Is it worth it to actually go to games anymore? Yes, but not too many

Another broad problem: the younger the sports fan, the less they enjoy being in an arena where their smartphones can’t get a signal. “People don’t like to be out of touch,” said Doug Perlman, founder and CEO of consulting firm Sports Media Advisors and a Duke graduate. “They want to be sharing the experience with their friends.”

That is from this piece in the WSJ, about declining attendance at ACC basketball games. (H/T Senator and Elkon.) That’s a rather ridiculous reason not to go to a game. But I do generally agree with this statement:

Chris Bevilacqua, the founder of a media-consulting group and architect of the Pac-12’s nearly $3 billion TV-rights deal, pointed to another general culprit: the affordability of clearer, larger televisions. The at-home TV experience, he said, is better than ever.

The sports-at-home experience has gotten better and better while the stadium and arena experience — despite the incredible infusion of taxpayer money — has only improved at the margins, if at all. I can honestly say that I do not enjoy going to a lot of games every year in any sport, including football, and for me there is a high degree of diminishing returns: I make it to a few games a year, but after those few the idea of going to more — and to think of the transportation, parking, weather, etc — gives me a particular kind of nausea.

And what I do enjoy about the games, like the atmosphere and the unique traditions and cultures of various cities and campuses, is not necessarily even connected to the game itself. Most of those elements can be captured equally well by tailgating and even watching a game at a bar or simply with friends. (And many of those atmospheric elements don’t necessarily apply to weekday basketball games, for example.) People go see fewer movies in theater with the rise of DVDs, On Demand, and so on.

Indeed, I had a kinda-sorta opportunity to go to the Super Bowl this year. I like Indianapolis — I have spent a good amount of time there, having spent the majority of my childhood and college years in Kentucky and Indiana — but the idea of going to the world’s largest corporate junket sounded downright masochistic. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the quality of the technology — who knows. But games have been turned into such events that it’s become almost unduly burdensome in comparison with the rewards to go try to see them. So I support your decision not to go to games. With the size of TV deals being struck, they’ll keep playing them. But if you decide not to go to one, just don’t use the bad service to your smartphone as the excuse.

  • I feel this way about pro sports, which I am a big fan of, but don’t feel the expense and effort of attending a game in person is worth it on a regular basis. An exception is baseball on a summer day. It’s hard to beat catching a game at Wrigley or Yankee Stadium on a nice day. But for me, watching pro basketball/hockey/football in person is hard to justify when I have 50″ of HD viewing with surround sound and good craft beer at home.

    That said, I do enjoy watching college sports in person. I feel fortunate that my alma mater is close by and has a good small school vibe to its basketball and football games. I never miss a home football game, and travel a fair amount to other schools to take in their traditions and atmosphere. Going to away games has given me a great excuse to not only watch my team (and even occasionally watch a victory), but also to get to experience other college campuses and stadiums. Traveling to a game at West Point by boat or taking in a game at the Horseshoe or the Big House are experiences that to me are fully worth the investment of time and money.

  • There are a lot of ways to think about this, but the most relevant to me is the question of whether this is just symptomatic of a much broader societal trend. In other words, with HDTVs and PS3s and surround sound systems, why leave the  house at all? Not just for basketball games, but for anything?

    It also makes me think of the kids I saw last year at Tiger Stadium,
    playing on the Nintendo DS and never even bothering to look up at the
    game. What does it say when your electronic experience is better than your real life
    experience even when you are in the stadium?

    I realize this makes me sound like a 85 year old man. I also realize this isn’t a new complaint, and people were probably saying this about the first airing of The Shadow radio program in 1930.

  • Paul Meisel

    I lived most of my life until 5 years ago within an easy commute of big league ball — Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago….

    I like going to baseball games (and my personal favorite experience is the Toledo Mud Hens).  Football, not so much.  I enjoyed my infrequent trips to the Shoe and the Big House for the atmosphere, and watched a few D3 games in person.  I’d just as soon watch HS ball except you can’t have a beer.

    Football is more easily seen on TV and the coverage of big games is excellent.

    The security lines the last time I went to a Browns game had me swearing I’d never return.  So far I haven’t and it’s been 6 or 7 years.

    Now, if I go see a football game in person, it will be at Starkville or Tuscaloosa or Birmingham or in Mobile.  Maybe once every year or two.