ABOUT THIS EPISODE

For soccer fans, it's easy. For the rest of us? Not so much, especially since the U.S. team didn't qualify. So here's what to watch for even if you have no team to root for. Because the World Cup isn't just a gargantuan sporting event; it's a microcosm of human foibles and (yep) economic theory brought to life.

English
United States

TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00for coming to radio is supported by progressive here's a lesson on car insurance drivers to switch to progressive can save an average of six hundred and sixty eight dollars a year on the car insurance bundling home and auto can save money to get a quote online and start
00:00:15saving visit progressive dot com for economics radios supported by swell investing in impact investing platform invest in high growth companies solving today's biggest challenges like clean water and renewable energy claim a fifty dollar bonus through swell investing dot com slash freak the World Cup is a global clicked
00:00:39it's been cold that just cast its shadow across the whole world for an entire month at the same time everywhere apart from America that's Roger Bennett what's he do for a living more infos me the same question I sit in front of a television what she'll love football
00:00:56and show to that television think it will impact events as Evan filling thousands of miles from me it grew up in Liverpool but he's pretty American by now in fact he just became a citizen I arrived here right before the nineteen ninety four World Cup how you market
00:01:11by the world cups and yeah I'm all my whole life that if they give me the spelling of my whole way whenever someone gives me a year a measly back it up now the neighbors will cut but I'm able to locate myself my emotional memory by the neighbors
00:01:23will come Bennett is co host of men in Blazers a podcast and TV enterprise devoted to the sport known as well it depends here's another brit turned American Stephens mine ski well everybody in America calls it soccer and a lot of people think that this is a word
00:01:42that comes from the United States but actually is an English word coined in the eighteen nineties at Oxford university and up until the nineteen seventies it was a perfectly acceptable would however in recent years Brits have decided that they think so because a terrible word and that you
00:02:00Americans should stop using it and stop calling it football instead and that's completely absurd okay back to Roger Bennett he's also the host of a new podcast about the nineteen ninety eight U. S. men's national team woman that they thought they were going to win the World Cup
00:02:18the next minute they were humiliated this new podcast that the old team is called American fiasco but even Roger Bennett soccer savant couldn't have known how well that title would fit this year's US team for the first time since nineteen eighty six this year's team failed to qualify
00:02:37for the World Cup finals this did not go over well in the American soccer community this is an utter embarrassment its final qualifier the U. S. needed only tie with the amount of money that is a major league soccer in the sport you can't get a draw I
00:02:55needed a tie against Trinidad and Tobago the big take away is we should stop playing two countries at the same time never again should we play Trinidad and Tobago one of the time let's take baby steps Bennett's kidding of course Trinidad Tobago really is one country whose population
00:03:12is about one six of new Jersey's so yes this was another American fiasco though maybe even worse for the American broadcasters carrying this year's World Cup yes there are plenty of people in the U. S. will be rooting for France in Mexico Brazil and Germany even first time
00:03:32qualifiers Panama an excellent but Fox Sports without an American team to show during the month long tournament has had to figure out a clever way to attract the domestic audience to tune into foreign teams so they unleashed a marketing campaign with twenty three in me cold root for
00:03:49your roots that said even if you're an American with little interest in soccer there are so many reasons to catch World Cup fever this year and we'll ask some economists why yes economist one reason is that actually probably more people care in developing nations about this national soccer
00:04:08team than the fate of the national economy well one thing that we looked at was the home field advantage and we thought well let's put it to the data and see if in fact it's true if you are in now in swimming at you need to have a
00:04:21country rich enough to address we pulls out but in Sakay you can be trade on that piece of ducks out with the ball then there's the fact that with the tournament held in Russia several times in the head of us it's simply a great chance to shake up
00:04:36your daily routine warm the your ring possibility for any American you know if you are in a ball at seven o'clock in the morning with a Budweiser society frowns on that right Stephen did not just happen if you in that same ball without saying Budweiser and on the
00:04:52television Spadina playing Portugal in the opening group game of the World Cup well you football fan you a football fan from W. NYC studios this is Freakonomics radio podcast that explores the hidden side of everything here's your host Stephen governor every four years soccer teams from across the
00:05:31globe gather to compete for the sport's biggest trophy the World Cup historically the Americans have been brilliant winning three of the past seven world cups never finishing worse than third the American women that is the men's national team not so hot the US is never finished higher than
00:05:50eighth except for nineteen thirty the very first World Cup when we finished third and this year as noted we failed to make the thirty two team field but don't worry the rest of the world will hardly notice the World Cup is a staggering phenomenon the two thousand fourteen
00:06:08men's final Germany beating Argentina in Brazil was watched by one billion people about ten times more than the Superbowl the sport has been growing in the U. S. among players and fans attendance at major league soccer games last year averaged twenty two thousand some people are concerned that
00:06:26the American failure to qualify for this year's World Cup could endanger that growth Roger Bennett thinks that's nonsense you know when England too badly spot we feel bad but we we live no one in the wake of a sale Mike called let's get going to do to the
00:06:41future of soccer in England Italy didn't qualify for this will come to Chile noted the Netherlands no one's feelings what's geek it's going to affect the popularity of the very game I hate Americans are going to realize they just love the World Cup for its own sake not
