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September 12, 2009 9:02 AM

The NFL's dark secret...

If you are looking for further signs of the unraveling economy it's probably best not to visit an NFL stadium this year. If you are looking at another reason to hate Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys, you'll want to peek at this release from Team Marketing Report .

According to this excellent piece of work by TMR, the average price for an NFL ticket rose 3.9 percent this year to $74.99 a docket.

TMR attributed most of the overall increase to Jones soaking his Texan pards in order to pay for the $1.2 billion amusement park he built for Tony Romo this year. You know, the place where the scoreboard is too low?

The average price of a Dallas seat this year grew to a whopping $159.65, or more than double the average cost of a ticket league wide.

"How 'bout them Cowboys!"

Even without the Cowboys' ridiculous increase, TMR reports the average ticket price still would have risen across the league by 0.6 percent.
Granted, that's pretty negligible, but given the state of the economy it seems hard to justify raising prices on just about anything, doesn't it?

And before you hit me with the, "they are only charging what the economy will bear," bull, I direct you to this black cloud on the horizon.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that as much as 20 percent of the NFL's games could be blacked out in home teams' local markets this year. Twenty percent!
Why?
It's the economy, stupid -- the very economy that argues against the ridiculous prices being charged around stadiums this year for seats and all manner of items.

Under NFL rules, a game must be sold out at least 72 hours in advance to be televised in the home team's local market. According to a story on Washingtonpost.com, only nine of 256 regular season games were blacked out in home-team markets last season. If Goodell's worst-case estimates are right, we're talking about 50 or so games going black to the fan base in some NFL cities this year.

Things are alleged to be especially dire in San Diego and Jacksonville, Fla., two cities hit especially hard by the down economy.

Goodell seemed to be looking backward, not forward, when he said this about the deteriorating situation: "(The) blackout policy has been in place for several decades, and it's been a very good thing for the fans and for the teams."

And it gets more bizarre...

In its eye-opening survey, TMR also put together something called the Fan Cost Index.
The FCI figures what four average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, one parking spot, two game programs, and two of the least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps would cost a family of four.

In Dallas those items would run, get this, $758.58!!
Seriously, in what America does "America's Team" reside?

By contrast, the same stuff would cost you a league-low $303.96 in Buffalo.

TMR didn't break out a Best Bang For Your Buck Index, which would put a value on those items against the actual performance of the team.
Had they put together a BBFYBI, a portion of it might have looked something like this:

  • Tennessee was the winningest team in the NFL last season, but rank way down the FCI list at No. 27, with an average price of $356.79. On the other hand, Kansas City won all of two games last year, and four the year before, but still managed to rank 8th in the FCI, with a price of $445.76.
  • Arizona treated its fans to a Super Bowl appearance last year, but rank 25th in the FCI, with an average price of $364.38. Then you have the N.Y. Jets, who haven't even seen a Super Bowl in 40 years, yet charge their fans $476.26, good for 6th on the list.
  • Dallas, which hasn't won a playoff game in over a decade is an overwhelming No. 1 in the FCI, with that ridiculous $758.58 figure, while Carolina has won five playoff games and played in the Super Bowl over that same period, yet charges its fans 'only' $330.67.
The NFL has enjoyed a fat-and-happy ascent to the top of the American sporting landscape over the past couple of decades, but will anybody be able to see it, if it falls?


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