Edward Paltzik -Cynical answer: yes, the fans are suckers who pay outrageous prices to attend games. Don’t blame the billionaire team owners, the millionaire players, or the empty-suit commissioners. They’re just taking advantage of unsophisticated customers who don’t demand a better product and lower prices. Sure, pro sports owners are not civic-minded, nor are they paragons of ethics, but they are shrewd businessmen. Altruism and profits don’t mix.
Let’s also consider a different perspective. Maybe pro sports leagues really are altruistic institutions offering great product at a reasonable price. After all, when you burn a week’s salary to take your kids to that crucial regular-season battle for third place in the midst of an interminable season, you do get a lot for your money. Consider some of the benefits of attending a pro sports event:
• Improved Orthopedic Health. Most people think that the seats at pro sports stadiums are sized for midgets so that teams can pack more people in to increase profits. Little-known fact: the real reason the seats are so tiny is to combat the nationwide back-pain epidemic. That decadently comfortable couch in your living room, like most things that make you happy, is actually really bad for you! On the other hand, those rock-hard micro-seats at the stadium are medically proven to support your lumbar region. Maybe pro sports owners do care about the fans.
• Next-Level Urination. Peeing is generally a mundane experience. Not so at state-of-the-art pro sports venues, which have special shallow, oddly-angled urinals. These are actually “interactive urinals” that deflect your pee back from whence it came. Isn’t that more fun than using the same old boring toilet within hopping distance of the sofa? Lots of folks are tired of walking out of bathrooms with dry pants. Interactive urinals merely tap into this widespread sentiment. Fun for almost the whole family (sorry ladies)! Best enjoyed with light-colored jeans that really show the saturation.
• Improved Personal Hygiene. This benefit requires a little luck. You will need to be sitting in the right place (preferably the bleachers) to score a refreshing shower administered by a pair of courteous 300 lb. gentlemen. You’ve had a long, sweaty day in the office working hard to support your family. You deserve to be clean. Good thing Big Sal and his cousin Bobby Boombatz directly behind you are so unselfish. Their Budweisers cost $15 each and yet these guys were generous enough to splash most of this precious liquid all over you while drunkenly cheering a home run. Thank them later with a couple of drinks on you (recommended etiquette).
• Sharper Eyesight. Another gripe we often hear from stay-at-home sports fans is that it’s difficult to see the action at the ballpark. Stay-at-home fans may have huge TVs, but they lack the adventurous spirit that made this nation great. You can’t truly experience all the world has to offer if you lack a spirit of adventure. Take the Donner Party, for example. If they weren’t adventurous, they never would have breathed that healthy mountain air of the Sierra Nevada, and that would have been a shame. But getting out of the house has other health benefits besides fresh air. Fans in the know are familiar with a recent peer-reviewed American Academy of Ophthalmology study which conclusively determined that fans who attend at least five live sporting events per year are 36% less likely to require contacts or glasses, provided they sit at least 286 feet from the playing field. In fact, the AAO researchers even confirmed one instance of a blind fan permanently regaining his eyesight as a result of watching the Cubs from obstructed-view seats for an entire summer. According to the AAO study, the act of straining your eyes to detect distant movements causes irregularities in the eye to self-correct. The lesson here is simple: so-called “bad” seats are priceless.
• Affordable Gourmet Food. Normally, you’d have to go to a French restaurant with a Zagat’s rating approaching 30 to savor elite-level food. And those places have a waiting list for reservations stretching several years into the future. Even if you somehow managed to score a coveted reservation, you’re looking at $100 for a walnut drizzled with a fig demi-glace. That’s not cost-effective. On the other hand, you can enjoy the same caliber of food at pro sports stadiums nowadays. For the reasonable price of $8, all pro sports venues offer a delectable bovine rectum sheathed in a lightly seasoned intestine casing, plus your choice of sugary beverage. Hard to beat that deal. Some uneducated fans call these treats “hot dogs,” but they are mistaken. We know that for certain because no one would have the audacity to charge $8 for a hot dog.
• Prepare Kids for the Real World. Pro sporting events prepare kids for the real world in four respects: kids learn to sleep less, learn how people really talk, learn not to trust anyone, and learn not to put too much effort into anything. Let’s look at each of these benefits in detail.