00:06:57purely because of the self interest of the American team there are after all so many story lines in this year's World Cup Rendell day messy the Herero it Icelandic story the kind of proof bowl roster of the Belgian team we have spoiler alert one of the three when
00:07:14is this hill Spain would you have any one of these three is going to win it got the African challenge got the intricacies of some of the incredibly organized passionate teams from coming from Asia South Korea while another reason to watch familial bonding that's how it works in
00:07:30my house my name is Solomon doubler I am a co host of the deferred till and I'm the biggest and youngest benefactor of nepotism and the broadcasting world yes that's my son mesa CSCO forty for two is the soccer podcast we make together basically Solomon extols the virtues
00:07:48of his favorite club team Barcelona in schools me in the intricacies of the world's most popular sport so for for two is a traditional English direct football for Mason says it with more physicality than technical ability Kay and in Spain is gonna look down upon the most technical
00:08:06tactical intrinsically it's looked down on as kind of too muscular glass football not enough brains are taking ability but never has made a beautiful I think we're playing beautiful bought today word of anyway he's really looking forward to the World Cup I'm ten for excitement but I would
00:08:25be a higher ten or eleven at the US is in it and mother Russia in mother Russia the homeland it's because of land I think America is at this point yeah and who would you say the outright favorite to win the World Cup there are four teams up
00:08:39in that category I'm Spain they have said the pedigree they have a great team France great team I think the two young Brazil is a great team because anti day and then the obvious they were to Germany and they have a great team they all know each other
00:08:52well your do you love is a great coach and they are the reigning champions could go for against them Solomon like Roger Bennett appreciates the many story lines beyond the winning Iceland is gonna be there was fun ever in private talks that if you were about ice in
00:09:08the years that we were at at one game eight percent of ISIS populations in the stadium what pretty awesome awesome perhaps but also intriguing how does Iceland country with a population of roughly three hundred and thirty thousand people make it to the World Cup in the U. S.
00:09:26with nearly three hundred thirty million doesn't they have hold wide that country to produce phenomenal collective football players invested heavily in training facilities they invested heavily intensely in the league coaching they have been in a ridiculous number of a loony cages per capita I know the the manager
00:09:47of the national team at least until recently was also a part time dentist he was aiming at home with her since I first could friend of mine have you ever had him do any work on you at you know the idea of what she can do root canal
00:09:59and I'll stay in white de you keep as an internet somebody keep doing part time dentistry and he said the other managers blow off steam by hunting other guys gamble he said I do root canals like I was a moral so I guess one's presence in the World
00:10:16Cup can be explained by a shrewd investments in coaching and shrewd steam blowing by its manager but could also be explained by economic theory definition minds he is one of many economists around the world to study soccer is co author of the excellent two thousand nine books soccer
00:10:34comics nice title there Frendo which has been updated for this World Cup as well as a new ebook called it's football not soccer and vice versa I understand you used to write about things like the cost of garbage collection and the labor market hierarchies %HESITATION why'd you stop
00:10:53that and how do you get away with this nobody read my papers on garbage collection as wonderful as they were and %HESITATION everybody seems interested in any old garbage I write about soccer one of my skis recent papers is called convergence verses the middle income trap the case
00:11:11of global soccer so convergence is the idea that for a countries will end up catching up economically with richer countries simply because they offer it in a sense better investment opportunities so that's an economic theory what is the evidence that that fury is at least somewhat true well
00:11:31there's good evidence at the level all say the United States itself so there's been convergence amongst the states of the United States over more than a hundred years there's also good support for this amongst developed nations and the nations of the Far East where these fools download has
00:11:50tended to be some of the poorer nations particularly in Africa and what can you just give a sense of what sort of I guess magnitude of convergence or to what degree should convergence be complete well a lot of countries start a very very long way behind so even
00:12:10China with growth rates of ten percent plus for twenty plus years this still considerably poorer on a per capita basis the United States so this is a sort of process that we're talking about over decades and possibly centuries role other than in terms of you know ten years
00:12:27or so and you argued that this sector in which convergence between nation seems very very very strong is manufacturing yes right and one reason for that might be that manufacturing is something that is easily copied and transferred across the world and often you can buy the equipment and
00:12:45machinery that you need to make it happen where some of the more intangible things about education and social structures postings a holder to copy and not take much longer to catch up with and what does all this have to do with or have in common with soccer well
00:13:04most studies of convergence are about GDP per capita income and that's one of the few statistics for which we have because for every country in the world going back many decades and to study convergence you need many decades of data what other statistics do we have that would
00:13:23we simply have all nations what will probably the results of international soccer games he's the only other thing for which we have complete records going back sixty seventy years and so talk about looking at historic GDP data and historical soccer data through the lens of convergence and what
00:13:41did the results tell you what's the first thing to say about comparing socket data with GDP data raise soccer date is way better it's fall more reliable so we know who won the game and there is no real argument about that wears GDP boy you know even further
00:13:57developed nations there's always some and margin of error of what we found when we look for convergence in the socket data was something that has never really been found in the GDP data which is something called unconditional convergence switches just to say it's very clear in the data
00:14:15that the countries with the worst results on getting better catching up with the countries with the better results and that's regardless of any other factors the tool that's that's not something you find the GDP you're saying it's easier to catch up in soccer then in your economy why
00:14:35is that one reason is that actually probably more people care in developing nations about this national soccer team than the fate of the national economy that's how can that be I mean well the the the the sock at the V. something concrete and real and it's there on
00:14:52your TV or watching it where is the best economy is a sort of abstract concept anybody come home saying all I did a great job for the national economy today I feel really good about that no but you do come home saying I don't have enough money to
00:15:05pay my light bill rate so hope right but that that depends on the nature of the economic structure in the nature of the economic relationship so I think many of these underlying economic conditions have a significant impact on whether you can get goods and services and most of
00:15:20that is not really relevant to the development of the national soccer team the the players play you see who the good ones are they immediately you don't get an example where the president of the country pays the bride so that his son could play of the national soccer
00:15:35team that's that's not the sort of thing that's going to work right and how does that contribute to soccer being easier to improve so I think people are focused on if the team does well they they know who who's responsible for that and likewise when you do badly
00:15:50I think it's difficult to conceal the fact and that is the road action must be taken heads must roll so there's a natural process of weeding out pool performance and %HESITATION encouraging good performance if you want to build a soccer team that's going to be internationally competitive you
00:16:06need to find the finest players in your country and that's a process of selection that is not quite so trivial I think and if you want to isn't examples of countries where that stood out to prove really challenging if not impossible think of India and China you know
00:16:23I want to ask you India and China have a combined population of I guess about two point seven billion neither of them are in this World Cup China has qualified I think for exactly one World Cup in its history India has never played in one and yet they
00:16:37have more people in their countries than the rest of the thirty two qualifying teams combined by more than a billion so so turns out that having the raw materials is not as simple as it sounds right it's certainly true that the nations of the more populous tend to
00:16:55win more games than nations that are less popular a clearly translating that potential into competitive teams is actually a little bit more challenging than one might think alright so you found that convergence is happening in soccer perhaps more robustly then in national economy so how if at all
00:17:15will this inform the way you watch the World Cup and perhaps inform the way the rest of us watch it well one of the things I think is firstly take account of the economic characteristics of the nations that are competing with those disparities matter and that has an
00:17:30effect on what the likely outcomes will be but then also think about who's getting better and who the dough because it might be said for example one team I think a lot of us are now looking at the summaries Egypt which is again not a team that is
00:17:46traditionally done that well of you see an African nation as well but they look like they're producing quite a lot of good players but I think I will see some interesting teams like that comes through pipes produce some surprising results international soccer is historically full of surprising results
00:18:09including the very sight of the World Cup and how the site was chosen by FIFA the sport's international governing body the two thousand twenty two tournament for example will be held in Qatar a tiny country the nominal soccer presence in a summer climate is so inhospitable that the
00:18:28tournament had be shifted to winter time which will disrupt league calendars around the world curious what about this year's site Russia it is not on the list of most brotherly nations these days how did it get the World Cup well I'd like to tell you a lot in
00:18:43great detail about this but the computers on which all the records of that bit was stored were mysteriously lost by the Russians way in FIFA conducted an investigation into alleged corruption surrounding the bids and Russia was one of the few countries acquitted of any corruption largely because all
00:19:02the evidence can destroyed most people believe that Russia secure this by corrupt means that certainly wouldn't be a first we know pretty much corruption took place in the secure in the two thousand ten two thousand and six world cups and even more of the twenty twenty two World
00:19:22Cup which is due to take place in Qatar FIFA is infamous for cronyism and corruption on a grand scale occasionally this leads to repercussions charges and arrests of FIFA officials fourteen people including high ranking officials leaders of regional bodies in total forty seven different counts that include racketeering
00:19:44and money laundering and the New York at a news conference suggested this has been going on for two decades in there are many forms of corruption which operating FIFA but in terms of securing the World Cup usually it seems to have been a vote a matter of money
00:20:00in envelopes at meetings with representatives so small federations remember the federation of sink it's a Nevis has one vote in the FIFA Congress just like the United States or Germany and hence there are lots of small countries with a lot of power and seemingly people who are on
00:20:22a less the scrupulous with them how they make the decisions took the awarding of the World Cup is susceptible to corruption what about the actual World Cup matches so I think the World Cup given that it's in the cross but FIFA is very susceptible to corruption but Simon
00:20:40Cooper a Financial Times columnist and shemenski soccer nam X. co author love soccer leagues are susceptible so in China or Bulgaria Greece there's a lot of match fixing that goes on and countries really want to win the World Cup so I do not find it unimaginable that some
00:21:00countries bribe FIFA officials to ensure that they get the right referee and %HESITATION win a World Cup match in two thousand and two you know there was this shocking game ready South Korea beat easily and the referee was seem incredibly by scan Cicely South Korea we should say
00:21:17with the co host of the two thousand two World Cup along with Japan he withheld a penalty he disallowed a good goal he sent an exemplar of and I thought well it's just you know referee being swayed by the home crowd there's nothing convene all about it but
