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By J SWYGART
Sitting here in the office on a brilliantly-sunny, unseasonably warm fall day. And I’m thinking about ice.
Or, more specifically, about ice hockey.
The NHL season starts tonight and, coupled with the ongoing Major League Baseball playoffs, it’s the junkie’s perfect fix — baseball and hockey on the tube at once (and no NBA to unnecessarily clog up the ESPN airwaves).
Hockey is a personal passion, with its roots in the 1960s when my dad took me to a few Fort Wayne Komets games each year. And in recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to pass the love of the game on to another generation as my grandson has become quite a fan in his own right.
Each year for the past several, my wife and I have taken him to a handful of games, and he enjoys them tremendously. This year we’ve talked of taking him on an outing to Columbus to see the Blue Jackets and an NHL setting.
As a fan of the mostly impotent Jackets, I have been to a few games at Nationwide Arena — although the most recent one was probably five years ago. So I was unprepared for the “sticker shock” I encountered when looking at current ticket prices online. Even on Stub Hub, the website where tickets can be found at a discount, prices for an NHL game are exorbitant. Seats in the rafters, at either end of the arena (far from the action) cost $25 and up. Move closer to center ice — still in the nosebleed section — and the prices goes up another $10 or more per ticket.
Wanna sit closer to the action? Be prepared to shell out $100 — and that’s still for less-than-ideal seats — and upwards.
How does Joe Six-Pack afford to ever take his family to a game?
And it’s not just hockey. A close friend is a Detroit Tigers’ season-ticket holder. After the Tigers clinched a playoff spot, I asked what he thought ticket prices might be for a post-season game. His reply: $100 for the worst seat in the house. I decided to pass.
This friend was in attendance Monday night when the Tigers hosted their first playoff game of the year. Talking to him the following day, he described the scene at Comerica Park as “kinda weird.” Blue-collar Tiger fans, the ones who have cheered and jeered their team at every turn throughout the 162-game regular season, had been replaced in large part by society’s upper crust; patrons who may have known precious little about baseball, but knew that the Tigers’ game was “the place to see and be seen” on this particular Monday night.
Wanna see the Super Bowl this year in your backyard of Indianapolis? Good luck with that, especially if you’re anything other than a CEO.
Universities make billions of dollars off sports, pay their top coaches millions, and suspend a student-athlete who is slightly overpaid for an already bogus summer job, or who has the nerve to sell an autograph in order to make a car payment.
But that’s where we are today — in a world of “haves” and “have nots.” Class warfare may be too harsh a term for it, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that the disparity of incomes continues to become more distinct with each passing day.
We will probably take our grandson to a Blue Jackets game sometime this year. We’ll find ways to cut back to come up with the $200 or more it will take. The quality time spent with him, and the memories he’ll take from the experience, will be worth it.
But if professional sports teams don’t do something soon to reign in these costs, the experience may have to last him a lifetime.