Tom Brady returns to New England on Oct. 3 as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers will sail into Foxboro to face the Patriots. The Week 4 matchup has everyone tingling with excitement and has predictably sent the ticket markets soaring to levels not seen since a bunch of people pumped up GameStop stock.
Here's a question, though. Are we sure this is good?
Obviously, those moving tickets on the secondary market will be absolutely delighted with their returns. And those capable of parting with such an enormous sum of money to watch a regular-season football game will probably take some perverse pride in paying through their gums for entry through the gates. But doesn't pricing out 98 percent of the population have some downsides? Is it not weird that these ticket bubbles are always presented as on overwhelmingly positive story?
Look, no one should be naive about the business of professional sports, especially the NFL which has perfected the machinery. Yet when the in-person experience is only available for the most financially stable sliver of the fanbase, shouldn't there be some reflection about what type of message that sends?
The pricing-out of the working stiff is essentially complete across sports. Yet every now and again there's some eye-popping figures that could be cause for consideration. Exorbitant secondary ticket prices may be a reflection of a healthy league and essential product but they are also a clear reminder of the firewall behind the haves and have-nots. Every time four-figure tickets become the norm, no matter the intrigue, I can't help but read every single one as an announcement in 96-point font that one must be THIS financially liquid in order to participate in the party.
Perhaps that's being too much of a downer. But for laughs, the next time one of these stories comes out — that it'll cost Iowa fans $800 to get in the Rose Bowl or Browns fans $1,200 to see an in-person AFC Championship Game — consider an alternate headline announcing all the average fans who won't be able to participate.
There's this lazy perception that those willing to pay top dollar to see their teams are better fans than those who won't. This ignores the overwhelming majority of people. Those who simply could never entertain spending so much money on a trivial pursuit.
Putting on the Galaxy Brain hat, this is a inequity that could get much worse. In the longview, as our society becomes even more online, the in-person tangible experiences will be more valuable. It's reasonable to envision a world in which arenas become much smaller to reduce supply and drive up demand. That will only exacerbate the inequities. Doesn't seem great. Especially when the way to benefit from the system is to invest in tickets for turnaround purposes.