00:21:33that guy Byron marina an Ecuadorean eight years later he was arrested arriving at JFK apples in New York and found to have a lot of heroin concealed in his underwear and then I thought you know what the guy's a criminal so who chose a criminal to officiate a
00:21:49World Cup match to make sure that the host one and that leaves you once to the belief I'm not normally a conspiracy theorist but I do think that there is quite a bit of skullduggery involved cops the easiest way to fix the results he's out to find a
00:22:05compliant referee now presumably one easy way to get around that would be to assign referees let's say last minute indoor secretly yes there is a bit of that %HESITATION but you might have a powerful guy who says look I really want to know who the referees going to
00:22:23be tell me and you tell him and then he finds the referee etcetera you can also fix teams because there's an enormous amount of money bet on every single World Cup match so it's worth the match fixes while to bribe a team to lose all to achieve a
00:22:40certain school often the bride will be mislead by three goals or mall and here is twenty thousand Bucks for each of you to make that happen this can be appealing to join him and play as in some of the week it seems you probably know what we can
00:22:52lose that game anyway away already knocks at the World Cup so Declan hill is a Canadian writers produce very compelling evidence that Brazil's three nailed victory over Ghana in two thousand and six was fixed Brazilian players knew nothing about it bit hill writes with quite a lot of
00:23:07evidence that some gunmen plays with fixed lease by three there's also the issue of how the World Cup bracket is drawn up especially which group a team gets placed into for the first round this has a big effect on that team the likelihood of advancing in the later
00:23:22rounds consider this year's draw rush's first round group Uruguay Saudi Arabia and Egypt has been calculated is I think the weakest first round group in the history of the tournament is it an amazing coincidence or did somebody take care of that they organize the groups by pulling pulls
00:23:39out of parts Roger Bennett again and then they organized which four teams play games each other what cities in which order upon the momentum blazes Michael Davis cut his teeth on quiz games working in the gray Merv Griffin and David will he says at this stage in our
00:23:56technological reality if you're still using pulls for any kind of it you'll be at a loss to reach rule they will cut droll you doing it for a reason and that reason is to fix the joy you can heat the bulls you can freeze the bowl so when
00:24:11that to the human touch yes and Russia oh my lord is in the easiest group if Russia were to win the World Cup what would you say are the odds that someone intervened with a briefcase of cash a loaded weapon it's at art center Russia all a hapless
00:24:31pathetic soaked the mountain as a guy born in England I knew half a specific kind of cutting because England more often than not fit into that category the World Cup is an incredibly grinding to a room where you need ten acetate you need skill you need incredible the
00:24:48dishes you need elements of luck Russia has the flu maybe the seventeen things you need to win at Russia's maybe two or complain of being very very kind they will not win it of and if they do win and you'll crazy scenario I think America a mole lightly
00:25:03to win the two thousand eighteen will come than Russia coming up after the break the real explanation for home field advantage so I don't think it's the whole thing but I think it's the largest part what makes the game's greatest player so great you have no idea which
00:25:24of these five options are going to choose and the geopolitics of the World Cup in Russia part of me is surprised that the world is now talking about boycotting the whole event that's coming up right after this economics radio is supported by swell investing in impact investing platform
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00:26:47twenty ninth two thousand eighteen terms and conditions apply for economic radio supported by L. G. O. LED four K. TV movies shows and more looks strikingly vibrant on the best TV ever it earned that title because each pixel turns completely off displaying a perfect black so an unmatched
00:27:07intense color stands out in now LG Oleg is complete with a I think QC your television becomes the hub for your connected smart devices stop by any video and audio center store or visit online for more information Luigi's in Dallas is a professor of finance at the university
00:27:28of Chicago among his specialty is the effect of corruption and cronyism on the economy he's also soccer fan has been since he was a kid in fact that I cried when my favorite team lost the derby and my mother banned me to watch soccer for a year as
00:27:46a punishment freezing Dallas one appeal of the sport is how a gala tearing it is if you are in now in swimming at you need to have a country rich enough to address we pulls because otherwise you can't really compete effectively out but in Sakay you can be
00:28:02trained on that piece of Dutch with the ball and and still being a model and you see that countries like homerun on Nigeria is certainly not reach by any standard but they have phenomena soccer teams we Aston dollars for his view on host country rushes week first round
00:28:21opposition in this year's World Cup if there are rules that allow the hosting team to choose a is a poor man's that's fine as long as a transparent but %HESITATION if they had done by the people inside the organization is not fine and is set up a toll
00:28:39at the top dad to reverberate down the line and I think that that this is %HESITATION the problem with that the soccer organization in my view so is in Dallas is no fan of FIFA but his antipathy has an economic angle soccer is so popular around the walls
00:28:57at that is basically no comparison in terms of support and as a a cachet a brand value we really really difficult to tarnish in fact that in spite of all the scandals we read about people still love soccer and is knocked out they match affected so I I
00:29:17think that that any have a monopoly of that size with that no we have controls because our at the organization is not really accountable to anybody in this year's way I think inevitably lead to favor ideas and some form Alva is to shut corruption whether this takes the
00:29:38form of a expressing violation of an old old taste that form of an extreme favoritism at some level ease irrelevant to the point is that that is not a fair game and that for a game that I would like to be fair and that if we gave as
