Double Jointed

Neale's (1964) "The Peculiar Economics of Professional Sports" is a classic in sport management, whose main contribution to the field lies in describing the nature of the professional sport product and how it contributes to a professional sports league's existence as a natural monopoly. It makes particular use of term "product joint", which describes how two firms (the teams playing in a sporting match) combine to produce a single product, namely, the sporting match itself.

Basically, in selling the sporting match to the consumer, one was selling the uncertainty of the game outcome: that is, sporting fans paid to see a decision of Truth, a determination of who was the winner and who was the loser. This is why the concept of a tie is so alien and distasteful in American sport: consumers don't feel they have received full value for their money. The American sporting establishment, with its linear mindset, has historically been focused on outcome rather than process, and if no (valid) outcome has been reached (ie. a tie), then the consumer leaves disgruntled with their "purchase".

This is one reason why soccer has never fully taken off in the United States (or Canada, for that matter). The paucity of goals and plethora of draws forces the fan to become an aficionado of the aesthetic process — which is no problem for the non-linear pre- and post-literate cultures around the rest of the world, but which presents a significant challenge to the linear-minded, production-oriented norteamericanos.

Process takes on a different meaning in North American sport, as savvy sport managers have decided that too much wastage occurs on the shop floor. Thus, efficiencies are sought in order to capture byproducts of the uncertainty-of-outcome process and turn them into saleable products of their own. These byproducts are the images and information that are produced by the athletes during each game, and which then move upstream for the manufacture of highlight videos, fantasy leagues, and videogames.

Thus, the "double jointed" nature of professional sport today: two different firms (the competing franchises) co-operate to jointly produce an uncertainty-of-outcome, and in doing so, execute a joint production model in which two different outputs (the uncertain outcome and the digital information stream) result from the one process.

Of course, other production technologies such as television cameras and broadband networks are required to capture the digital information output, move it upstream, and convert it into something saleable. In this light, professional sport resembles many other industrial-age manufacturing processes. The difference, however, is this: in the material age of industrial manufacturing, an input may only be used once, but in the semiurgic age of post-industrialism, the digital information stream may be used over and over, copied and pasted, and generally recombined ad infinitum into various forms to suit the myriad "needs" of the consumer.


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