The Situationist

Homo economicus at the Ballpark

Posted by Adam Benforado on October 12, 2011


Looking at ESPN.com on Monday evening, as I watched the once lowly Detroit Lions continue their strange journey to respectability, I came across a survey:

Which of these NFL teams, currently under .500, has the best chance of making the playoffs?

Eagles (1-4)

Falcons (2-3)

Jets (2-3)

Personally, I don’t think any of these teams are going to make the playoffs.  But what was fascinating about the results was that ESPN recorded the responses by state and there were stark differences as you moved around the country.  New York was the only state in the entire nation to think that the Jets had the best chance of making the playoffs, Pennsylvania had the highest percentage of votes cast for the Eagles of any jurisdiction, and the Falcons fared the best in Georgia.

This got me wondering: If humans were the rational actors of neoclassical economics would we have professional sports?

I posit that the answer is no.

Without naïve realism, optimism bias, confirmation bias, and countless other cognitive quirks, I never would have stuck with the Redskins all of these years or suffered through countless disappointing Liverpool matches and Wizards games.

Only a human being — a situational character — could have stayed a fan.

A computer would soon have decided to spend Sunday afternoons gardening or learning Spanish.

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