00:29:58I said as the beauty of being intrinsically a fairly level playing field game having the organization that is unfair ease I think a capital crime by this time we probably made you fairly suspicious that there will be some shade innocent with a few World Cup matches especially involving
00:30:20the Russian team but let's say the Russian team or some other team does do much better than expected or does have a referee's call go their way is that necessarily the result of corruption or cronyism maybe not for this we turn to yet another soccer loving economists I'm
00:30:42to be Moskowitz some a professor of finance and economics at Yale University so you have won a really prestigious academic award is one of the top finance scholars in the world why why do you mess around with sports it's called tenure they they they can't they can't they
00:30:59can't fire me so a lot of what I study is is behavioral economics and how people make decisions when faced with a lot of uncertainty sports is just a really rich field to look at those kinds of things moscowitz is co author of a book called score casting
00:31:14which takes an empirical look at some of the standard decision making in sports in basketball does it really make sense to venture star player fees in foul trouble in football does it really make sense to punt on fourth and one from your own forty about facing the kicker
00:31:29is that work in his defense really win championships like the cliche says in a lot of cases Moskowitz found the conventional wisdom turns out to be not so why we hear more about that in whole sport series were just starting to work on now but some conventional wisdom
00:31:47is pretty true well one thing that we looked at was the home field advantage this is talked about throughout sports in almost every sport and we thought well let's put it to the data and see if in fact it's true and that's something that is true not only
00:32:00in every sport but every sport no matter where it's played what country and throughout history over time so that is a that is true that is a fact there is a strong home field advantage truth be told this wasn't so hard to figure out you basically look at
00:32:16the team's winning percentage at home verses on the road there were however some interesting wrinkles for one there is a large variance in the size of the advantage among different sports in baseball for instance so slightly better than fifty fifty a clear advantage but not a huge one
00:32:34but in soccer in soccer and this is true worldwide so if you're looking south American leagues leagues in Russia Australia even the US you're talking high sixty percent spike sixty five sixty seven percent this leads to a couple questions number one why is there such a difference among
00:32:51sports end number two which might help explain number one what are the causes of home field advantage if you are even a little bit of a sports fan you've likely heard a lot of different explanations for instance the enthusiasm of the fans improves the performance of the athletes
00:33:09this is the I think the number one thing that most fans think when they think of the home field advantage which is their adrenaline increases because the fans are popping them up conversely if you're on the road people are yelling terrible things that you questioning the chastity of
00:33:23your sister and your mother and all kinds of things so is this theory actually true Moskowitz went looking in the data so take basketball you look at free throw shooting where you take everything else out of the game there's no defense the referees are removed at that point
00:33:40as well the the players the free throw line the only interaction is between a crowd that's either dead silent hoping you'll hit the free throw for the home player or they're screaming banging those thunder sticks and what we find is he in professional sports in college sports the
00:33:56same player for instance shoots exactly the same percentage of the free throw line whether he's on the road or at home just doesn't seem to have an effect how about the idea that teams are built to take advantage of their home field like a baseball team stacks its
00:34:12roster with left handed sluggers it stadium has a shallow right field wall we just didn't find any evidence of it about the weather like when teams from warm weather cities have to play in the cold nope no evidence of that either okay about the effects of travel itself
00:34:29not sleeping as well or eating as well to test this idea Moskowitz looked at games with the traveling team doesn't actually travel my favorite example is when the Lakers play the clippers they play the same stadium the only difference is they changed the decals on the court and
00:34:46the season ticket holders who are there if you look at those same city games verses games where let's say you've got Miami traveling to Seattle there's just no difference in the home field advantage so what does it count for home field advantage Moskowitz did find the in certain
00:35:04circumstances back to back road games in the NBA for instance fatigue does matter on the second night if you played the previous night your chances of winning go from say let's say they're too even team so it's fifty fifty it would drop to about thirty six percent but
00:35:21that's a fact must with found can only explain ten or fifteen percent of the home field advantage in those cases so what's the real story here's your story in two thousand seven there were a couple of soccer riots well as are typically are in Europe this happen occur
00:35:39in Italy and the Italian government band fans from twenty one matches and a couple of Swedish economist collected the data and examine the home field advantage in these twenty one games where there were literally no fans all there were were coaches players and the referees and what they
00:35:55found was that the the home field advantage all but disappeared when the fans were gone but what was interesting is the players didn't play any better or worse their accuracy of passes their mistakes that tackles the files all those things were about the same so whether the fans
00:36:13were there or not these players weren't affected said this would seem to pose a riddle you're saying home field advantage does exist in all sports its highest in soccer but in a kind of natural experiment in which fans were banned the home field advantage essentially disappeared which would
00:36:31seem to suggest that the fans are influencing the game somehow but I guess not in the way that we might typically think is that what you're getting at that's exactly right that basically the fans had a market impact on the success of the home team yet the home
00:36:49players didn't seem to play any worse when the fans weren't there nor do they seem to play any better when the fans were there so what's going on well there's there's really only one other participant who could possibly be in influenced by the fans and that is the
