So it is with my second Oregon Duck football game. Twelve years old, I was with my Dad and some other family members. We were standing along the southwest top of the football stadium. The game came down to a final field goal attempt. If the Washington Husky kicker could make it they would win by a single point. He missed. Go Ducks!
Throughout high school and college I sat through a lot of rainy football games. I even attended the legendary Toilet Bowl. The 0-0 tie that took place in miserable weather between Oregon and Oregon State. That game saw 11 fumbles, 5 interceptions, 4 missed field goals. And while Oregon scored twice, both scores were called back on penalties.
Fourteen years after my first game I would be the proud owner of a season football ticket not far from that location along with three good friends. Unlike now, not every gave was a sell out and prices were less than $200 for the full season. My friends and family have shared a lot of great memories over the intervening seventeen years.
Unfortunately those times seem to be changing. I was just notified that those tickets will cost a tad over $600 this year. The writing is on the wall, as long as the Duck football team succeeds, the emphasis is going to be on moving to whatever the market will bear.
My friends and I now have to decide how long we stay on for the ride. That, however, is not my overriding concern.
I guess this is my commentary on what I have observed happening to sports in America over the last couple of decades. There is a lot to be said and much of that will have to wait for another time.
Here is my issue with rapidly rising ticket prices. It starts to shift the balance of the fans that attend games.
Sports in America have a long tradition of binding the country, states and communities together. The competition, the rivalries, the local legends. The underdog.
This was the Olympic tradition for many years. Now the Olympic tradition is “will Nike endorsed athletes have to remove their Nike shoes while on the medal podium in order to avoid violating the US Olympic Committees contract with Adidas that calls for only Adidas attire during medal ceremonies.” Does anyone even care about the Olympics any longer?
This is what you see at Portland Trail Blazer games. The wine and cheese crowd. Those who are more excited about letting people know they have arrived because they can afford to be seen at the game. Half of those people have no idea what they are watching. This is just another event for them.
In my mind what has made Oregon football special is that the fans are knowledgeable, they are not concerned that it is raining, that the people in front of them stand too long, or that they yell too loud. They love their Ducks! Win, lose or otherwise.
And now many of these people see themselves slowly being pushed out by a price structure and philosophy that is more about targeting your financial standing in society. The haves, and the have-nots. The Olympics and Pro sports philosophy flowing into College Sports.
A couple years ago I had a couple of Duck tickets to sell because the game conflicted with an annual fishing trip with friends. I listed the tickets on Craigslist and was soon contacted by a guy that really wanted to take his kid to a Duck game. He told me that neither of them had ever been to a game at Autzen. I thought, perfect, just the kind of fan I want to have my tickets.
I arrived at his house on my way home from work, It was small, a bit rundown. Sitting in his side yard was a $500 boat that looked like a typical fixer upper. It was painted Green and Yellow. On the side was an amateur attempt at a yellow O.
As I approached he checked me out with suspicion, which I understood. This was a significant purchase for him. However, we quickly hit it off and his enthusiasm was contagious.
He started to take out his wallet but I waved him off and he was in disbelief. I motioned at the boat and told him, you earned it. Enjoy the game.
You don’t see those kind of folks attending the Portland Symphony. I’m afraid that soon they will become an endangered species at Autzen Stadium.
And if that happens there is a real danger that the magic will be lost.
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