Why do sports contests have such a unique propensity to engage- and even inspire- us? Is this a phenomenon unique to the past few decades, or has this always been the case? EconTalk host Russ Roberts sat down with Matthew Futterman, author of Players: The Story of Sports and Money and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution.

Arnold Palmer and Roger Staubach both had side jobs while they were professional athletes…Why don’t Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady have to do the same today? What are you looking forward to seeing from the upcoming Olympics in Rio- the events themselves, or Bob Costas’s commentary?


1. What is the nature of the “real revolution” that Futterman argues has occurred in professional sports over the last thirty years or so? How has it changed the experience of sports for the fans? Is this change for the good? What do you think the next 30 years will bring?2. Futterman suggests that we judge young “prodigies” in sports more harshly than those in the arts. As he says, more “parental judginess” is expended on the kid who enrolls in a tennis academy and practice all day than the kid in the conservatory playing piano all day. Do you feel the same about both of these examples?

3. Futterman and Roberts spend a good deal of time discussing the role story-telling plays in sports- be it Michael Jordan’s Nike commercials or the human interest stories ubiquitous in Olympics broadcasts. How do you feel about the “humanization” of sports? Does it add to or detract from the experience of sports? Explain.

4. How is the world of professional sports today reflective of the increased prosperity we all enjoy?