00:37:05referee now to state something like that obviously sounds controversial and you need to provide some proof so %HESITATION what a couple of economists did was they gather data on soccer this was in the Spanish laliga and they look at a very unique feature of soccer games which was
00:37:21the extreme injury time that what's unique about this is it's a part of the game where the players have literally no influence this is the point in the game where what the referees put the head referee is supposed to do is add up all the substitution throughout the
00:37:35game and all the injuries and all the files and add some extra time now what was neat about this was the data was gathered I think in the nineties and early two thousands at that time the head referee did not have to announce how much time he was
00:37:48putting on the clock it was not posted anywhere and not even the other referees knew what it was he would just blow was whistle at some point to clear the game was over and what was really interesting is if the home team was behind by one goal the
00:38:03amount of extra entry time the head referee added was more than twice as large as when the home team was ahead by a goal and you can see what might be going on here which is their shortening the game to preserve the win for the home team or
00:38:17their lengthening it to give the home team a better chance to tie but here's the thing moscowitz is not saying that referees are cheating in favor of the home team or that they're even consciously making calls in their favor it's subtler than that more human than that referees
00:38:32like anybody in any other human feel social pressure of relieving that social pressures natural and emotionally you get caught up in the game they don't necessarily want the home team to win I don't think this is conscious I don't think there's any conspiracy I think it's just a
00:38:47natural I wanna please fifty thousand people and I don't want fifty thousand people screaming at me or worse we should say or worse yet another piece of evidence in this argument in soccer the home field advantage is cut in half when the game is played in the stadium
00:39:03where the field is surrounded by a running track that is with the crowd is farther from the referees Moscow it's it's pretty convinced the referee biased theory can explain a lot of the home field advantage effect so I don't think it's the whole thing but I think it's
00:39:18the largest part I'm also curious about the variance in sports soccer you mentioned is the highest home field advantage baseball is the lowest and for people who follow either of those sports especially both they know that the referee or the umpire has a different %HESITATION obviously different functions
00:39:36but also different amount of leverage and also there is a lot less scoring in soccer and so one pivotal called really can determine the game absolutely in in soccer there's so little scoring that a penalty kick throwing a player off any sort of free kick can have a
00:39:54huge impact on the game and can tilt the odds very significantly in favor of the home team wears take the other end of the spectrum baseball you know quite honestly most calls in baseball aren't that close so you're telling us that fans don't influence the outcome of of
00:40:11a game in the way that we think that is they're not influencing the players but you're also telling us that fans do influence the outcome of the game by influencing referees so bottom line is really the same isn't it which is that fans should be as loud and
00:40:26obnoxious and maybe as threatening as possible right there's a little bit of that I I I hesitate to say that because I know I'm going to do something about it like that and the violence but I mean they are the data yes well I think there's no question
00:40:43that you're right the date is the data that you know on a close call is fans yell in it and yell loudly it does tend to influence the referees perception so that's something to watch for in the upcoming World Cup do the referee seem to favor Russia the
00:41:00home team for this being a World Cup for fans travel from all over some games might feel like home games if you were the prime minister of say I spend maybe you pay for it the entire citizenry to go to Russia back out stadium I would argue it's
00:41:17probably not worth it but I guess it would depend on the government I would expect that the costs far exceed the benefits so far we've given you several reasons to pay attention to the World Cup but we haven't said that much about the actual soccer players the greatest
00:41:34players in the world and maybe the greatest player in the sport the man's a messy messy is about to turn thirty one this will likely be his last World Cup he's won every trophy imaginable with this club Barcelona but he's never won a World Cup with his national
00:41:55Argentine my son Solomon is a true soccer fanatic but his adoration of messy goes beyond that Argentina with the World Cup I am moving to a rural town eyed him becoming a shepherd for the rest of my life because I think that's a mess he would want to
00:42:17see the road I just think he would does he have sheep that he needs cared for carrying it shepherded but I just think I should respect Argentina and him anything that would be the perfect lie to preach it yeah I. S. Solomon for some biographical background is gonna
00:42:33have a little bit the stalker she tells a K. fill in June twenty fourth nineteen eighty seven and was Ariel Argentina there's a huge tree in the middle of town it was there's a huge storm and lightening struck it and from the tree emerge the god that is
00:42:49we know Andres Messi and he as a child he had a growth deficiency he would've ended up being five one five two except he was an unbelievable soccer player when he was diagnosed as are taking growth hormones his club Newell's old boys they can't really afford it his
00:43:08family I think thought at the touch of scouts in Barcelona where you have to have family and they almost ensign because of his height then they realize he was pretty good anyway and they start paying for his medicine as when the names as they went well and he
00:43:22was held at this time he was twelve or thirteen Israelis whole family move for them they couldn't do it so he does his father stay in any global I'm asieh the mafia is is %HESITATION Barcelona you fame youth academy so it's an academy where you obviously you live
00:43:36right by the cop no the stadium you can see out your window well Lemass yeah I think he's farmhouses what I want to say it is it's an old farmhouse so it's wet bar sort of raises the next generation of football warriors you go to school as well
00:43:49you do I've heard it gives you a pretty decent education and who were some of his %HESITATION basements yeah mainly a jar PK SS stop yes they were all good friends I thought they were gonna be able to bully him at first on the pitch and he said
