Show Me the Money!
By Patrick F. Cannon
European fans of the sport they call “the beautiful game,” and we call soccer, were up in arms recently when a dozen of its richest and most famous teams announced they were forming a super league that would make one and all really big bucks, and relegate the rest of the teams to scrambling for the leftovers.
For those of you who know only the American brand of football, the one played by men and women running around in shorts has a unique peculiarity. Say you’re in the British “Premier” league. If you’re consistently at the bottom of the standings, you can be relegated to one of the lesser leagues, an indignity that our own professional teams cannot suffer. What if the Cubs and White Sox teams of the late 1940s had been punished for their mediocrity by being relegated to a Triple AAA league, and the Toledo Mud Hens and Hollywood Stars had taken their place?
The new soccer league would have exempted its members from this possible indignity. But the real reason was bigger TV and sponsor contracts. In short, more income for the owners, some of whom are Americans who already own baseball and football franchises here. Not that the players are exploited. Both Christian Ronoldo and Lionel Messi pull down more than $100 million a year. Greed now oozes from the pores of owners and players alike.
While the players and owners are fighting over their shares of the swag, fans here are contributing mightily to the pot. A quick check tells me that Cubs single tickets range from $27 to $53, depending on the day and opponent. A family of four can easily drop about $200 for a day at the ballpark. For those who like a brisker experience, a single ticket to a Bears game can run from $108 to $193. For that investment, you can watch the latest quarterback experiment fail.
Going to a major league game – whether baseball, football, basketball or hockey – is no longer a spur of the moment decision, unless you are firmly in the top 10 percent of earners. Even then, you might hesitate. While some avid – and prosperous – fans might have season tickets, many are owned by corporations and doled out to favored clients and customers.
When we were kids, my brother and I would be given $2.00 to go to Comiskey Park to watch the hapless White Sox. This was in 1948, and that 2 bucks would cover the streetcar ride both ways, admission to the game and a hot dog and Coke. Inflation would make that $21.98 today. Good luck getting even a hot dog and beer for that today.
As a result, most avid fans rarely see a game in person. And most don’t realize that even on television, they are enriching not only the cable and streaming broadcasters, but the team owners who sell the rights. And the cost of those rights keep going up, hidden in that expensive cable bill. I remember when fans used to rail against big player contracts. One rarely hears that today. Our ire is instead directed against the salaries of corporate executives, even though most of them don’t make as much as starting pitcher or quarterback (or midfielder, or whatever they call soccer players).
So, want to take in a Cub’s game today? Check with your banker first.
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon