Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Football, football, rah-rah-rah. (Block those taxes!)

Sometimes I surprise myself.

As I did when I read an article that started out:

If you're planning to attend Super Bowl XLVIII this February…

Never say never, but I suspect I’m as likely to attend a NASCAR event, or the Iditarod, or the World Series of Poker, as I am to attend a Super Bowl.

It’s not that I don’t like football. I do. Kinda, sorta. Mostly. More or less.

It’s just that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I never saw another football game, live or Memorex. I just wouldn’t miss it at all.

And that goes double for Super Bowl.

Sometimes I watch it. Kinda, sorta.

If the Patriots are in, I mostly watch. Unless, of course, Tom Brady gets sacked for a safety on the first possession, at which point I make the call: here and no further. No commercial, however clever, is going to make it worth my while enough to sit through this debacle.

A pretty good indicator of what little interest I have in SB is the fact that, in 2010, when Green Bay won, we turned off the half-time show to watch a re-run special, which we had already seen, on the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Such was our level of interest in the Super Bowl that we stuck with a show we’d already seen, about an event the outcome of which we were 100% certain, and enjoyed it more than we were enjoying that ultimate of real-time sporting events: The Super Bowl.

Come to think of it, of the major professional sports (and I’ll even include soccer, tennis, golf, and – god help us – wrestling), football is the one I’ve never seen in person. (I DO NOT count boxing.)

I suppose if the weather were perfect, and someone gave me a ticket for free, and I had a hotel room in walking distance of the stadium, I’d go to a professional football game…

Anyway, I guess it’s pretty clear that, no, I’m not planning on attending Super Bowl XLVIII, or any other Super Bowl, anytime soon. (While I’m at it, what’s with that pompous use of Roman numerals?)

Nonetheless, I read the remainder of the article and learned that, when Super Bowl comes into the cold this February, for an old-fashioned outdoor game in an inclement weather location (Giants’ home field in New Jersey), things are going to get pricey.

The NFL is on the verge of approving a plan that would more than double the prices the league charges for the most coveted Super Bowl tickets. According to three league officials familiar with the plan, club-level seats in the mezzanine with access to indoor restaurants are likely to cost about $2,600—a mammoth hike from last year's game in New Orleans, where the top tickets went for $1,250.

The next-cheapest tranche of seats (those in the lower bowl) would cost about $1,500, the executives said, up from $950 for the second-tier seats sold in New Orleans.(Source: WSJ.)

(While I’m at it, what’s with that pompous use of the word “tranche”?)

The NFL – poor dears – is just trying to capture some of the value they’re losing to fans who decide not to go, and to ticket brokers, the legitimate scalpers who grab a mitt-ful of tickets and plump up the prices. (I suppose I could start WSJ-ing it up and throw in terms like dead-weight loss, and Pareto’s optimum, and demand curve. But that would be pompous. And I’d probably get it all wrong, anyway.)

I’m fine with the NFL charging whatever the market can bear for their tickets. Why not?

This isn’t exactly an average fan event, to begin with. Like most big deal sporting events, Super Bowl has got corporate written all over it.

The result is that a large portion of the audience at any Super Bowl consists of people who are attending the game on someone else's dime.

So the average fan can watch from the comfort of his couch, paying far less for his own nachos and Buds, and peeing in his very own toilet.

Interesting, even among those fans who manage to score tickets, a lot of them would rather be able to watch, nosh, and pee in peace:

At the last Super Bowl, the league held a lottery for $600 tickets in the upper bowl in the corners of the end zones—drawing some 30,000 entries. But of the 500 winners, the NFL said, 60% flipped their tickets within 24 hours. This season, the NFL plans to raffle off 1,000 $500 tickets—but those tickets will be non-transferrable.

Apparently, there’s still plenty of untapped value for the NFL to tap:

According to the NFL, research on the secondary market during the 2013 Super Bowl shows many $600 tickets sold for $2,000 while seats near midfield went for up to $6,100 and premium club seats changed hands for $6,400—both multiples of their face value.

So it looks like those-who-scalp will still be able to extract a few bucks on the secondary market. Bless the generous little heart of the NFL!

Part of the NFL’s argument for raising prices this year is that the game is being played in the NY metro where there are a lot more people. A lot more people who live close enough to drive. So the money being saved on airfare and hotels can and should go into the NFL’s coffers.

Why should that extra money go to the actual ticket buyer?

After all, the NFL is a poor old nonprofit.

Nonprofit, one might ask.

Nonprofit, indeed.

This is not, of course, to say that NFL teams are nonprofits. For the most part, they’re completely lucrative, veritable gold mines that are shrewd enough to sucker state and local governments into spending hard-earned, grudgingly paid taxes to build swank new stadiums for them to play in. And the teams themselves do pay taxes. Of course, they get to deduct the dues they pay to the NFL Which each year distributes all the money (from TV rights, jerseys, etc.) that’s left over after expenses back to the teams… So, around, and around, and around we go….

The NFL’s tax-exempt status is part of some lip kiss that Congress gave them when the AFL and NFL merged in the way-back.

At least one senator – Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – thinks that NFL as 501 (c) has got to go.

There may not be many things I agree with Tom Coburn on, but this would be one of them.

Just as a matter of principal, eliminating this farce seems like the right thing to do. Football commissioner Roger Goodell is paid $30 million a year. What kind of a nonprofit is that?

“Tax earmarks are essentially tax increases for everyone who doesn’t receive the benefit,” Coburn said in his press release proposing to tax America’s most popular sport. “In this case, working Americans are paying artificially high rates in order to subsidize special breaks for sports leagues. This is hardly fair.” The NFL did not respond to requests for comment. (Source: Business Week.)

Coburn’s not going out on a shaky limb in terms of his home state here. Oklahoma does not have an NFL team of its own.

Still, standing up to Big Sports is not without risk, and I’m sure he’s caught some flak.

Meanwhile, last year,

…Coburn estimated that the change could “generate at least $91 million of federal revenue every year” from the NHL and NFL alone

Accounting pencils being as sharp as they are, the net-net to the government would probably be zilch.

Still, I wish the best of luck to the esteemed junior senator from the great state of Oklahoma.

Boola, boola to him!

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