Nothing personal – and if you want to…
1.Pay huge ticket prices
2.Buy $10 hot dogs
3.Drink $10 beer
4.Underwrite a bunch of rich owners
5.Give local government another hand in your wallet
6.Put up with miserable traffic and parking
7.Suffer “Branding” disease
8.Lose personal time you could use for personal sports, exercise, or learning
9.Support multiple television networks
10. And thus underrwrsite the Western AdverPire of mass narcissism…
…then have at it.
From the top, then:
The pro football season has just started.
When I was a news director in Seattle, back in the 1970’s, I met a remarkable real estate developer – a 100% solid guy – by the name of Frank Ruano.
He pointed out – at the time the Kingdome in Seattle was up for voter consideration – that even though it was billed as a $40-million domed stadium there were two things wrong with the proposition.
The first was the advertised price. Ruano was a developer and in our many interviews in the period, he pointed out that just about nothing in construction gets built for the “advertised price.”
By the time it actually opened, Ruano had been spectacularly correct. The opening day price of the Kingdome (going from memory here) was about $56-million, or nearly 50% more than the sports-marketers kept spouting.
The second point that Ruano made was that there would not be enough revenue coming in to actually pay the facility off during its projected lifespan.
In 2000, my wife Elaine and I sat on the foredeck of the sailboat we lived on in Seattle and watched a demolition outfit blow-up the Kingdome. Years had not been kind to the facility. It needed work on the fancy domed roof, but it got to the point where it would cost more to repair and rehab than it would to blow it up and start all over again.
Which gets us to Ruano’s second major insight: The facility would never be paid for.
Again, going from memory, there were still something like $10-$20-million worth of stadium bonds to be cleared up when the facility was “pulled.”
Ruano taught me an important lesson about mixing the public’s ability to underwrite and guarantee bonds for public works and the greedy and exploitive people in pro sports.
No, he hadn’t been against pro sports OR the Kingdome.
For him – as well as me – it comes down to a matter of public funding. Especially when the method of financing took money out of every citizen’s pocket, not just the wallet of the sports event attendees.
Eventually, the bondholders collected, Ruano passed on in 2005, and in 2011 construction bonds for Safeco Field were paid off.
But a funny thing happened along the way.
Local option sales taxes to pay for sports have largely migrated upstream – to the State level. And Washington has the third-highest sales taxes in the nation.
While you were distracted by the on-field debates over so-called “sports” the real sport has been getting money out of the public pocket to make pro sports franchises prosper. A few days back CNN/Money cited $3.2 billion in tax breaks since 2000. And that doesn’t count accounting deals like the old Kingdome.
The pattern to be discerned is this:
· An activity (sports in this case) used to move to a city on the promise of a facility to play in.
· The sports group would then whip up the hotel and food/bar industry to support an even bigger facility on the theory bigger facility will bring more fans and they will spend more.
· The the sports franchise begins to feel constrained. They was a bigger venue. The lobby for a new facility. The influential hoteliers and hospitality/tourism crowd falls right in.
· Next the public Bond authority is tapped.
· When this is either paid off or become excessive, the tax-break game goes to the state legislature where it becomes even more removed from local control.
· Ditto, when comes to marketing issues, things become national and Congress steps in to make the nowadays Billionaire’s Clubs exempt from anti-trust laws.
This last point is interesting and dates back to the early 1960’s if you know where to Wiki:
“The Sports Broadcasting Act was passed in response to a court decision which ruled that the NFL’s method of negotiating television broadcasting rights violated antitrust laws. The court ruled that the “pooling” of rights by all the teams to conclude an exclusive contract between the league and CBS was illegal.”
My, nice to have friends in high places, ain’t it?
Meantime, back in the cheap seats, we see that new layers are being added onto the pro sports concept all the time. Including now both direct and multi-level marketing schemes to give (gullible) players a greater sense of faux “participation” in the “sport” by offering online second-guessing and so forth.
In the end it all comes down to the concept fantasy football and fantasy baseball: Playing an app doesn’t make you a coach.
It does – in my harsh view of such things – make you something of a fool.
While you could be fishing, tuning up your golf game, rebuilding your kitchen, or some other defensible use of personal time, a growing number of people are waltzing into sports facilities, armed with their phones in order to pseudo-participate in sports.
No, I won’t support any sport where the players won’t ALL STAND for our National Anthem, either. Screw those efforts to turn this into a foreign county.
Ya’ll have fun.
I’ll be the guy in the no-stadium tax county sitting on his wallet between curses at the green for being so damn slow today.
And I’ll be doing it without a mouse within 1,000 yards, no endorsement offers, and much, much less expensive beer.
No fake coaching for me, thanks. Instead we make the really important decisions: Which clubs to leave home to fit in how much beers in the bag?
The Ultimate 2-Minute Warning
“Life is only 18,999 days long and you burn one every morning when you get up…” a late friend of mine instructed when I was about 18 years old.
Life, as I figure it, is very much like an Easter Egg Hunt. We go through Life collecting memories and experiences to take with us to the Big Sleep. The more skills, images, friends, and the link…the more material for the Long Dream.
I’ve been to plenty of games in almost 70 years. And except for one UW Husky game on the 60-yard line in the rain at age 12, few other events stand out.
Dying with a memory of every game this season, or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro isn’t a particularly difficult choice. Oh, one pretends to be “sports” but the other is the real-deal.
The line is what separates average people from accomplished folks.
Shooting Fish on 20
I keep forgetting to mention how great the 20-meter ham band conditions were over the weekend. OMG – just awesome.
There happened to be a contest on, so in one half-hour operating session I was able to contact and exchange signal reports and such with the following countries:
- Slovak Republic
This was all made possible by some remarkably good radio conditions and the happy circumstance of a European Union-wide radio contest.
Best website of the stations worked? Probably the RU1A contest club over in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Damn shame to miss sports for that kind of pastime, huh?
Gee,m I may miss next week’s games, too. With the new computer coming in, more work on my weather satellite receiving project as well as tuning back up on 20-meter slow-scan TV. Sending pictures around the world (with “we don’t need no stinkin internet”) is yet another art form to be savored – and not from the bleachers.
Write when you get rich,