What We Are Reading Today: Hard Ball: The Abuse of Power in Pro Team Sports

Updated 13 December 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Hard Ball: The Abuse of Power in Pro Team Sports

  • In Hard Ball, James Quirk and Rodney Fort take on a daunting challenge: Explaining exactly how things have gotten to this point and proposing a way out

Authors: James Quirk & Rodney Fort

What can possibly account for the strange state of affairs in professional sports today? There are billionaire owners and millionaire players, but both groups are constantly squabbling over money. Many pro teams appear to be virtual “cash machines,” generating astronomical annual revenues, but their owners seem willing to uproot them and move to any city willing to promise increased profits. 

At the same time, mayors continue to cook up “sweetheart deals” that lavish benefits on wealthy teams while imposing crushing financial hardships on cities that are already strapped with debt. To fans today, professional sports teams often look more like professional extortionists.   

In Hard Ball, James Quirk and Rodney Fort take on a daunting challenge: Explaining exactly how things have gotten to this point and proposing a way out. They are writing for sports fans who are trying to make sense out of the perplexing world of pro team sports. It is not money, in itself, that is the cause of today’s problems, they assert.

In fact, the real problem stems from one simple fact: Pro sports are monopolies that are fully sanctioned by the US government. Eliminate the monopolies, say Quirk and Fort, and all problems can be solved. If the monopolies are allowed to persist, so will today’s woes.


What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

Updated 19 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

  • New book demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.

What accounts for the rise of the state, the creation of the first global system, and the dominance of the West? The conventional answer asserts that superior technology, tactics, and institutions forged by Darwinian military competition gave Europeans a decisive advantage in war over other civilizations. 

In contrast, Empires of the Weak argues that Europeans actually had no general military superiority in the early modern era. J.C. Sharman shows instead that European expansion from the late 15th to the late 18th centuries is better explained by deference to strong Asian and African polities, diseases in the Americas, and maritime supremacy earned by default because local land-oriented polities were largely indifferent to war and trade at sea. Europeans were overawed by the mighty Eastern empires of the day, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Bringing a revisionist perspective to the idea that Europe ruled the world due to military dominance, Empires of the Weak demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.