Friday, April 02, 2010

Diaspora Economics: Sports

When real Pittsburghers refer to the diaspora of football fans, they say "Steeler Nation". Since I'm one of those bandwagon folks who have no real connection to the city, I say "Steelers Nation". Typically, I explore what that phenomenon means for Pittsburgh and other Rust Belt cities. But there is another side to the story at the other end of the migration:

Hawks guard Jamal Crawford makes the case that support for visiting teams is due to the significant number of transplants in Atlanta. Crawford was on the other end of that equation when he played for the Knicks, who were supported by relocated New Yorkers in several cities.

Will it motivate the Hawks if the Lakers get too many cheers in their arena?

“We will have our fans in there, too,” Crawford said. “It will be like one of those boxing matches where the same place is kind of divided. I am sure it will be a lot of fun.”

Atlanta has a reputation as a lousy sports town. The fan culture is largely an import from other cities, usually in the Rust Belt. But the business model for franchises there is local. Boomtowns are just as guilty for outdated frameworks as shrinking cities.

Atlanta is a great sports towns. Many athletes from teams all over the country live there in the off-season. It is America's domestic diaspora center, built up by people from elsewhere. Instead of lamenting the lack of homefield advantage, the region should embrace it. No sense trying to convince the natives to come out to the ball game. Most of them have left.

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