00:44:02we are ready to guarantee kick the crap out of him and then he got the ball and he just couldn't get near the rest a kind of history and he's kind of probably on become the greatest player of all time the sounds are part of the appreciation is
00:44:13almost an artistic appreciation like he's he's beautiful whatever it com graceful as early I think I'll get maybe but it's breathtaking about how he doesn't look like an athlete either five seven little stocky but when he's with the Bosnian opponent you can tell they're terrified that's in this
00:44:30or the artistic part but what he does it's so beautiful like you can't is there a B. two defenders and there's no space just squeezes himself in the ball through I think part that is at his height if you've seen the ability to twist but it's really is
00:44:46beautiful what he's the cursing greatest footballer I have ever seen Roger Bennett again amazing it looks like he's just one that I have your local supercuts yeah and yeah and to understand that you have to know about his nemesis without really although his that the opposite everyone it's
00:45:01over now they Portugal captain the two of them it's light liberal and Steph curry in it which is the greatest clapping for them have stay completely different attributes different physical styles of playing Reynolds who is physically beautiful seems to be allergic to wearing shirts after goal scoring often
00:45:20think he doesn't enjoy the scoring goals in there and say that just because it had already shut off share the world is nipples Renaldo it's truly remarkable thing he is a sculpture of a man dominant beautiful I I I I mean sin is the wood and Lee in
00:45:36the messy and a good goal scorer but Leo Messi is saying is a better player because not only is the often out score when all the but what else does Messi do when he takes to the field combination of his vision his ability to accelerate an incredible pace
00:45:53into crevices of space that really no one else sees that space leaving behind only kind of smoking cleats where the fenders ones would just vaporizes opponents his ability to compete angle wind speed to chairman incredible physic it means that he has a beautiful mind in that the way
00:46:17he finishes goals rally smashing the bulls who it's always with just enough effort just enough power only when it needs and that the Uruguay and the great you're going away and social critic had what the galley all night described them he said Leo Messi runs with the ball
00:46:35as if he's wearing it as a sock no one else can take it from him and the schools stunning goals with routine for Barcelona and the great pressure delivering over and over and over again suckers ready at dawn's in space Simon Cooper again when you have the ball
00:46:54you try to open space and when you don't have to but we have to try to close space you do that not as an individual but as possible Levin piety and supplies you have the best sense of space and messy is a great example of the best players
00:47:07but there are a couple things to consider first the World Cup features national teams whose players spend most of their time spread all over the globe on their club teams which means it's hard for national team to have a lot of cohesion for the World Cup but also
00:47:21soccer is played differently in different weeks on different continents there are for instance distinct European characteristics and south American characteristics messy coming from Argentina and playing for Barcelona exhibits both so when Messi gets the ball in Barcelona is close short passing moves he could say to the defender
00:47:42trying to market look a composite these four guys named me or I can dribble and shoot you have no idea which of these five options are going to choose and so he's terrifying and messy doesn't pass into somebody's feet Messi doesn't pause where you are messy passes into
00:48:00the space where he wants you to be so usually messy gives the bowl %HESITATION into a space and the teammate runs onto it on marks and schools so messy has seen the space and sold the teammates in effect that's the space for that ability %HESITATION if I put
00:48:18two and two together I would think would be %HESITATION devalued in a World Cup because his teammates are not as accustomed to thinking about being in the space where they're not yet am I right yeah I mean origins on players have a much weaker sense of space is
00:48:34partly because the Latin Americans are they didn't grow up in the European tradition and they're just not as good I mean there's several of the guys he played alongside him in two thousand fourteen that had they won the World Cup final people would have said that guy who
00:48:47won a World Cup final and %HESITATION you know it's it's an amazing achievements of Messi's is often criticized in Argentina but it's amazing that he got those plays into a World Cup final so let's say that someone doesn't watch a lot of soccer maybe they've heard about Leo
00:49:01Messi may be seen some highlights but never really seen him play how would you advise that they watch him during this World Cup well what him knowing that he's handicapped by the team he's an but again Tina have typically said Sam an affect his the bull you do
00:49:21it alone messy things well I can do that bit I'm a team player so I need people moving around me to offer deep because even if I don't pass them and so when they give him the ball fifty meters from the opposition's goal in the whole ocean tide
00:49:35team standing still and messy isolated he's he's kind of sucks so I mean typically for Argentina because they don't have a system he dribbles so what you see it will cups is much more messy the soloist and not messy the team player you won't see him as the
00:49:49interpreter of space you'll see him as the the kind of brilliant soloist there are three big tunes he's played he's got his team to the final but you know it's like watching lebron is like an unbelievable player and the rest of the cost they under perform around them
00:50:02and they delegate they they just wait for him to do magic and he's gotten to the final final loss will cut the final loss to cope as they both though all three of them offended both in the feet and with him in teh is one player can't win
00:50:16a World Cup is is not possible and I think that's why as the yeah that's why I don't think you well I don't think our genes and when it there's one more thing to watch for in this year's World Cup even if you have absolutely zero interest in
00:50:31soccer not every day that a massive global event takes place in a country that's considered in some quarters to be some combination of dictatorship rogue state and pure bully has that going to play out we called the Stanford political scientist Michael McFall who knows a bit about geopolitics
