Phila. baseball success could be harbinger of economic doom

Around the newsroom, I’ve joked that given the choice between averting economic disaster and the Phillies’ winning the World Series, I’d pick baseball.

Call it Faustian. But allegiance to a sports team can cause fans to make irrational and expensive choices. When your teams have lost as much as ours have, there would seem to be no price too high to pay for a championship - even the financial ruin of the world’s biggest economy.

Inquirer sports writer Frank Fitzpatrick earlier this month noted a parallel between hard times and Philadelphia baseball success.

Now we have evidence of a correlation between the diverging fortunes of Fightin’ Phils and the U.S. economy. With tongues firmly in cheek, the stats keepers at West Chester’s Moody’s “confirm” that victory for the Phillies usually spells defeat for the U.S. economy.

In a commentary titled “A World Series of Irrational Exuberance” on the Dismal Scientist Web site, Ed Friedman and Ryan Sweet postulate that Philadelphia baseball could be a “leading economic indicator.” Didn’t the credit crisis begin in August 2007, when the Phillies began a run for their first playoff appearance in 14 years?

We should have seen calamity coming once the Phils won the National League East this season.

Now, the U.S. economy hangs in the balance.

Moody’s notes that in 1983 and 1993, when the Phils lost the World Series, the economy took off. Rare as they are, Philadelphia victories are Pyrrhic ones. High jobless rates followed the Philadelphia Athletics World Series’ wins in 1929 and 1930 and the Phils’ 1980 championship.

Philadelphian to the core, the Moody’s team concedes that while the “rational economic choice” would be to ring those cowbells for the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s “incapable of such behavior.”

So we’d better enjoy the parade down Broad Street. It’ll be something to cherish on the unemployment line.

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