Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Season Tickets: The Dilemma Of The Die-Hard Fan

When I was 20 years old I decided for fun to put my name on the Giants' season ticket waiting list. It was partially serious and partially a lark, but given that my number on the list generally hovered between 90,000 and 86,000, which would require an entire stadium's worth of fans to die off or give up their tickets for my turn to present itself, I assumed I wouldn't be getting the opportunity to buy season tickets for 20 years or so. This in turn prompted my father to ask if he could go to some games with me because, in his words, "I plan on still being pretty lucid."

He'll be 74, so I imagine he will, in fact, be lucid, but something funny happened on the way to my 40th birthday.

When the Giants moved into their new stadium this past season, not only was there an increased capacity, but a few bizarre quirks changed the game. For one, the Giants and Jets, not anticipating such extensive financial fallout, raised prices just a bit too high for the vast majority of their demand. As well, the scourge of NFL fans known as personal seat licenses wreaked havoc on the Big Blue fan base. By charging PSLs that were as high as $20,000 in some places, the average fan and many families that had been season ticket holders for years were priced out of being able to see their team every Sunday.

Now, while I can understand their frustration, the theory behind PSLs doesn't really bother me because it shifts the cost of a stadium to the people who will actually attend games in it rather than the average taxpayer who has no interest in going to a game. But more importantly, the PSLs and the other factors I mentioned previously opened a gaping hole in the waiting list, and by the start of the 2010 NFL season, I got a phone call from the Giants ticket office that was about 15 years earlier than I expected.

My number was up. I had the chance to buy season tickets.

Here's where it gets interesting, however. For one, I enjoy going to one or two games a year, but eight? Or realistically since you're required to buy preseason games at full price, 10? For another, the only remaining seats in the standing were far out of my price range. They were club seats that would cost $400 each per game and each seat had a PSL that was valued at -- wait for it -- $7,500.

So if I wanted to buy Giants season tickets when my number came up, the total first year cost (note: PSLs can have their costs spread out with longterm payment plans) would have been $23,000. That was not a price I had interest in paying.

So imagine my surprise when the Giants came calling again this morning to offer me season tickets, which I was quick to dismiss until they told me the choices had gotten cheaper. Of course, the word "cheap" is relative, but in this case, compared to the first chance I had it certainly was. The cheapest seats available ran at $120 -- I paid $150 to attend the Giants' first ever game at the New Meadowlands Stadium -- and PSLs would be $4,000 per seat, nearly half the cost of the previous tickets.

Herein lies the dilemma. Being able to call myself a Giants season ticket holder is something I have wanted for years, but is the cost enough to justify it? And moreover, if I'm not going to attend the games, the obvious choice, to not purchase tickets at all or to sell them at a markup and hope to recoup the cost of the PSLs through those means an enormous amount of work, or a leap of faith at any rate.

Throw this in with the fact that PSLs are available for far cheaper on the Giants' PSL exchange site -- albeit for much worse seats -- and things get more complicated.

Clearly, there is much to consider for anyone who has the chance to buy some, and I'm personally grappling with the realities right now. In the end, with logic dictating, I will probably not buy tickets at all, but that doesn't mean I won't be thinking long and hard about it over the next few days, and I will probably be placing a call to the Giants' ticket office in the morning to get a sense of what my options would be.

If I get too crazy, it may not be the last call I make to them.

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