Tag Archives: Dan Snyder

Is the NFL Becoming the No Fan League?

just spoke my first wordThe result of NFL’s experiment in negative market dynamics has just come in and the news is not good for Commissioner Roger Goodell. Last September the NFL greatly increased the irritation factor of attending games when the league banned women’s purses that were larger than a pack of cigarettes for ‘security’ reasons. (Complete details here.)

This development was added to the existing $10 hotdog, $10 beer, $40 parking place, pauses in the action for commercials you mercifully can’t see, wildly expensive ticket prices and the owner prancing around on the sidelines.

It’s enough to make you want to dedicate your life to eradicating ‘income inequality.’

I wondered how long it would take the descending curve of a fan’s desire to attend an increasingly expensive NFL game to cross the rising nuisance curve of pettifogging NFL rules. Well now we know: It took four months.

As this is written three of the four first–round NFL playoff games have failed to sell out even though the deadlines for all three have been extended. Even in Green Bay — home of put the baby on the waiting list for season tickets — still has seats available. The important point about a playoff game failing to sell out for the fan base is not the dent in the owner’s bottom line. It’s the fact the game will be blacked out in the local viewing area.

This has not happened since 2002 when the Dolphins – Ravens game in Miami failed to sell out.

So why does the unrest surface now? Because this is the first time season ticket holders have been asked to make an additional ticket purchase since the new ‘security’ rules took effect. Up until now season tickets were already paid for and not using them would be like throwing money away. Or buying a Redskin’s ticket.

Many are finding the extraordinary cost of attending the game when added to the degrading, increasingly TSA–like experience of entering the stadium is simply too much. It’s easier, warmer and the seats are better when one watches the game at home. Assuming the rest of the sheep in your locale continue buying enough tickets to fill the stadium.

I realize the TV commentary can be annoying, but so are the observations of nearby drunks in the stadium and there’s always the off chance they may hurl on you. (Something that never happens at home. Although I’ve been known to get a touch of indigestion following Pam Oliver’s inane sideline commentary.)

Since I’m part owner of the Packers, lets look at that situation in detail. It may be as cold as 4 below at game time Sunday, but that’s not keeping the fans away. In 1967 the Ice Bowl between the Packers and the Cowboys was even more frigid, yet the stadium was full. The difference? In 1967 fans weren’t strip searched before they were seated. Now I can only imagine the lines of parka–clad fans extending outside Lambeau Field waiting for their carefully selected layering to be explored in detail by suspicious ‘security’ fingers.

And how exactly does the ‘no purse large than a pack of Marlboros’ work when both of the pockets on my parka are the size of dinner plates? I’ve seen kangaroos with smaller pouches. Are you required to stuff large pockets with cardboard to reduce carrying capacity? Or is it one of the dreaded case–by–case safety decisions?

And how about the fan that uses battery-powered gloves and boots to keep warm? He’s going to be treated like a suicide bomber when guards get a load of his power pack and the jumble of wires connecting. At the Ice Bowl you could have brought a Duraflame log into the stadium, today they confiscate your matches.

As a result there were 8,500 seats still unsold on Wednesday. This represents almost 12 percent of stadium capacity in Green Bay. In Cincinnati there were 5,000 to 6,000 unsold tickets and in Indianapolis the number was 3,000.

If these tickets were unsold in the summer for an exhibition game no one would notice. But playoff games are for all the marbles and should be of peak interest to fans. The Packers have sold out EVERY regular season game since 1959, a string of 55 years, and for part of that time the team played in two different cities. Alienating 12 percent of the base is a significant insult that does not bode well for the future.

(UPDATE: Green Bay has sold out and so have the other sites. But this does not negate my conclusion. In the Packer’s case the tickets were purchased in bulk by civic–minded businesses so the game would be televised. This only encourages long-term erosion in stadium attendance. In addition, the seats will now be given away, which means the cost portion of cost/annoyance ratio is significantly reduced, so the fans will probably attend. But the market had already spoken beforehand when 12 percent were unsold.)

Most of the commentary regarding the unsold seats focuses on the cost of attending games, which is high. But I think the straw that crippled this camel is the arrogance of the NFL owners and the constant annoyance of ‘security theatre’ drama before you get to your seat.

For fat cats like the Redskins’ Dan Snyder, fans are slightly overweight ATM machines that need to be milked regularly. If people object to being treated like cattle then let them buy their own football team. But the cattle are getting restless and the beginning of a slow motion stampede for the exits may have begun this year.

TSA Annexes NFL

TSA logic: Coming to an NFL stadium near you.

TSA logic: Coming to an NFL stadium near you.

