Posted by: zephaniah317 | June 24, 2009

Sports Pricing – a.k.a., have you SEEN how much it costs to go to a game lately?!?!?!

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know I’m (a) a huge sports fan, and (b) an Alabama alum and rabid college sports fan (ROLL TIDE!).  Well, over the past few months, I’ve earnestly tried to put together the ultimate guy weekend over Labor Day weekend this fall:  Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, and the first ever Atlanta night race (NASCAR Sprint Cup) on Sunday.  I’m sorry to say that it probably won’t happen, mostly due to scheduling, but in no small part because of the price of the tickets.  The football game on Saturday was going to cost $215 per person for 3rd level seats.  That’s right, it’s not a typo:  $215 for third level seats.  Add in the cost of travel, lodging, and food, and it was going to cost approx. $800 a man to do this trip.  At first, I was like, “well, I guess money has to be no object for one of these deals”, and moved on.  I thought, “well, hey, maybe I can just go to an Alabama game in Tuscaloosa.  The reason these tickets are so high is because it’s the “Kickoff Classic” sponsored by Chick-Fil-A (mmm…Chick-Fil-A…don’t have those here in the Northeast).

Well, I’m sorry to say that for the “good” games in Tuscaloosa this year (vs. Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU) the prices are pretty much the same.  Although, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa only has two decks instead of three, it’s still nose-bleed seats for approx. $200.  Add in travel and lodging, and it ends up being approx. $500 per person for a trip like this.  Unreal.

Earlier this month, I’m watching the NBA Finals, and the clincher:  there was an awesome story at halftime about an Orlando family who’s son has an anxiety disorder (some sort of “mutism”, if I remember correctly) and he never talks, basically.  Ever.  He’s almost 5 years old, and never really communicates with others.  He can talk, just doesn’t.  Well, as the story goes, one night, the family is sitting and watching the Orlando Magic play on TV, and the kid (Ryan) starts talking, trying to say “play basketball”.  He doesn’t quite make it the first few times, but eventually, he’s talking and pointing at the TV.  His parents are in tears!  It’s the break they’ve been waiting for.  So, the father immediately wants to take his son to a game, kinda like therapy.  Great idea, right?  Well, they’re interviewing the father, and he says it cost him $641 to take him and his son to the game.  $641 dollars!  And during the interview on ABC, he says he basically had to decide between paying the mortgage that month and helping his child overcome this ailment!  So, he thought, “well, they usually give you thirty days to make good if you miss a payment, so it wasn’t a hard decision.”  (that’s not an actual quote, just my paraphrase from what I remember of the story)

And, of course, the story ends well:  they go to the game, Ryan continues to grow in communicating and overcoming his disorder, the father emails the Magic thanking them for everything, and the Magic organization gives them free tickets for the remainder of the season, and they’re able to go to the playoffs, etc.  Great story, but the point is:  nowadays, only people that either are making 6-digit incomes or willing to allow their kids and grandkids into inherit their enormous credit card debt can go to top-tier sporting events with any kind of regularity.  And it stinks.

I’m naive to think that it will end soon.  It would take a massive boycott by Americans to make any change in the system and the exorbitant lifestyle that players, owners, and coaches lead nowadays; and, heck, even THAT might not be enough.  Baseball is approaching that day faster than the other sports, I believe.  The New York Times a couple of weeks ago noted a startling stat:  The Yankees have sold out one game out of the first 30 home games this year at the new Yankee Stadium.  And, I’ve noticed several times as I flip past baseball games on the TV that it’s not limited to Yankee stadium.  There are ALWAYS plenty of good seats still available in a number of ballparks. 

Another example:  A co-worker of mine was so excited this year because his wife had given him the ok to buy Giants season tickets, something he’s wanted for YEARS.  But now, with the NEW stadium coming this year, the Giants have come up with what’s called a PSL:  a Personal Seat License.  Basically, it’s a license that gives you permission to buy season tickets.  And, it costs anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 per license.  Then you have to buy season tickets on top of that, which are around $4,000.  My co-worker friend wasn’t devastated, but it was something close.  “Pro sports are forgetting the people that got them to where they are today” he said.  Yep.  That’s it.  It’s a vicious, downward spiraling, never-ending cycle, and it’s all driven by money (you don’t have to read my blog to figure that out).

Here’s my theory:  Owners want more money.  They can do that by simply raising ticket prices (which happens sometimes for no reason) or by fielding a good team that people will want to come see.  In order to do that, they have to pay to get good players.  In order to pay the higher salaries (every year they increase across the board, on average – see chart below), they have to raise ticket and merchandise prices.  The sports LEAGUES also charge more for the networks to show the games on TV, which drives up advertising, which leads to more commercials, which drives home viewers nuts.  Like I said, it’s a never-ending cycle, spiraling prices upward and fan appreciation downward.

Even the sportswriters don’t get it.  There was an article on a few weeks back by Peter King, in which he reported on how NFL players were complaining over how little they were paid per game when their team makes the playoffs and/or goes to the Super Bowl.  Tom Brady, according to the article, with all of the playoff games and 4 super bowl appearances, has only made something like $35,000/year on average for those games.  And Mr. King was basically stating how wrong this was.  Now, obviously, my response was “holy cow, with the 7-digit salaries these guys make on average, who cares?”  So, I emailed Mr. King and asked him to consider the economy and the number of people losing jobs at an alarming rate right now, and to please not glorify or give credence to these complaints.  He didn’t publish my email in his “mailbag” the next day, but he DID show a couple of emails that were basically saying the same thing, one of them by a lawyer in Florida comparing his yearly salary to the NFL players’ (it was much less), and how complaining over postseason salaries was ridiculous.  Mr. King’s response was, (and I quote), “…if you got an average of $8,000 per case, and then it came time to argue the biggest case you’d ever had before the Florida Supreme Court, and you got $500 for it, would you feel that was fair? Everything is relative.”  Everything is relative?!?!?!  He missed the point.  I think we realize that with the lifestyle that pro athletes lead, either some or a majority of them are going to complain about something like this, among other things, and to the average Joe Q. Public who does the best he can providing for his family, it will always seem ridiculous.  Just don’t TELL us about it or make it seem glamorous, and in doing so remind us of how ungrateful pro athletes can be for the salaries that the American public pay for by having to take out a second mortgage for season tickets.  Puhleeze.

So, there’s my rant.  Nothing really spiritual about it, although I definitely agree with my pastor, who frequently reminds us on Sunday mornings that we are a nation who worships the “God of mammon”, not the God who blesses us with it.  And there is no place where it’s worshipped more than in American sports today.


  1. I saw that interview during the Orlando game too!! I couldnt believe $641 to go to the game, crazy!!! Prices for sporting events have gone through the roof. I have been purchasing a lot tickets on this website Pretty reasonable prices, and they gave me a promo code to use next time and told me to pass it onto my friends when checking out punch in 011909. Anyways good luck with your ticket search. GO TIDE!!!

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