First, the sleep benefit. So-called “responsible” parents impose early bedtimes on their children. However, grownups don’t go to bed at 8 PM, so why should kindergarteners? Psychiatrists now agree that these early bedtimes lower children’s self-esteem by depriving them of the opportunity to watch enriching prime-time TV, thus making them think they are not equal to adults. We also end up with adults who can’t shake the habit of early bedtimes and are thus unable to work 16-hour days. Fortunately, pro sports leagues are gradually saving us from this serious cultural problem. How are they doing it? By starting showcase games well past normal juvenile bedtimes. Genius! Major League Baseball is the real trailblazer here. For years, MLB has started World Series games well after 8 PM. At first, parents were outraged that their baseball-loving kids had to forfeit sleep in order to watch the ballgames until midnight in a half-stupor, then get home from the ballpark at 2 AM with class beginning at 8 AM the next day. But MLB’s persistence has paid off. Studies show that 89% of American children under the age of 10 now consider themselves equal to their parents in all respects, up from 0% in 1955. However, a few discredited studies claim that the last few generations of children actually did go to sleep at 8 PM, didn’t attend any World Series games, don’t give a damn about baseball, and think the sport is deathly boring. Wild stuff. Bottom line: day games bad, late-night games good.
Second, the language benefit. Live sporting events teach kids how people actually talk! Your best bet is pro football, particularly an Oakland Raider game, and preferably with a couple of seats in the world-renowned Black Hole section. The NFL is well-known for its articulate fans, and kids who don’t get to experience the auditory wonders of football fandom are really missing out. A Raider game in particular offers even more auditory diversity than other venues, as your child will hear the enthusiastic chants of paroled felons, escaped asylum patients who suffer from vivid pirate delusions, and socially repressed accountants who blow off steam by wearing a Darth Vader mask for 3 hours every Sunday, to name a few. If you’re lucky, the youngster may even get to witness the police beating back rioting fans after the game.
Finally, taking your kids to pro sports events teaches them two other valuable lessons: don’t trust anyone, they will all break your heart eventually, and don’t put too much effort into anything, because it won’t work out in the end. Fulfillment of these two lessons requires long-term patience, prescience, and some luck. You will need to take your kid to the same team’s games for many years, then hope that the team moves to a different city. The idea here is to get your kid emotionally invested in a team, then watch his heart get ripped out when the team leaves for greener pastures and betrays their loyal fans. Short-term, it will be painful, but long-term, your child will benefit greatly by never forming any commitments. As the wise Homer Simpson once said to Bart: “The lesson is, never try.” Sadly, it’s too late to use the Hartford Whalers for this life lesson.
• Cheering on the Home-Town Boys: The best benefit of attending a ballgame. Local pro athletes work hard to represent their hometown and it’s a crying shame to see poor attendance just because the local lads have a losing record. For fan support to mean anything, it must be constant. Recently, a nasty rumor has been making the rounds on the Internet that professional athletes are actually not from the cities in which they play, but don’t believe it. One particularly persistent rumor is that most hockey players are Canadian. There is a real anti-sports agenda out there, eh? Fortunately, the rumor-mongers peddling this nonsense are just a vocal but tiny minority that won’t gain any mainstream traction. Steven Matz pitches for the Mets, and he is from Long Island. See? Clearly, all pro athletes are local products. Also, Yoenis Cespedes, who singlehandedly led the Mets to a division title this past season with selfless disregard for his own financial well-being, was born and raised in Flushing, Queens, within sight of Shea Stadium. He doesn’t speak English because he was so driven to play for his hometown Mets that he didn’t have time for anything other than baseball. This has given rise to a bizarre rumor that he is actually a Cuban defector. Look, the guy clobbers homers for one reason: he cares deeply about his fellow New Yorkers. Watch him take a big pay cut this offseason to stay with the Mets for years to come.
Well, there you have it. We started out considering the cynic’s perspective that pro sports fans are suckers. But, by keeping an open mind and considering another viewpoint, we learned that fans are actually getting a great bargain. Conclusion: pro sports leagues are definitely altruistic institutions that put fans first and profit a distant second.