so I’m waiting on getting a sample first), but it’ll look something like this:

I have one of the originals in my cupboard, and I can vouch that it’s held up beautifully through hundreds of trips through the dishwasher. (If you can’t make out the quote, it’s economist Allen Sanderson’s classic “If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest in a new ballpark.”)

Since these are a bit pricier to produce and ship, they’ll only be available to those who choose the $100 one-year full supporter level. For that, you’ll also get a Field of Schemes Supporter pin, a set of Field of Schemes stadium trading cards, an e-book copy of my 2016 book The Brooklyn Wars, and one year of ad space (running in rotation with other site supporters) in the top right corner of this page — provide your own 90×250-pixel ad, or talk to me and I’ll whip something up. And, of course, the knowledge that you’re supporting the work I do here, because those Google ads don’t really pay the bills.

Don’t have $100 to spare? That’s fine — you can also do a $50 six-month membership, and get everything above except the mug. Or a $25 one-year minisupporter membership, and get everything except the mug and the ad space.

Confused? Click here for a simple list of the goodies you receive at each member level. Or just look in your wallet, see how much spare change you have, and then click the appropriate button below. I’m appreciative for anything you can give — and for those who can’t give anything, thanks for continuing to read and comment and share and give purpose to this site. I like to think it’s had at least some impact over the last — wait, has it really been almost 20 years? Crap, I’d better come up with some really cool swag for 2018…




Send money to Field of Schemes, I send you stuff! Just like a stadium deal, only you get stuff!

It’s been quite a year, 2016, both in the stadium world — from St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke turning up his nose at a $477 million stadium subsidy offer to go build his own stadium in Los Angeles, to the sad, hilarious Hartford Yard Goats endless road trip saga, to the city of Arlington voting to give the Texas Rangers owners $500 million to build a new stadium because their 22-year-old one lacked air-conditioning. (I think there may have been something else of import that happened on Election Day, too, but it’s escaping me at the moment.) I also published a new book, and got a new job. So, it’s been a busy time.

With this year finally winding down, that means it’s time for my semi-annual site supporters’ drive, where you send me money so I can keep on doing what I do here and I send you various tangible and intangible goodies. For 2017, the tchotchke tally will amount to:

  • Full supporters ($100 for one year, $50 for six months) continue to get a free banner ad at the top right-hand corner of this site — either supply your own 250×90 image, or I can design one for you. I reserve the right to reject inappropriate or inaccurate messages, though that’s never happened yet.
  • All full supporters will now receive a signed paperback copy of my new book The Brooklyn Wars, which features much investigation of my home borough’s new basketball arena and minor-league baseball stadium and their effect on development, plus other tales of the evolution of the world’s trendiest borough.
  • Everyone, including both full supporters and $25 mini-supporters, gets: a one-inch members-only pin (pictured at right); two limited-edition sets of stadium trading cards (one now, the other when I finish it, which will be real soon now I promise); and a reprint of issue #9 of Brooklyn Metro Times, the self-published zine containing the article by myself and Joanna Cagan that sent us down the road to our book and this site. Plus an electronic copy of The Brooklyn Wars in PDF, ePub, or Kindle format.

And if that’s not enough, you also get the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that I can take the time to keep bringing you daily news about the gotta-laugh-to-keep-from-crying world of stadium subsidies, which seems determined to keep on going indefinitely, despite a lot of people’s best efforts to declare it terminally stupid. And my eternal thanks, which I really do mean from the bottom of my heart — news blogging can be a lonely enterprise, and hearing from you all via your comments and emails and tweets and Grants and Benjamins helps me remember that this is important to you all, and that hopefully I’m performing a useful service by providing the latest news and analysis and a place to make crappy Simpsons-reference jokes about it.

Click the button below if you care to begin or renew a supporters’ subscription. And if you pay with Paypal, please remember to enter your mailing address under instructions, so that I can send you stuff without having to ask. (Who am I kidding — nobody is going to remember, and I’ll just email you. That’s fine.)

Thanks, have a happy holidays, and see you back here shortly with more news.

UPDATE: If you were having any trouble with the payment button earlier, try again — it should be working now.