Driving home from my kids' school the other day, I heard a Spring Training analysis on our local public radio station about how the Chicago baseball teams were shaping up for this season. The consensus is that they both still suck...less so than last season. But probably not "better" enough to be competitive.
One of the reporters had an experience similar to mine, however, and his metaphorical language was both amusing and dead-on I thought. He explained that his favorite team, the Cubs, had been through a messy divorce but he was thinking about getting back together with his ex-wife. At this point it was just coffee, but we all know where that leads. It was a cute way of looking at it.
This morning was the pre-sale for individual tickets to Wrigley Field. In case you hadn't heard, the Cubs are doing renovations including knocking down the bleachers to replace them, putting in giant signs and video boards, and instituting a war on the rooftop owners. All while supposedly "building a farm system" that will one day pay off...a system that conveniently allows them to make no effort at putting a winning team on the field immediately.
I clicked to see what prices were like with a 15% markup. Have you seen this "dynamic pricing?" One game the seat may be $100 for a rival matchup. The next day when the bottom-dwellers are in town it falls to $20. At least the White Sox have the common courtesy of including the tax in the price of the tickets. I thought about taking the kids to a White Sox game on one of their Family Days when parking is half off and cheap tickets can be purchased. It's not that I'm dead set on attending a White Sox game. I've been. The stadium is sterile with seats far away from the action and it's less fun when the pitcher doesn't hit. But I'm not opposed.
I didn't grow up on it though. I grew up on National League ball. I like the old baseball experience...the one that's getting harder and harder to find as the stadium is plastered with statistics boards and ticket prices drive all but the wealthy away from the sport like with the NFL and NHL. Spring Training rolls around and this season part of me wants to put on Bull Durham and imagine sitting in the summer humidity hearing the snap of the catcher's mitt.
Then I look at the way that baseball--and organized sports in general--are being run into the ground. The average fan taken advantage of and manipulated and left uncared for in a billion dollar industry. I eventually came to my senses and decided the ticket will still be there for a crappy April evening matchup when regular tickets go on sale soon. No hurry to turn my money over. It's hard. I have such happy memories of baseball's influence on my childhood and can't really see how it can be the same for the next generation.
I'm sure I'll get to at least one game this season. But I used to go to 10 or more.