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Facts and math get in way of the truth

I don't claim to be an economist. My checking account is evidence that I don't understand much about handling money.

But can we talk about the financial impact that certain sports have in Oregon? And I'm not talking about major league baseball. Every time someone in support of bringing the Montreal Expos to Portland speaks up about the economic impact, he's shot down by all the 'facts' about how money spent on sports is merely a redistribution of income that would be spent on other things.

This isn't about baseball. It's about wrestling and golf. Where apparently different economic rules apply.

The daily paper reported with great confidence Sunday that golf tournaments in Oregon this summer will bring big bucks to this state. 'Summer of golf is worth $42 million' the headline said. No, it didn't say 'allegedly' or 'maybe.' It just stated a fact Ñ as did the story, which said, 'Fans visiting Oregon for four professional golf tournaments in three months will spend an estimated $42 million Ñ about equal to the annual Rose Festival Ñ at hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.'

I'm trying hard to give each tournament Ñ the U.S. Women's Open, the Jeld-Wen Tradition, the LPGA Safeway Classic, and the Oregon Classic, a minor league event in Eugene Ñ the benefit of the doubt. Let's say 5,000 visitors show up for each of the two big tourneys and 3,000 come to the Safeway Classic. And maybe 2,000 trek to Eugene.

Those are very generous estimates. But even if true, each fan would have to spend more than $2,000 for the total to reach $42 million.

Actually, most of the spectators attending the tournaments will spend no money on hotels because they live here. And those same people will spend no more on restaurants or shopping malls than they would on a weekend without a golf tournament. Perhaps even less, because they're at the tournament.

The golf claim comes on the heels of the ridiculous notion pushed by a state legislator with the comic-strip name of Tootie Smith, who said four World Wrestling Entertainment shows would bring $15 million to the state.

Please, do the math on that one for me. Each of these cards probably will draw 10,000 to 15,000 spectators, most of them from within driving distance of the Rose Garden. And oh, yes, any profit from the event itself Ñ and the first one probably had a gate of about $500,000 Ñ will head out of state to World Wrestling Entertainment offices in Connecticut, other than a rental fee and the approximate $30,000 cut to the state boxing commission as a ticket tax.

Don't get me wrong. I'm excited that elderly golfers are coming to Portland for one of their majors. I'm happy the big women's Open is headed this way. I love the Safeway Classic. I'm even a fan of Vince McMahon's R-rated adult entertainment.

But I'd just like their economists to take care of my checking account. And please, let's ask these economic 'experts' what impact major league baseball would have in Portland.