Monday, August 27, 2012
NFL preseason = stealing money from fans
As I was sitting at my desk at the New York Post Sunday night, monitoring the Jets-Panthers preseason game to prepare our coverage and headlines, I couldn't help but notice the quality of what I was watching, well, stunk.
Much is being made in New York this morning that the Jets are the only team in the NFL that has not scored a touchdown through three preseason games, and, according to NBC, are the first team to accomplish that forgettable feat since the 1977 Falcons.
But this isn't about trashing the Jets (given what we've seen from them so far, there'll be plenty of opportunities for that later). It's about a system that's clearly broken, and the fact the most powerful, richest and most successful sports league seems to want to do nothing about it.
The NFL preseason has become a foxhole. With the artillery barrage of a four-game schedule (and imagine -- it used to be six), all teams want to do is get through it without anyone getting killed. So they trot out their starters for a series or two, or maybe a half, or not at all. In many instances, stars don't even suit up. Then there's the factor of teams keeping it vanilla, for fear of showing a play, formation or personnel that could come back to haunt them down the road. All of which leads to a bland, boring, tedious exercise.
All of that is fine, given teams have to evaluate draft picks and free agents, and make personnel decisions. And for the players on the bubble, it's perhaps the best chance they have to impress coaches and land a coveted roster spot.
I get all that. The problem is, the NFL charges its fans regular-season admission and parking for the privilege of watching a third-string quarterback you'll never see again try to complete passes behind a fourth-string offensive tackle to a fifth-string receiver.
For a league that talks the talk about integrity and protecting the shield (and while we're at it, bring the real refs back; a subject Believe the Type has already addressed), it's time Roger Goodell's corporation takes a much-needed and necessary step:
Cut the four-game preseason down to two games -- or better yet, ditch the preseason entirely.
A good friend of mine is a Jets season ticket-holder. He has four seats, each worth approximately $125, which he, of course, has to buy in order to purchase his eight regular-season games. That's an extra $1,000 out of his pocket for a third-rate product -- not even including parking (he has a parking pass for which he pays $15 per game as part of the season-ticket package) the time spent driving to and from the stadium, the price of gas and concessions.
For the poor guy who just shows up at MetLife Stadium for a one-shot deal just to watch a game, it's nearly as prohibitive; say he buys two of the cheapest seats way upstairs (about $50) and $50 to park -- to park! -- he's out $150 before he even goes through the turnstiles.
Sure, you can go through a secondary ticket provider like StubHub, but that's not the point. My friend suggests teams could either make preseason tickets free and spread out the price for them throughout the regular season. That would at least show appreciation for the fans showing up, or, in his words, "acknowledgement that you're getting screwed."
Taking it a step further, he suggests teams could take that $1,000 and return it to their season ticket-holders in the form of gift certificates for concessions and souvenirs that could only be used at the stadium -- a pretty good idea, if you ask me.
On the field, the preseason has long outlived its usefulness. The NFL could replace preseason games (at least two of them) with two live scrimmages against opposing teams, held during training camp. Charge fans a nominal fee (say $25) and charge for concessions. Teams will still make money, and fans won't feel as if they're getting fleeced.
Goodell has never been shy about engaging NFL fans when it comes to labor negotiations, player safety or other initiatives. After last season's Super Bowl, he thanked the fans for their unwavering support and said, "Our commitment to improve everything we do is ongoing."
Now it's time to not just say it, but show it.