To get the answer, Schwartz-Barsky examined the results of 5,000 games in different sports—major league baseball (1,880), professional football (182), college football (910), college basketball (1,486) and professional hockey (542). They found that the home advantage was a decisive factor in all sports, but that it varied greatly by sport. Baseball teams were least inspired by familiar surroundings, winning 53% of their home games. Pro football teams won 58%, college football teams 60%. The figure for hockey was amazing: NHL teams won 64% of their home games. As for college basketball, the sociologists had a complex sample involving teams in the Philadelphia area from 1952 to 1966. These teams won 82% of their home games compared to 58% of their away games.
Putting all this together, Schwartz-Barsky flatly state that their study "confirms the existence of a home advantage in organized sports," that said advantage is more important to indoor than outdoor sports, that the home advantage affects offensive action far more than defensive and that this home advantage is "almost totally independent of visitor fatigue and lack of familiarity with the home playing area; it is mainly attributable to the social support of the home audience."
So the next time someone suggests that you stay home and watch the game on TV, decline politely and remind him firmly that the invigorating influence of your very own supportive social congregation could well help engender a beneficent environment in which your hometown favorites might just become susceptible of acts and sentiments of which they would otherwise be incapable.
WHERE THE PROS ARE
One night last week before 1,500 rain-soaked fans in Gresham, Ore. U.S. professional track and field all but gave up the ghost. Mike O'Hara, who founded the International Track Association four years ago, canceled three upcoming meets and said wearily. "Now I've got to find myself a company or an individual who has the deep pockets and the patience and the belief in pro track. We're not really folding up; we're just going to take a long look at things."
Pro track had never generated a great deal of money. As Shotputter Brian Old-field said in Oregon, "It was kind of inevitable. The fans don't care. The management doesn't care. No one cares." The problem, according to O'Hara, was the ITA's inability to sign the stars of the Montreal Olympics. "You've got to have superstars, and there aren't very many. Dwight Stones is one. John Walker. Filbert Bayi. Lasse Viren. We just haven't been able to add the kind of people we call ticket sellers, the ones with sex appeal."
And why hasn't O'Hara signed up the heroes of Montreal? Because most of them have decided to remain amateur. Why remain amateur? Because, O'Hara claimed, they are making a great deal more money than they could as professionals.
"The numbers are astronomical," said O'Hara. "Some of them are making a lot more now than they ever have before. Right after the Olympics is the perfect time for the European promoters to do their thing, and several superstars are making a bundle over there." Reports from Europe indicate that top amateur performers are going to earn $30,000 to $40,000 in presumably untaxed sub-rosa payments this year. O'Hara scoffed at these numbers. "I hear that would be chicken feed for some of them." he said.
From an Olympics as troubled—and as troublesome—as Montreal's, there will undoubtedly be repercussions for a long time. Last week some of the first post-Games shocks were felt. Members of the Quebec National Assembly began hearings that uncovered some of the more bizarre financial extravagances that helped produce the Olympics' $1 billion-plus debt.