The official start of training camp with the full array of veterans, injured veterans, rookies and undrafted free agents commences on Thursday, July 25. Perhaps more so than at any time in Ravens history, there is suddenness to the way this new season has crept upon us.
Maybe the substandard summer weather has contributed. There seems to be a collective sense of, “when will summer begin?” in and around Baltimore – although yesterday seemed like a rather rude awakening.
And then of course there are the Orioles, making a push towards the post season for the second consecutive year. They’ve been a welcomed distraction.
But yesterday, Ravens fans across the region were given a wake-up call that the 2013 season is just around the corner and the defense of the title begins. That wake-up call was the arrival of season tickets.
As much as I enjoy going to the games, I must admit that for the past few seasons I question the investment in these tickets. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Of course the tailgate parties are outstanding. You reconnect with your neighbors in your respective lots, deepen friendships and make more memories. Yet I can’t help but wonder, “Do I need to go to every game?”
Let’s face it, once the tailgates have closed, coolers are packed and you begin your journey into the stadium, from that point forward the game experience when compared to the alternative of staying home or going to your friendly neighborhood watering hole, pales in comparison, starting with the entrance into the stadium.
Security lines are long and time consuming. With restrictions now tighter than ever, the queue will be even more of a zoo!
Then of course there are the bathroom lines and the concession lines. And let’s not forget the exorbitant costs for a hot dog, a pretzel or a beer.
Once you are in your seat, depending on where you sit, I’d wager that you spend no less than 25% of your time watching the big screens instead of the action on the field. One season I had tickets in the lower level near the corner of the end zone to the east side of the marching band. Whenever the action was on the far side of the field, I watched the big screens all the time.
“Why am I here?”, I sometimes wondered.
At home there are no lines; the parking is more convenient and free; the “concessions” are dramatically less expensive; the bathrooms are cleaner; I can see perfectly in high-def and I can rewind courtesy of my DVR. Plus I can jump to NFL Network’s Red Zone whenever I want to take in action around the league. And when the game is over, there’s no traffic jam between my living room and kitchen.
What I spend in one season to go to the games would foot the bill for weekly parties at my house AND two brand new banging HDTV’s which I get to keep. When I leave the stadium I’m just left with a used ticket that might get me a 25% discount on Ravens jewelry at Smyth, or whatever promo flavor they are serving up that season.
Some might say I’m just getting old and I’ll admit that there might be some of that going on. But really, it just makes more sense to stay home. The technological advances of the at-home experience clearly are outpacing those at M&T Bank Stadium.
Recently I chatted with CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora on this very subject.
“This is a primary concern”, said the Baltimore native. “The in-game experience is a huge part of every owner’s meeting and it’s why you’re seeing the move to better Wi-Fi in stadiums, making people able to access fantasy stats at stadiums, why they are adding the ability to watch locker room speeches in stadium, etc.
“The league is worried that all the innovations with how we watch games at homes is out weighing what you get by spending all that money by being there. Goodell is especially focused on committee groups of owners and league officials charged with coming up with new ideas and ways to incentivize fans to come out to games.”
I wonder how many others are questioning the investment. Are you?
What if advances in the at-home experience creates even more distance between the experiences of live games? Might the league start to charge to watch the games at home in order to level the playing field?
Time will tell but with every increase in taxes, every bump in gas prices, every hike in tolls, every extra dollar charged to attend live games becomes more and more noticeable – more painful.
Fans can’t control the taxes, cost of fuel or the Harbor Tunnel tariff. But they can control their discretionary spending.
I suppose I’m not quite at the breaking point to give up on the season tickets quite yet. But a thought that once had a snowball’s chance is no longer on the other side of the horizon.
And each year it comes more clearly into focus.
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