Stephen Mosher, professor of sport management and media at Ithaca College, N.Y., noted that the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have just posted their 19th consecutive losing season -- the longest stretch of futility in any major professional American sport -- have been making millions of dollars annually.
In fact, the cost of signing top-flight players to lucrative contracts would take a deep bite out of annual profits, leading some analysts and economists to conclude that if the Pirates turned themselves into winners, they wouldn't be helping their bottom line, Mosher suggested.
"The situation with the Pirates is just one example where a team would benefit more from losing than winning," Mosher said in a statement. "Many of the owners of franchises intentionally lose money because it helps the bottom line for their other businesses."
Should the Indianapolis Colts, who are infinitely less formidable with their star quarterback Peyton Manning out indefinitely after neck surgery, consider tanking the rest of the season to put themselves in better position to draft a top quarterback in the next NFL draft? Mosher asked.
"Such moral dilemmas are routinely presented to professional sports teams, but more often than not, the moral issues take a back seat to the business and entertainment goals of organizations," Mosher said.
"Given that sport is one of the few remaining enterprises in our culture that actually claims to develop good citizens and build character, is losing deliberately the best way to run an organization? The claim that 'we owe it to the game' needs to be considered very, very seriously."