00:50:51and Russia yeah I spent five years in the government during the Obama administration three years as the senior director at the National Security Council responsible for Russia in Eurasia and then two more years in Moscow as the US ambassador there what does the World Cup mean to Russia
00:51:11and to Vladimir Putin for Putin the World Cup is a victory both domestically and internationally are on the one hand that he is delivering this fantastic sporting event to his citizens that is a great achievement and he will be love for it but then to internationally I do
00:51:29think it delivers a positive message for Russia because I think a lot of the world has a very outdated image of Russia as this thuggish criminal place where everybody's living in poverty and that's not where you're going to see on television during the World Cup Russia today is
00:51:48richer probably than it's ever been in its history and so fans visiting Moscow or Saint Petersburg or the other venues you know even some of the more obscure venues for the first time are going to see that Russia is a wealthy European country Russia was awarded this World
00:52:06Cup back in two thousand ten well the world has changed remarkably between two thousand ten and today with respect to Russia's relationship with the west I'm starting with Ukraine annexation of of Crimea than bolstering I'd a dictator like Mr Assad in Syria where the you know a countless
00:52:27tens of thousands of been killed and millions displaced and then meddling in the U. S. selection and now are you know of a lot alleged assassination attempts in in the UK so I think the the context has changed dramatically and I think the challenge there for for the
00:52:45western and I would say the global community is how do you show up and participate in a sporting event that everybody loves including me by the way like we all want to see the World Cup succeed but without somehow giving Jim Missy to many of those things that
00:53:05I just described in terms of prudence foreign policy behavior make false solution he is advocated that no government official from any NATO countries should attend the World Cup I don't understand why the government's from anywhere should be involved this is a sporting event it's not a United Nations
00:53:24of and I think we should get out of the business of using sporting events as at for diplomatic ends and %HESITATION you know just let this the athletes do their thing and let the fans do their thing and keep the politics out of it some countries including England
00:53:41and Iceland have decided to not send delegations all of me is surprised that the world is now talking about boycotting the whole event Roger Bennett again from men in Blazers because ultimately the World Cup school and a dreadful history Steven a dreadful history of state using itself to
00:54:01the propaganda desires of awful dictator's going back to Mussolini in the nineteen thirties the Argentinian military junta in nineteen seventy eight a devastating don't moment for anyone that cares about democracy justice human rights Russia was a rogue state and the world is going to give that for an
00:54:24entire month we've let them a piece in deciding a Rick Bennett recently had the Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov on this show yeah huge Russian football fan and political dissident and Bennett said to Casper off as I wanna eat me and you are an activist you are speaking
00:54:42out what what do you want us to date instead I would never tell anyone to boycott the World Cup you cannot be called the World Cup there is a massive chance that this could be a will cut the great cacophony and these the the he's stadia been over
00:54:56four times and so many of them being flung together at the loss major tournament at the your race the Russian fans a plague of four right noon for **** %HESITATION infused UFC trained for a football hooligans and I come from a nation that's provided the gold standard the
00:55:21football hooligans these Russians all next level football hooligans they ran the three English fans with good with hammers and go to produce a film ever thing and they devastated I mean they may end and absolutely destroyed an entire town ever paid a twenty four hours Pugin's response to
00:55:41that has been to bring in platoons of Cossacks awful spikes with whips and have them police the state a call sucks you got yahooligans you've got you stadiums around read the you got you English fans descending for which they bill Soviet style enormous drunk tanks they've legalized heroin
00:56:01and cocaine around the the stadia and you got Cossacks wave whip some whole smuggling because of the cost of the care wrong but he's remark it's remarkable that so you're saying that Kasparov says essentially that I'm sorry for all that %HESITATION misery for all those malign intentions it
00:56:22cetera football is just too intoxicating Lee attractive to actually set it down what does that say I mean it's to me and says more about football than does about geopolitics in a strange way of working with yeah unlocking with don't take away my carry Castro and thus are
00:56:44complicated conflicted miserable jubilant ferial and occasionally primal emotions that accompany the world's most worldly may you watch it in good health if you choose not to watch well check out Roger Bennett's American fiasco podcast stored the forty for two podcast or the find books soccer not mix in
00:57:07score casting for Michael McFall's new book from Cold War to hop piece it's called an American ambassador in Putin's Russia for about this option you can start making plans to attend the two thousand twenty six World Cup in America that's right it's just been announced that a joint
00:57:26bid by the U. S. Canada and Mexico has been selected by FIFA for the two thousand twenty six World Cup sixty of the eighty matches to be played here in America anyone need a floor to sleep on in New York Michelle coming up next time on for economics
00:57:43radio is innovation overrated should we be spending more time and more money on maintenance people always think more about how new ground can be broken than they think about how existing institutions can be sustained or existing facilities can be maintained in praise of maintenance that's next time and
00:58:07for economics radio economics radio is produced by WNYC studios and W. productions this episode was produced by Matt fresca with help from Greg results speak John Mayer and Eliza Lambert our staff also includes Alison Hockenberry Stephanie tam Jacob Max Miller Huggins and any Meisenheim the music you hear
00:58:27throughout the episode is composed by Louise Gera you can subscribe to Freakonomics radio on apple podcast stitcher or wherever you get your punk **** also check out our archive at Freakonomics dot com and follow us on all the social media or write to us at radio at Freakonomics
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