California Loves Balls - But Who Is Holding the Ball?


California is the land of balls. It plays with them, pushes them, hits them and bounces them. With 12 major professional ball teams under our belt-it's fair to say that balls are big in California. An unsolicited buyer in China recently made an offer to buy up one of California's popular balls teams, Los Angeles Dodgers, for $1.2 billion cash. Though many are skeptical that such a deal could ever go through, it does point to the popularity of a sport once considered America's national sport.

Getting America's balls back

The sports business is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the United States. An annual survey of the size of the industry estimated it at $213 billion. It's far more than twice the size of the U.S. auto industry and seven times the size of the movie industry. California owns a large portion of this business.

Is it any wonder that China, the world's most populated country, would want to buy baseball and other ball teams from California? China now produces 80% of the world's baseballs, and also produces the majority of sports balls in the world. While Californians throw a ball, hit one or scoot it along with a mallet, they're most likely gaining joy from a product manufactured in China.

It wasn't always that way. Some of the great ball sports in the U.S. grew hand-in-hand with ball manufacturers. Most surviving U.S.-based companies now sell their balls around the globe and have plants and factories in China, Japan, Central and South America, where the products cost less to produce, they say.

As players converge for their international competition September 17-23, 2011 in Newport Beach, United States Lawn Bowls Association, touts its balls. Each player buys not one but a set of balls, and these balls have pizzazz. They come in many colors and you also can have them engraved. The manufacturer of one of the most popular lawn bowls (balls) is Henselite, an Australian company. Lawn bowling is not an American or "Made in California" invention- we just happen to like it, and the most populated state in the nation is one of the biggest consumers of lawn bowls.

No matter what your ball passion may be-tennis, volleyball, soccer, water polo, polo, racquetball, baseball, football, basketball, handball, bowling, bocce, croquet, lawn bowling, paintball, or some other ball sport, it's important to pay attention in each game as to who's holding the ball or in control of it.

Californians seem best at making use of balls, mainly because our citizens come from hundreds of countries where a variety of ball sports are played. It's fair to say that we're the melting pot of balls and ball sports. While our economy falters, our state teeters in its effort to balance a budget and unemployment remains some of the highest in the U.S., our love of balls only grows. As part of the strategy for winning, we need to look at who's holding the ball on the global playing field, and pay attention. Whoever produces the balls to play the games is clearly in control, especially when they decide to take the balls away. Is California prepared to begin making and controlling its own balls? Probably not. At least nobody can say California doesn't have balls.

Major League Baseball Teams in California
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Los Angeles Dodgers
Oakland Athletics
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

National Football League Teams in California
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers

National Basketball Association California Teams
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
Sacramento Kings

Annual Sports Industry Expenditures

Advertising $27.43B
Endorsements $897M
Sporting Goods $25.62B
Facility Construction $2.48B
Internet $239.1M
Media Broadcast Rights $6.99B

Professional services $15.25B
Spectator spending $26.17B
Sponsorships $6.4B
Medical Spending $12.6B
Travel $16.06B
Operating Expenses $22.98B

US Corporations (Sporting Goods Only) Sales

Wal-Mart $8B (athletic only)
The Sports Authority $2B
Target $2.2B
Foot Locker $1.7B
Bass Pro Shops $1.6B

Sears $1.5B
Dicks Sporting Goods $1.47B
Cabela's $1.4B
LL Bean $1.2B
K-Mart $1.1B

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