I never thought I’d live to see the day when you couldn’t bring more than 3 oz. of shampoo into a National Football League stadium. Over the years I’ve grudgingly accepted the ban on explosives, handguns, rifles and vuvuzelas, but this may be the last straw.

The NFL has now decreed that fans (quaintly known in some quarters as paying customers) may no longer bring purses larger than a pack of cigarettes (also banned, BTW) into the stadium. In addition, the ban includes briefcases, fanny packs, coolers, backpacks, cinch bags, computer bags (!) and camera bags. Instead attendees may fill one clear plastic bag no large than 12” X 6” X 12” with their worldly possessions.

NFL officials suggest items that won’t fit inside the bag may be put in your pockets, around your neck or slipped inside a handy body cavity. In its benevolence the NFL is allowing fans to bring blankets inside, as long as you sling it over your shoulder like the infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia did.

The reason for the change is as tiresome as it is irrelevant: “To provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry into stadiums.” The new policy will expedite all right. Once the argument with the TSA–wannabe is over, females will be jettisoning personal possessions into waiting trash bins like shipwreck survivors tossing unneeded weight out of a lifeboat.

How sowing confusion is going to speed up security lines is something of a mystery. Many items formerly contained in a purse will go into pockets instead, where they will trigger metal detectors. This, in turn, will trigger pat–downs, wandings, pocket emptying, possession dropping and possession forgetting. You’ll have all the fun of an airport security line without the bother of remembering to put your tray table in “its full, upright and locked position.”

This season the NFL will be conducting an unintentional experiment in market dynamics. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the descending curve of a fan’s desire to attend the game to cross the rising nuisance curve of petty NFL rules. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s lasting legacy may be as the man who made pro football a studio sport.

Various credulous observers have commented, “I understand the need for increased security when it comes to larger bags. All someone needs to do is mention the 2013 Boston Marathon to silence critics.”

I’ve got a news flash: One couldn’t bring a pressure cooker into a Redskins game before the Boston bombing, much less afterwards. Dan Snyder, Redskins owner, wouldn’t allow the competition with his over–priced hot dogs. And speaking of Snyder, the NFL advised owners to establish a location where females who didn’t get the word could check their purses outside the stadium, like a hotel does with coats, and then pick the purse up after the game.

Snyder — a noted paragon of customer service — provided a little expediting here, too. Women were told to trek back to their cars with their purse or drop it in the trash.

The safety concerns of the majority of fans, and almost all the women, concern being protected from aggressive drunks, hurling drunks, disrobing drunks, cursing drunks and fighting drunks. (For their part the drunks may have some complaints, too but they have trouble remembering.) But ending alcohol sales or increasing patrolling security inside the stadium would cut into owner profits, whereas making you throw your purse in the trash costs Snyder nothing.

When you combine that with the fact you have to leave earlier to catch a football game than you do to catch a flight. The traffic home will be at least as bad as traffic to the stadium. Parking can run you $50. The ticket can cost more than an airline flight. And you have to sit idle while play stops for a TV commercial — the option of sitting at home and watching the game looks better and better. In fact, during the 2011 season almost two million seats went unsold in the NFL.

Airlines don’t worry too much about security irritation because there is no real alternative for long distance travel. But the NFL provides its own alternative: Televised games! Where you see better, eat cheaper, have a smaller carbon footprint and are on a first name basis with the drunks.

I can’t imagine this latest “safety” brainstorm is going to make NFL owners happy if they start losing concession, parking and ticket revenue.

Of course it could be that football fans are intrinsically more dangerous than baseball fans. I went to a Nationals game this week. The guard glanced in my wife’s large, black, opaque bag, saw clear plastic bottles of water and waved her though. It took about 15 seconds. There were no metal detectors and no pat–downs. I didn’t remove my shoes or my belt. Yet the family didn’t feel the least bit unsafe.

Something tells me the clear plastic bag has more to do with mom sneaking a granola bar into the stadium than it does pressure cooker bombs.

It’s enough to make you wonder if Goodell drinks Maker’s Mark bourbon. You may recall earlier this year Maker’s Mark was presented with a problem many companies wish they had in Obama’s economy — more demand for their bourbon than the company could supply at current production levels.

Classical economics offers two choices to a company in this situation: Raise prices until the demand curve crosses the price curve or keep prices where they are, endure resulting shortages and ramp up production for the future.

Instead, the owners decided to water down their bourbon, reducing alcohol content from 90 proof to 84 proof, so as to increase supply at the same price. Customers were outraged and the company quickly backed down and kept the alcohol level the same.

Goodell is diluting the quality of his product, too. But instead of water he adds irritation.