"When people offer the counterpoint that we could be investing in other things instead of sports, well, oftentimes those others things aren't as alluring and don't have the same magnetism as sports does," Turco said. "You've got tens of thousands of people who are willing to spend almost anything to support their team and identify with their team. ... That's what they're called fanatics. They do not behave rationally. Economists have tried to understand sports consumers' behavior for years. Inevitably, they just scratch their heads and say, 'Why do they do this?'"
Now, along comes Brazil to offer a different perspective.
While the initial protests were sparked by a hike in bus and subway fares, the movement quickly mushroomed to cover a wide range of grievances, including the massive amounts of money earmarked for the world's two biggest sporting events.
Next summer, that country will put on the World Cup, a monthlong, 32-nation tournament to crown the champion of soccer. In 2016, Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to the host the Olympics. The combined bill for those two events will likely exceed $30 billion, covering projects such as the $500 million renovation of Rio's main stadium, Maracana, even though it already received a significant face-lift before the 2007 Pan American Games.
"We need better education, hospitals and security — not billions spent on the World Cup," said Sandra Amalfe, who marched with her 16-year-old daughter in Sao Paulo.
Brazil is currently hosting the Confederations Cup, an eight-nation prep event for the World Cup. While the matches have largely been unaffected by the protests, and governing body FIFA insists the tournament won't be called off, someone unfurled a banner outside Maracana before Spain's 10-0 victory over Tahiti on Thursday.
"We want hospitals and schools in FIFA standards," it said.
Or, better yet, why don't the folks at FIFA and the International Olympic Committee require less of their host countries, instead of rewarding those that are willing to spend more than the next guy?
England, a nation with plenty of iconic soccer stadiums already in place, bid for the 2018 World Cup. It finished dead last in the voting, losing out to a Russian bid that includes plans for at least nine new facilities.
The U.S. was thought to be the favorite for the 2022 Cup, with a proposal that included only stadiums that already were in place, some of them essentially brand new. But Qatar was picked as the host, with a plan that also includes building nine new stadiums (which come with the additional cost of having to be cooled because of the brutal summer temperatures in the Middle East).
The message from those two votes was clear: If you build it — and essentially bankrupt yourself in the process — we will come.
Well, enough's enough.
It's time for all of us to take to the streets.