If you believe major league sports games’ attendance and consumption by fans is a barometer for how well the overall economy is doing, then it really can (and does) parallel what is happening out there generally-speaking, and regarding how we personally view our lots in life.
Just like at the ballpark, and on Wall Street and Main Street, the minority rich get wealthier and the majority poor continue to struggle at more than defeatist rates.
Personally, I do not know if professional sports are any sort of economic gauge, but unlike economists who scoff at the possibility of a major correction to the stock market, if prices for hot dogs, beer and bottled water are any indicator, the country’s regular people are getting squeezed out of major league sporting events.
Sure, the price of cheap seats remains affordable but that pretty much covers what the average person can afford while at the ballpark these days, anyway.
Since being able to attend minor league baseball games for the first time in a long time these past couple years, I can wholeheartedly and unequivocally recommend minor league games as easily the best value for the average family, or just a group of friends that wants to go to a game.
At a minor league game, you can pay for parking, get a hot dog, beer and program guide and still be able to make next month’s rent payment. You cannot say this if you attend a major league game, though, unless all you want to do is pay for your upper deck seats and not eat or drink anything while at the game. How can you go to the ballpark and not munch on something or enjoy a cold beverage on a hot summer day or evening made for baseball? You can’t, but if you go to a major league game, for purely economic reasons you might be better served to refrain from swallowing anything more than your own saliva, if you want to leave without severe buyer’s remorse.
Today was a great day for a ballgame. We drove up to Cincinnati to watch the Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals—a game we were really looking forward to. We had purchased our tickets online a couple of months prior, they were upper deck, but behind home plate, and so although we would be up high, we would have a good view of the field.
Parking was only $10 and that got us to within six blocks or so of the stadium—not bad. When we got in we were hungry and opted to hit the rest rooms and a concession stand on the way to our seats. We bought a pretzel, roasted peanuts, two bratwursts, one hot dog, two bottled waters ($10) and a beer for just under fifty bucks. Fifty bucks can be a lot of food and drink (at the grocery store when purchased wisely, and relatively-speaking); just not at the ballpark.
We were enjoying the game as the Cardinals were bashing the heck out of the Reds (where have you gone Big Red Machine?). I thought about getting a cold beer when the beer guy came around. I had to do a double take at the beer price on the button he was wearing. It said $8.25. $8.25? Could it really be that a 16 oz. domestic beer was $8.25 at Great American Ball Park? What was I missing? I did not get the memo that the price of a single beer at the game had gone up to more than a domestic six-pack of beer would cost.
Instead of quenching my thirst while the sun was beating down on us, I quickly quelled my yearning for some frosty cold, adult refreshment—the barley pop would not be mine this fine summer afternoon.
Consumer sentiment indexes are the biggest psychological game going. They are used to measure how people are feeling about the economy. If people are ringing up credit card debt, then forecasters feel the economy is improving. To me, this is pretty funny and sad at the same time. But we do not have fiscal policy of any kind in this country. It is almost as if entities like the Federal Reserve play an observation game: let’s see if they (people) get pissed off if gas goes to $4.00 a gallon again. We will flirt with the $4.00 level. Seems people still drive a lot. I mean what else are they going to do, right? We got ‘em by the emeralds, people! The reality is gas will go only so high until people scream “enough!”
That is what happened to me at the game today. It was not enough to hear some guy climb past us on the stairs up to seats higher than ours say, “Man, this is really high.” I got a chuckle out of that. But I got a shock out of the beer man’s price button. I was not alone in my refraining from cold, delicious (beer man’s words, not mine) beer. Through seven innings, I only saw one gentleman purchase an $8.25 beer while I was seated.
The look on the beer man’s face was revealing. He was trying his best to get us to pony up (here’s a ten, keep the change. Really?), singing the cold beer’s praises aloud for all to hear. But besides the one guy, none of us in our section budged—we were stone cold in our steely resolve. The beer man’s face quickly soured and he retreated to the lower altitude nether regions of Great American.
That was a dejected beer dude. The faces of the beer dudes at the minor league games I have gone to tell a different story—they are smiling the smiles of vendors making money while not fleecing the average fans most of us are.
Today’s game at Great American…if it did not feature a sellout crowd, had to be very, very close to having one. I saw a lot of families and groups of friends in the upper deck seats around us. People still like going to the game, they are just not buying the other stuff people are trying to sell them while there.
When it comes to believing Wall Street and investing in the “new normal” that are meteoric stock market indexes achieving daily records (while housing and employment pictures remain uncertain at best and in a funk permanently at worst), we would be wise to understand what is real, what is pretend, while also remembering the price on the beer man’s button.