Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest Post: Gladwell + Grantland = about what you'd expect

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a post for Grantland recently discussing the NBA Lockout situation. As with most Gladwell articles the findings from a psychological study are cherry-picked and used to explain something else. Analogies are also used.

In this article Gladwell explains that owning a sports team isnt like other businesses, because the owners get enjoyment out of ownership. He says that owning a sports team has a "psychic value" above and beyond the "business value" of the team. Because of that, buying a team is more like piece of art, part of the price one pays goes towards the enjoyment of it and a purchaser shouldn't expect to make money off his investment:

But of course an owner is only losing money if he values the psychic benefits of owning an NBA franchise at zero — and if you value psychic benefits at zero, then you shouldn't own an NBA franchise in the first place. You should sell your "business" — at what is sure to be a healthy premium — to someone who actually likes basketball.

I would agree that owning a basketball team is really fun. But lots of jobs seem pretty fun. Steve Jobs seems to enjoy walking out on stage and showing off the new iPhone but that doesnt mean he deserves to get paid less. I bet that being a writer for the New Yorker would be pretty cool but you don't see Gladwell giving his books away. I like writing this blog post but I wouldn't be opposed if 4:17am editor Will paid me for my contribution. Most importantly, playing basketball for a living against the best players in the world seems like it would be a lot of fun, but I dont see Gladwell arguing that the players should take a reduction in pay or quit basketball and get jobs hanging light fixtures, painting ceilings and helping people get goods from the highest shelves at the supermarket.

Some jobs are fun, some jobs suck. Im sure this is incorporated in some way into compensation but the idea that NBA owners are unique in this regard is wrong.

I generally am against the owners in the lockout situation. The teams value's are increasing and losses of revenue are because of mismanagement not players salaries. But, "owning a team is fun so suck it up and take the loss" isn't a good argument.

1 comment:

  1. "Analogies are also used" may be the best summary of Gladwell's writing style I've ever heard