The textbooks will also provide some memorable examples of how enterprising individuals and groups circumvent US
anti-scalping laws. For example, Michael Leeds and Peter von Allmen (authors of The Economics of Sports) describe the situation where University of Michigan students would be seen walking around campus prior to popular football games with a ticket in one hand and a pencil in the other hand. Prospective purchasers could buy the ticket for its face value of $15 if they also bought the pencil. The pencil would then be sold for the difference between the €15 and what the person was willing to pay. If someone was willing to pay $100 then they got the ticket for $15 and the pencil for $85.
Sandel devotes a large part of his fifth and final chapter to the commercialisation of sport. He begins by describing how, as a twelve year old, he followed his beloved Minnesota Twins to the World Series in 1965. He then goes on to explain how things have changed over the intervening time period. There is the selling of autographs. There is the naming rights to so many aspects of the game, e.g. ballparks, shirts, home runs, a slide to safety at home base, and player’s at bat. There is the use of Skyboxes (Corporate boxes). Sandel also questions the “Moneyball” approach to baseball. He says “Moneyball made baseball more efficient, in the economist’s sense of the term. But did it make it better? Probably not.”
Sandel ends his book with a section called ‘Skyboxification’ and he say that the more things that we allow money to buy the more it erodes the commonality of the experience. He says that Skyboxes represent a “loss not only to those looking up but to those looking down”. Sandel would probably see some merit in the way the GAA allocates its tickets. The search for tickets does tend to build social capital as people draw on their social networks. A ticket is supplied in return for a future ticket. Even the indirect commercialisation by GAA clubs mobilises the voluntary effort of the club members as ticket sellers. This is something we might keep in mind as we bemoan the lack of a few more tickets that we would be more than willing to pay for.