I mentioned in class, but couldn't immediately track down, a piece on how professional baseball teams fared during the Great Depression. Found it!
As time passes, a rough gage of the actual severity of the current downturn will be the number of sports teams that fail or move. This site lists the current locations of sports teams with their previous locations, and there is a business cycle pattern (although note that failure of sports teams appears to be a lagging indicator).
- The Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles during the 1981-2 recession.
- The Redskins moved from Boston to Washington during the Great Depression.
- The Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis just after the 1981-2 recession.
- The Athletics moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City (yes, that's right), after the 1953-4 recession.
- The St. Louis Browns became the Baltimore Orioles during the 1953-4 recession.
- The Giants and Dodgers moved west from the New York area during the 1957-8 recession.
- The (old, old) Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins during the 1960-1 recession. The (new then old) Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers shortly after the 1969-70 recession.
- The (old) Baltimore Orioles became the New York Highlanders during the 1902-4 recession, and then the New York Yankees during the 1913-4 recession.
- The Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers during the 1969-70 recession.
- The Buffalo Braves became the San Diego Clippers after the 1973-5 recession, who in turn moved to Los Angeles after the 1981-2 downturn.
- Ever wonder how the Los Angeles Lakers got their weird name? It's because they moved from Minneapolis during the 1960-1 recession.
- The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to the bay area after the 1960-1 recession.
- How about the Royals, who moved from Rochester to Cincinnati during the 1957-8 recession, then became the Kansas City/Omaha Kings just between the 1969-70 and 1973-5 recessions, only to move to Sacramento after the 1981-2 recession?
- How about the Packers/Zephyrs who left Chicago after the 1960-1 recession to become the Baltimore Bullets, only to move down the road to Washington during the 1973-5 recession (where they were given a more politically-correct name in 1997).
- The Hawks moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1953-4 recession.
- The Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans after the 2000-1 recession.
- The Nationals moved from Syracuse and became the Philadelphia 76ers after the 1960-1 recession.
- The Rockets moved from San Diego to Houston after the 1969-70 recession.
Hockey is a bit different, because of the small market problem, but it's interesting to note the team failures that took place around the recessions of the 1970's: the Barons in 1978, and the Seals (4 times between 1967 and 1976 in what was then a depressed bay area).