There is nothing in the world like being a sports fan. It is one of purest and most consuming forms of entertainment available in this world, part of the reason why athletics and the organized following of athletics has been a part of human culture since the dawn of civilization. Beginning with the Olmec Indians, who were playing a version of basketball on massive stone courts as far back as 1700 B.C., and continuing on through the ancient Greek Olympics to early Chinese baseball games and up through the advent of Arena Football, sports and sports fans have persisted and spread throughout every culture in history. As football fans, we are part of a great tradition, one that unites us in spirit with our earliest ancestors and the countless generations of fans still to come.
But whereas ancient sports fans usually rooted for a good game, or sometimes a specific player or gladiator, we modern-day sports fans worship a team. It’s an odd practice, when you think about it. How our players, coaches, managers, and even owners are arbitrary, they come and go and get replaced every season, but we continue to follow our team even when there is nobody left on it from the team we were following ten years ago. In a sense, we are fans of a logo. A uniform. A stadium or location. But even these are subject to change. As Eagle fans, we are no more tied to Andy Reid and the Linc than we are to the shade of green on our helmets or the style of our offense. We are fans of an idea, a symbol. The Philadelphia Eagles. The same way that Bengals, Vikings, or Cowboys fans worship their own symbol, their own idea.
But that’s where the similarities stop in NFL fandom. There is very little in common between an Eagle fan and, say, a Jacksonville Jaguars fan. While most Birds fans think of season tickets in the same way we think of space travel – yeah, maybe in my next life – Jaguars fans can win season tickets by being the 23rd caller on a local radio show. Most Eagle fans don’t even know what a TV blackout is, while Jaguar fans accept it as a way of life. The cost of our jerseys, the price of a stadium beer, the quality of our in-game commentary (Merrill is just better than everyone), nearly everything associated with being a fan is entirely dependent on which team you follow. If you don’t believe me, just google the tickets prices.
And Ticketmaster, it seems, has caught on to this phenomenon. Last week, the all-god of tickets announced that it will soon be implementing a “dynamic pricing system” for sports and concert events, essentially bringing the supply-and-demand principle to the realm of entertainment. While the specifics haven’t been discussed and there is no set start-date for the new pricing system, it’s clear that Ticketmaster intends to charge more for tickets that people want and less for tickets that don’t sell. Any Eagle fan out there who’s attempted to buy single-game tickets the morning they go on sale will know where I’m going with this.
What “dynamic pricing” will mean, for Eagle fans, is at least a 50% increase in ticket prices. While fans of teams like the Browns and Jaguars will probably see a decline in single-game seat prices, or maybe even ridiculously cheap package deals for multiple games, Birds fans will assuredly be part of the group that sees a staggering jump in rates. As single-game stubs for every Eagles home game usually sell out within five minutes – even at $90 a ticket – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the franchise will be one of the first to be “dynamicized.” In truth, the viral consumption of Eagles tickets every year might actually have been part of the impetus for Ticketmaster’s new policy in the first place.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that single-game tickets will be any easier to get. Stub-Hub, Razor Gator, and the dozens of other legal scalpers in this country are still going to snatch about 50% of the tickets right away, then resell them to actual fans at a 400% increase. The problem is, now that Ticketmaster is ramping up the face value, those scalped tickets are going to cost you even more than they used to. Are you willing to pay $500 for a 300-level seat at a Giant-Birds game? If not, then you might want to invest in a nice couch, because that’s where you’re going to be spending the season from now on.
But I guess it goes with the territory. While fans of other, less successful symbols are going to benefit from Ticketmaster/Live Nation’s monopoly of the ticket industry, Birds fans with average incomes are going to be priced out of the stadium altogether. My best guess, a 200-level seat bought directly from Ticketmaster will run you between $130 and $160, including surcharges. A far cry from the 700-level at the Vet, when all you needed to get in was five dollars and a death wish.
But this is the price of being a Birds fan, of following one of the greatest and most entertaining symbols in the history of professional sports. Sure, we pay a little more. But we get to see fourth-and-26, the resurrection of Mike Vick, the rise of Brian Westbrook and Desean Jackson, the close wins and the blowouts, the heart-wrenching losses and the yearly rebirth of hope. In my long history of fandom, I’ve never once sat down to watch an opening day game and thought – “well, we don’t have a shot this season, but we might win a couple more games than last year.” Every year we are in the conversation, every year there’s a reasonable chance of winning it all. So while we sometimes have to pay the price for it, and sometimes a massive, monolithic corporation decides to rape us all for no good reason, in the end I think it’s worth any price. The Olmec probably would have agreed with that.