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10:03 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Economy Rundown: Sports, The Economy And Economists

Football season is over. The Cardinals are still in Spring Training. St. Louis has no NBA to entertain us. The Olympics were fun while they lasted, but they took St. Louis Blues hockey away from us (until Wednesday). And we still don’t have a Major League Soccer team here. It's fair to say, the region is in a bit of a professional sports slump right now. And what have we been doing to endure the lull?

We went into panic mode over one of our teams: the Rams.

For a few years now, Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke has been at loggerheads with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors bureau over upgrading the Rams' current home, the Edward Jones Dome. Then, in January, word got out that Kroenke bought 60 acres of land in the Los Angeles area. Sixty acres is enough for a football stadium; and Los Angles has been trying to attract an NFL team for years. So for most people, it wasn’t a stretch to assume that Kroenke is looking to move the Rams back to Southern California.

But, Kroenke and the NFL are playing down that prospect– sort of. Bloomberg reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said:

“Stan is a very large developer on a global basis,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference in New York today. “He has land throughout the country and throughout the world. He has kept us informed of it. We’re aware of it. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development. Anything that would require any kind of stadium development requires multiple votes of the membership.”

Football fans aren’t the only ones who noticed

Do you know what else would fit nicely on a 60-acre plot of land? A soccer stadium. And do you know who enjoys owning all kinds of sports teams, not just NFL? Stan Kroenke, who owns the Colorado Rapids. And do you know what major league sports organization has an extra team on their hands? The MLS. It recently bought Chivas USA for a reported $25 million and is looking for a home for team.

So, while St. Louis NFL fans were worrying that Kroenke was going to send the Rams back to LA, MLS fans were wringing their hands that Kroenke would overlook St. Louis as an MLS destination and instead expand his soccer holdings by buying the Chivas.

But Major League Soccer is not keen on that idea. MLS Commissioner Don Garber made it clear last week that one team per person is enough. The league doesn’t want owners to have more than one team.

St. Louis soccer enthusiasts were relieved to hear that news. As well as news that some key figures in St. Louis Soccer are looking for a way to get professional soccer to our region. Not Major League Soccer, perhaps. But professional nonetheless.

Last week, Maria Altman reported that the owners of the regions two amateur leagues are joining forces to bring a professional team to St. Louis … United Soccer League professional team.

As Maria explains it, there is a clear benefit of having a USL pro team here: “The Lions and Ambush would remain in St. Louis. Glavin said both teams would feed into a USL pro team. In turn, the pro team would feed into an MLS franchise.”

So, there’s football and soccer. Baseball returns to the Arch City on April 7. The Blues, as I mentioned, resume skating on Wednesday.

All of this impacts our economy, by the way, and not just because the teams sell merchandise that generates tax revenue. There are all kinds of ways that sports is a boon to the economy and a panel discussion on "Stay Tuned," on the Nine Network explored the question quite thoroughly

The fantasy of it all

You know what kind of sport hasn’t abated this whole time? Fantasy. Specifically, the IDEAS Fantasy Economics League.

The Federal Reserve Bank here in St. Louis tried to pull the fantasy league off as an April Fool’s joke last year. But either economists failed to see the joke, or they decided the idea was too fun. The joke's instigator turned the league into a reality and it's since become almost as popular as fantasy football. Actually, it’s not anywhere near that popular (a really interesting article in Forbes says 32 million people play fantasy football and credits the Fantasy Sports Trade Association for that whopping figure).

Still, when I read about the IDEA Fantasy Economics League, I simply had to share the news.

According to Business Insider, people can create “teams” of economists – or pretend like they’re assembling their dream economics department. They bid on economists who hold promise to do great things, such as publishing valuable research, being cited in other economists papers, gaining international acclaim and maybe even winning the Nobel Prize in Economics.

“Players are given a random draw of economists distributed across the rankings. There's no "draft" and there's no real season — academia never starts and stops. Departments have 30 slots but only 20 can be activated for scoring, so everyone else rides the bench.’

The regulations are fairly Spartan, but some key rules are very important: You can’t own dead economists; you can have yourself on your roster; and no real money is exchanged.