As usual, I’m going to ask you to bear with me as I make my point in a somewhat circuitous manner. Yes, we still talk baseball here but the timing of my thoughts today requires me to use a personal NFL anecdote.
A short version of a longer story: I’m a former Jets season ticket holder. I was on a waitlist for about 10 years for the honor of buying Jets (the JETS – let that sink in) season tickets. After my turn came up I purchased the only seats available – crappy ones – but eventually ended up with pretty good seats as I upgraded slightly each season. After about five years, my seats were on the 40-yard line, 7 rows up in the upper level. When the Jets moved into Met Life Stadium, they made the announcement that the upper-level seats would not have a personal seat license (PSL) agreement attached to them in order to renew your season tickets. My good news was quickly quashed when they made another announcement that current season ticket holders would be put in order by longevity – longest-tenured season ticket holders’ first, newest subscribers last – and that access to buy season tickets and seat selection in the new stadium would go to the longest-tenured season ticket holders first.
I had my seats for only five years, so I was pretty down low on the hierarchy as most season ticket holders had their seats for decades. So of course, very good seats with no PSLs attached to them (my seats) were the first seats to go when the seat selection process started. By the time my turn came up to select my seats, the only options left were at the back of the middle level, in the corner of the stadium with $5K PSLs attached to each seat, then I’d have the opportunity to purchase the actual tickets for a little over $2K per seat, per season. Over $10K for crappy seats? Hard pass – I became an on the couch at home Jets fan again.
After a few years went by, the Jets started emailing me offers that practically begged me to buy tickets. SINGLE GAME tickets. And not upper level, corner against the Bills – good seats against good teams. Some version of this practice still goes on today: I get regular emails with “Hey Jon, even though you were clearly a valuable and loyal customer, we tried to extort tens of thousands from you to see a continually crappy football team and you were smart enough to give us the middle finger, we’re begging you – could you come once, just once, at relatively low cost to fill any of the thousands of good seats that will be empty on Sunday?”
Here’s my hard pass, and a middle finger again, Jets.
This week they’re running commercials locally for today’s season opener – “good seats still available!” Keep in mind, it’s a beautiful day in New Jersey – perfect outdoor activity weather. If you’re a football fan, there are definitely worse ways to spend a fall Sunday than grabbing a couple of beers and dogs and watching some football.
And they still can’t sell tickets. Not that long ago, there was a decade long waitlist to buy full seasons – now they can’t sell out one game, for a home opener in beautiful weather. I’ll pause while you consider what a remarkable fall from grace that is.
Why am I writing this today?
Because if that were MLB, there would be national articles and talking heads screaming about how “Baseball is dying!” all season long. I stopped giving oxygen to the dipshits who write drivel like that on a regular basis but you’re probably familiar with them. “Stats are killing the game! The games are too long! All these home runs are boring!” Blah, fucking blah.
I don’t know if football is dying, but anyone with eyes can see it’s trending in the wrong direction. In addition to the above, youth participation has declined precipitously and although a star player joining the defending champs on opening weekend has made big news, there’s a part of the story that’s being glossed over: There was an issue between the player and his former management about his headgear – i.e., what will and what will not scramble his brain, was actually a debate. By the shoulder of Dan Fouts, the Chargers share a stadium with the equivalent of a minor league soccer team and got outdrawn in attendance for Christ’s sake. Imagine that a decade ago.
The issue is that the NFL does not shit on its own product – baseball does, and they do it very well. From national writers to talking heads on TV to the broadcasts with announcers who spend three hours telling us everything that’s wrong with the game – it’s a constant barrage of mostly bullshit about non-issues (that only become issues with casual fans because they hear people in baseball talking about them).
Consider this: Mike Trout is in his prime, is clearly the best player of his generation and quite possibly the best player in the history of the sport. He comes from a blue-collar background, is clean-cut, stays out of trouble, plays in a huge TV market, and in addition to his sick talent, plays as hard and hustles as much as anyone in the sport. And every damn day I get online, there’s some debate about “Is he really that good? I mean, he’s always on crappy teams how good can he be?”
Don’t misunderstand: I am all for evolving and improving and not accepting the status quo, just because it’s the status quo. But baseball’s attendance issues are only issues for the teams that don’t try to win and make it clear to their fans in March that they aren’t even going to try to win. Attendance numbers at Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Citizen’s Bank Park and Minute Maid Park are just fine (he wrote, in an understated manner).
Other writers have covered this better than I can, so I’m not going to re-hash the entire argument – check out Joe Sheehan’s and Rob Arthur’s work on this among others. But if you think baseball has problems, start with this: At least half the league tanks before the season even starts. That makes fans want to stay the hell home way more than home runs, long games and nerdy stats do.
Did I miss something? Let me know.
Did you see my article for The Hardball Times? If you missed it you can check it out HERE.
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