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And Another Thing

Associated Press

Fan unfriendly: NFL

The last time I went to an NFL game as a paying customer, it was late November and Soldier Field came dressed as that ever-popular femme fatale, Siberian Winter. It was maybe 28 degrees at game time. The wind was throwing razor blades at us off Lake Michigan. I was wearing six layers, and still I was freezing.

You know how you know when it's cold out?

When you opt for hot chocolate over beer at a football game.

Still, I don't remember the experience as being totally unpleasant, even though the Lions beat the Bears in a dreary affair in which, if memory serves, the Bears set a franchise record for least total yards in a game. And that was mainly because the tickets didn't cost an arm, a leg and large parts of my ribcage.

Today, however ....

Well, today, I wonder why anyone bothers to go to an NFL game. Or can afford to unless they're a CEO or using the CEO's tickets that particular week.

These days, I'm pretty much on board with this guy, who raises the very point I've been mulling for some time: Why does anyone go to an NFL game anymore, unless they come into free tickets? And are the people who do go not really the core fan base, but people who just want to vent -- or, as was the case in San Francisco yesterday, worse?

Even if I had kids who were so inclined -- and, despite what their father does for a living, no two kids were less inclined -- I can't say I'd ever seriously consider taking them to an NFL game. First of all, I haven't come into serious enough money to afford the tickets (in Indianapolis, well north of $80 a throw on average), the $20 or $25 for parking, the $10 beers .... well, you get the idea.

Then again, from the horror stories I hear from people who do go to games, I'm not sure I'd want to expose my kids to that environment. Way too many angry drunks per capita.

Besides, with the advent of 52-inch HD TVs, who needs the hassle?

One of my Sunday rituals in the fall, when I'm not working, is to spend an hour or so at a local establishment that features big-screen TVs and wall-to-wall NFL games. The view is great, the parking's free, the libations don't require a second mortgage. Shoot, there's even plenty of atmosphere, with jerseyed-up fans everywhere.

Even saw a guy in a Bills jersey once. No, really.

What's actually being at a game got to offer that beats that? Am I missing something here?

That I'm even asking this question -- and that I'm not alone -- ought to send chills up Roger Goodell's spine. Maybe it already does; the league's draconian blackout rule, after all, is about as subtle as a Mafia shakedown in sending the message that you will pay blackmail prices for our product, no matter how lousy that product is.

No wonder the Angry Drunk quotient is so high at games these days. And that there seems to be so little room left for Joe Fan.

Ben Smith's blog.