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From the Bleachers

Tue December 29, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Rick Woodson

Once upon a time, if you wanted season tickets to New York Giants games, you had to either inherit them or put your name on the waiting list and hope you lived to be at least 100. Otherwise, forget it.

Sorry Yankees, but Giants tickets were the hottest sports item in Gotham City. And yes, were is the correct word – you know, as in past tense, used to be, once was but isn’t anymore. And the reason is, the new $1.7 billion stadium that opens next season.

Surprised? Then give ’em a call. Tell the person on the other end you want two season tickets not far from midfield — the 50 yardline — and 10, 15 rows up. And be sure someone who cares about you is close by in case you pass out when you are asked, “Yes, they are available. Now, how do you want to pay the $20,000?”

That’s right, folks, 20 grand, 20,000 pieces of greenish paper with George Washington’s picture on them. Or, to put it in even better perspective, roughly 36 percent of the average income — which is $55,000, thanks to the rich – in the U.S. and about $7,500 less than the median income for U.S. workers.

And that $20,000 does not cover the ticket prices! It just pays for something called the Personal Seat License, which gives you the privilege — punishment? — to pay $160 per ticket per game. to go watch eight NFL regular season games and a couple of others that don’t mean squat.

A friend of mine told me the other day his parents had Giants season tickets since 1982 at the 100 level, seven rows up. And when they were informed of the $20,000 Personal Seat License ripoff, they were history. Instead, see you on the tube, Giants. Who can blame them? I wouldn’t pay $20,000 to spend a week with 40 NFL players at a golf resort, let alone watch them play for 60 minutes – and lose, which the Giants have in seven of their last 10 games.

Of course, the price goes down as you go up and up, but even where the oxygen begins to thin, there’s a $1,000 PSL charge to pay $95 per ticket.

Unfortunately for us working stiffs, attending major league professional sports games is becoming — make that, has become — all but financially impossible. And it goes far beyond the Giants.

Just ask the Yankees. Did you ever notice all those fans who were not sitting in the first few rows at the new Yankee Stadium? First time I saw it on TV, I thought maybe the stadium was so new the paint hadn’t dried yet. The real reason was, though, that it cost one person $375, or $750 for two, to sit near the players. That’s pretty expensive just to have a close-up view of players spitting and scratching.

Then there’s the NBA. Wanna go check out Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers? Well, be informed that the Lakers have the highest ticket prices in the league, $116, up from $89 and change two seasons ago. And those numbers do not include premier seats or suites.

In fact, back in 2007-08, the Lakers’ Fan Cost Index (FCI) was $453.95 per game. And that, according to Sports Business Daily, would get you four tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drink, four hot dogs, parking for one car, two programs and two size-adjustable caps. Talk about a deal!

The lowest average ticket price in the NBA that season was the New Orleans Hornets at $24.58. And most teams in the league had a cheap-seat price of $10, just don’t stand straight up ’cause you might hit your head on the ceiling.

Why have all these numbers exploded into outer space? Well, you know the answer as well as I do: players salaries. And not even all the television revenue on the planet is enough to cover paying all those guys more per minute than some people make per day. Or per week. Besides, TV networks don’t have bottomless money pits either.

You have to wonder where all this is going. How much more can players’ pay and ticket prices rise before thousands of fans say, “That’s it. We’re done. See you at the movies.”

Someone once suggested that the NBA owners collaborate and tell the players, “We will pay each of you $200,000 per season. Take it or leave it.” Of course, that’ll never happen, but it would work. I mean, what are they going to do, quit basketball and go to med school?

At least NFL teams have a salary cap. And at some point it seems inevitable that others will follow, like it or not. Otherwise, they just might price themselves out of business.

(Rick Woodson is a regular columnist for the “Rochester Business Journal” in Rochester, N.Y., and is the author of “Words of Woodson”, a collection of sports columns, available at and Woodson’s e-mail address is [email protected]. )

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