by Wayne Simmes:
I saw something interesting in one of my news feeds yesterday. It was an article on how the Baltimore Orioles are trying to build a fan base by giving away tickets. Not reduced price tickets, mind you, free tickets. Of course, there is a catch. An adult must buy a ticket for themselves at the regular price and then they get two free tickets which can only be used to bring children under the age of nine to the game.
That is absolutely brilliant in my opinion. I believe that professional sports are on the decline despite the huge money that the players and owners are reaping, right now. And the only way for them to survive the coming disaster is if they can build up a future fan base.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. Many years ago I predicted that professional boxing would fade away. That was when they decided that fans needed to pay more in order to see their sport. No longer would the best bouts be on regular television but instead if you wanted to watch a championship match you would have to pay extra, over and above your ridiculous cable fee. It was called pay per view. I guess the idea was that if you as a home owner could not afford the extra cost, you might get a bunch of neighbors together and split the cost. The problem with that was that it cut out the kids. Nobody wanted to pay to watch an event and have a half dozen or more children running around hooting and hollering. And so the kids were left with a sitter while the adults watched the match.
And that was when I quit watching professional boxing, a sport that I had always loved. I grew up watching “Friday Night at the Fights” with my father. It was a special treat to sit with a bowl of popcorn and watch Rocky Marciano take on all comers. And I got to see some of the best boxers that ever put on the gloves, including Cassius Clay and Sugar Ray Leonard. And my children watched with me. But their children do not watch boxing. And even fewer of the next generation will. Sports are an acquired taste, perhaps like eating asparagus. If you don’t acquire the taste early in life, it is not going to happen.
Now, I am sure that some of you are discounting my story. If that is the case, I ask you, who is the heavyweight champion of the world? Or the middleweight champion of the world or the welterweight champion of the world? I can honestly say I do not have a clue. And I find that a little amazing because I am on the Internet daily. I scan through the news feeds. I am on Facebook daily, reading the posts and yet even by accident I have seen nothing that would tell me who the champions of boxing are. Oh, I see some things about fake boxing, I think they call it mixed martial arts, but nothing about real boxing.
And I believe that unless something is done, like what the Orioles are trying to do, the same thing will happen to all professional sports.
Thinking back, I wonder if I would have ever become an avid Yankee fan if I had been born in a much later era than the 1940’s. We had little else to do for entertainment than to watch and play sports. Today kids have so many other distractions that it is surprising that they bother to sit in front of a television and root on their favorite team. I believe that it is only because of the influence of the parents that they do so.
And when it becomes financially prohibitive for people to go to the games; that influence will die out.
I applaud the Orioles for their wisdom and foresight. I hope that they are successful and that other owners see that the future of their sport depends on building a fan base for the next generation. But I have little faith that will happen. The Bible says that “the love of money, is the root of all evil”. The love of money is also killing professional sports.