At some point this monster will start to eat itself. It can't just keep growing, can it? There has to be a ceiling. These are sentiments that I recall expressing on my show in the late 1990's. After the Browns left Cleveland in a stadium dispute despite a string of sellouts. After enduring what amounted to a public telethon to sell club seats in the Bills home so the State of New York would release something like 60-million-dollars to pay for the reconfiguration of the stadium.
Maybe the 60-million-dollars doesn't look like a lot of money in the context of a story about the business of sports. Maybe that says it all.
While the union formerly known as the NFLPA and the NFL's owners try to figure out how to split up a disgusting sum of money, I often find myself thinking about how the experience of going to the game has changed.
Personal seat licenses. Luxury suites. Club seat amenities. Chef prepared menus. Preferred parking.
Whatever happened to "a hot dog at the game beats roast beef at the Ritz". I know. That quote from Humphrey Bogart predates color television. We've made so much progress. Players are icons and entertainers now.
I think that it becomes difficult to recognize just how ridiculous much of this stuff has become when we are surrounded by it. You love sports. I love sports. You go to games. I go to games. Do you have any friends who aren't into it? I still do. Talk to them sometime. Tell them how much your tickets cost and watch them try to figure out why you would pay so much to go watch a game.
Teams in all sports must be grateful that they found a way to make us feel like we need all these creature comforts. Who invented the luxury suite, anyways? Wikipedia says the Astrodome was the first stadium built with luxury suites, in 1965. Thanks Texas.
I've had plenty of experience with want turning into need. A 50" television and a Harley in the garage would be a couple of my own personal luxury suites. We all have our things. Mine has just never been nicer and nicer seats at sporting events. Every time I see an ad during a game for a leather upholstered luxury suite on wheels that you can have the privilege of driving for 899.00 a month for 24 months I wonder just how deep a pool of people sports are being marketed to.
My reasons for bringing this up are not to preach about the shrinking middle class nor how great hockey was before the players wore helmets. It's just to say that for all the rhetoric that gets tossed around by the players and owners in a sports labor war, neither side ever talks about lowering costs for us. Bigger, newer facilities with nicer seats and more amenities lead to higher prices that are needed to keep pace with the skyrocketing salaries and owners profit margins. Seemingly this model has proven to be recession proof as the country has been to financial hell in the past few years but the beat just goes on and on in big time pro sports.
How about a little haircut there sports? Ever hear of downsizing?
The magnitude of the dollar amounts are just so offensive that mostly I try to look away so as to not write something like this every week. Does pointing out how bloated all of this has become make me a cheapskate? A Socialist? I don't know. It's complicated.
All I know is I've been in this business for 16 years now and have been wondering almost the entire time when sports, and specifically the NFL, would hit a ceiling. Turns out, even the domed stadiums don't really have roofs on them.