TCS Daily


Big Dance, Billions Lost?

By Josh Hendrickson - March 17, 2006 12:00 AM

March Madness is upon us. If you are like me, you have likely spent an exorbitant amount of time filling out the brackets for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Although I have long realized that I will never master the art of picking all the correct teams, I never thought that I could possibly be hurting the economy. However, a recent study shows that avid sports fans are costing U.S. companies billions of dollars in lost productivity. Could they be right?

Various news outlets such as the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Associated Press and others have cited a study by the Chicago-based firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas that estimates that U.S. companies will lose $3.8 billion dollars in wages due to lost productivity during the NCAA Tournament.

The study is based on a Gallup poll that showed that 41 percent of Americans were college basketball fans. The firm then used this percentage to calculate the number of fans in the total workforce. Further, the study finds that during the tournament the average visit to ESPN.com is 13.5 minutes. Therefore, using the average hourly wage from the Bureau of Labor Statistics the firm finds that $237 million is lost for every 13.5 minutes. In addition, the firm notes that the tournament takes place over 16 business days and therefore results in a total loss of $3.8 billion.

The study is interesting, but I have my doubts.

The first eye-catching detail was just the sheer magnitude of the loss. A loss of $3.8 billion is equivalent to 0.033785% of GDP. Although this may seem to be a small percentage, it is a major loss considering it comes as a result of following basketball games.

The second problem with the study is its methodology. The study points out that the tournament lasts for 16 business days. While this may be true, there are actually only five business days in which games are played. Some may argue that many workers could spend time filling out their brackets in the three days leading up to the tournament. Even so, this would still only extend the total business days to eight, which is half of the firm's claim.

What's more, during the tournament there are other sports-related events taking place that might drive traffic to ESPN.com, including baseball spring training. As this is the time when fans are trying to determine, among other things, their fantasy baseball teams, it means that March Madness might not be responsible for all that time spent online.

The final major problem with the study is the assumptions it makes regarding work habits. The average visitor to ESPN.com may spend 13.5 minutes checking tournament results, but is there any evidence that these people are doing so at work? Even if that were the case, we have little reason to believe that this time is unique to three weeks in March. In other words, workers that spend time surfing the Web for the latest news on college basketball during March may be viewing other things online throughout the year. In addition, it may be possible for workers to make up for lost time at some other point in the day. Similarly, some workers may have moments of downtime in which case zero-productivity would be lost.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to put my work aside to read up on the Texas-Penn matchup.

Josh Hendrickson runs the blog The Everyday Economist.

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7 Comments

I find this who idea funny
Hey Joanie,
Your point is right on, but I think there is a lot more going on here. First off who cares; as long as overall output remains strong. Second, how many of the 41% actually checked on ESPN.com? Sounds like a smokescreen report to try and end sports hype in the workplace.
I'm not sure why this is an issue at all, but I would be interested in knowing the behind-the-scenes reason for a study like this.
Is some productivity lost? I'm sure it is. Probably very little however.

Later,
Paul

P.S. I do a lot of research on the internet, including trying to figure out if Montana has any chance of beating Boston College to get to the Sweet 16; and I am doing this from work ;)

Something deeper at 'work'
On a local sports radio station, I occasionally call in to the morning sports-heads. When the screener asks my name, I always tell them it's 'Dodgeball'.

The first time I called, they asked me why I was using the name 'Dodgeball'.

I told them it was in protest over the decisions at several schools to replace Dodgeball in gym class with 'line dancing', and other 'non-violent, non-competitive activities'.

It has long been my theory that the losers in school decades ago, the ones who would sullenly stand on the sidelines in gym class while others participated in Dodgeball and countless other fun childhood games like Tetherball, Kickball, Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, Soccer, etc etc, and during those same formative years, engendered within themselves a deep self-loathing and lack of self-esteem, grew up and managed to get themselves, en masse, employed in the education profession.

It is those same people who have carried around decades' worth of hate-filled grudges against the 'sports' which 'made them feel like such losers in school', who are now in charge of policy in educational circles.

This goes a long way to explaining why evil concepts such as competition and sports activities are systematically being assassinated in our schools.

From the same vein, I think, comes this 'study'.

It was clearly created with an agenda against sports, to a degree, but primarily against sports *fans*.

Since such a study will be completely ignored by those who create such annual sports-fests as the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and will have no effect on them whatsoever, the only potential result would be punitive measures against the fans of the sport themselves.

One can almost hear the gleeful cackle of the revenge-minded dolts who created and supported this 'study', wringing their hands with the joyful prospect of all those awful jock-lovers getting canned at work, or suddenly finding themselves reprimanded by the boss, or perhaps finding sports IP addresses blocked.

Shame on them for trying to make everyone else as miserable as they themselves are.

Ooohhhh, harsh…
And, unfortunately, I agree. at least it makes some sense.

Big Dance, Billions Lost
Does the study assume everyone in the work force that is a basketball fan has access to a workplace computer? There are an awful lot of outside workers that are sports fans.

Appearantly so, yes
That is one of many reasons this is so much bull!

Challenger Gray and Christmas- Inspiration for Dilbert Cartoons
The very fact that CG&C has the time to ponder whether other people are busy is a little hypocritical, but beyond that, this really is symptomatic of unenlightened management. Honestly, its highly doubtful that they could even begin to estimate this loss with any accuracy or precision and so its nothing but mindless speculation.

When I used to work in a large global insurer, they all lapped up "reengineering" like cats at a bowl of cream and then proceeded to set "reasonable expectations" for everything-which for one troll meant establishing bathroom break time standards, which fortunately was discontinued when the troll's manager cut off this absurd excess.

It would be sad, if it weren't so amusing that the stupid morons that dream up stuff like this don't seem to understand that having a bright, creative workforce means that they will at times be distracted by interesting things.

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