I get the economics, but why sports?

I don’t look like I like sports.

I most certainly don’t look like I know about sports.

And I definitely don’t look like an expert on theories of sports economics.

Here’s the deal: I’m a woman. There, I said it. I’m also about 5’4 (and I think at least an inch of that is just hair), I like dresses and lipstick and ballet flats. I love to bake. And I read Jane Austen for comfort.

That’s all true.

None of that, however, prevents me from being a good economist or loving and knowing about sports. From running statistics for fun, from reading econometrics for entertainment, or from researching the latest developments in sports economics theory. Getting a Master’s Degree in economics. It’s most certainly not preventing me from enjoying a good game of tennis or football, from getting excited when I get my hands on a new set of baseball stats, appreciating an effective Formula 1 team strategy, or loving ice hockey. If anything, it’s giving me a new angle on these things.

I’ve done sports in my life, all of which required wearing a skirt and most involved sequins. Ballet, figure skating, cheerleading… And no, they don’t boost my credibility in analyzing soccer team building strategies. But they did give me an undying love for playing, the experience of dedication and team loyalty. And they gave me The Moment.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get a moment of clarity, a moment that just makes the world around you make sense. You may not know it at the time, but looking back to it, you recognize it as the one defining moment in your life that ended up setting the course for you. For me that was a moment that repeated itself over and over again (ironic, really, given that I’m usually a pretty fast learner).

When I was cheerleading for HIFK during high school, before the game started we’d make this alley for the players to skate through. And since we were lined up by height and I was the shortest girl in the team, I’d be right by the rink waiting to go on ice. The arena was dim, the lights out in the stands. It only served to enhance your other senses. You heard people shuffling to their seats, greeting each other, and the occasional cry of support for the home team. You smelled the ice, that particular scent of the chemicals they use that seeps into your gear and hair and makes you think of the game when you’re back home taking a shower. You felt the energy and anticipation, the excitement and fear. Maybe tonight is going to be spectacular. Maybe it’ll be just another run-off-the-mill game. Maybe we’ll win big. Maybe we’ll crash and burn. Maybe…

It was only a short moment. We waited for the referees to step on the ice and we’d follow. The team would skate out, the puck would drop and the game would be on its way. Going the way it was going to go, and over far too quickly. Then we’d know. We’d know if we won or lost, if it was a tired mid-season game of two teams desperately waiting for the Christmas break, or if it was something we’d speak of for days and weeks to come. We’d know.

But in that short moment, before it was all set in motion, everything was still possible. In that short moment time stood still, and all you could do was feel.

Looking back at those days and years I spent with the HIFK, those were the moments when I knew I wanted to work in sports. I wanted to be part of that, to give people those seconds frozen in time at the top of the two-and-a-half-hour emotional roller coaster we call a game of ice hockey.

And for a statistically minded fixer-upper like myself, in my pretty heels and polka-dot dresses, learning about sports economics was like coming home. I finally found my place in the world.

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