Today in New York, my driver was not happy. He is a New York Giants fan. The new NFL season begins tomorrow, with the Giants hosting the Washington Redskins. Despite being on the waiting list for season tickets since 1984, Tony has given up hope of ever buying a ticket.
"The Giants are moving to a new stadium in 2010," he told me, only one eye on the Lincoln Tunnel crawl. "And they're charging people $20,000 for the privilege of buying season tickets at the new stadium."
The $20,000, Tony explained, doesn't pay for the ticket. It pays for the license to buy the ticket. As for the actual ticket, well, depending on where your seats are, it could cost many times the current price.
I asked him why the Giants (and others) thought they could get away with this obvious personal foul.
"The Internet," he said. "All those sites like StubHub that let you buy someone else's season tickets at crazy prices."
Many people like Tony feel that buying a season ticket is not something a family does anymore. It is something an investor does. If your team is doing well, then you can make splendid cash by giving up your seats for an evening and selling them to the highest bidder on sites such as StubHub or TicketsNow.
The Giants ownership has admitted that the new arrangement isn't affordable for everyone. It says there are cheaper seat licenses elsewhere in the stadium. May I translate? If you can't afford our gouging, we can show you a worse seat for which we gouge a slightly shallower crease in your wallet.
But to blame the Web is an interesting argument.
What StubHub and others have done is allowed for the impulse purchase at highly impulsive prices. Simultaneously, these sites have shown that there exists a market that is prepared to pay what to some are quite lunatic prices for sporting events and concerts.
So NFL teams want to price their wares to this new market, not to the sad, old, loyal one.
Of course, Web entrepreneurs have not been slow to create markets for the personal-seat licenses. Please welcome SeasonTicketRights.com. Oh, yes, a site where you can trade your license to an even more munificently insane bidder.
I understand that at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, some personal-seat licenses cost $150,000. The proximity of so many impoverished oil companies will surely bring market pressures to bear in order to reduce such a ludicrous figure. Unless, of course, SeasonTicketRights.com ferrets out some bottomless wells.
The sad inevitability may well be that all the best seats in NFL arenas will be bought by corporations. Not for enjoying the game, but for that loosey-goosey concept called entertaining. Those who used to be called fans will stare down from the cheapest seats just below the roof, if at all.
This will merely make every NFL game resemble the Super Bowl. And it will make everyone who buys a seat license merely an investor, ready to put that seat on the Web market in the hope of making an occasional killing.
Perhaps this is just another example of the Web exposing the true nature of humanity. It's just that there's something so very sad about games being watched by those who really aren't fans at all. While Tony watches on TV, resentful.