Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gettin' in for free and STILL walkin' right out.

The digital arts school where I teach had a little team building perk last night of free tickets to the Giants and A's at the Oakland ballpark, McAfee Coliseum, with a bus ride from work to the game. Besides the game, there were free beers on the bus and a food voucher. I like baseball, so I signed up.

I decided not to drink too much on the bus, so I only had one beer on the bus, figuring I'd have a couple at the game and that would work out fine. This was my first mistake.

Prices at the ballpark were insane. I think I only saw one game live last year at AT&T Park, the Giants' home stadium, but the sticker shock at this game was like a slap in the face. A glass of beer is $7.75, and this is for American corporate piss beer like Bud or Coors. The bargain, if you can call it that, is that a real beer with some flavor costs just $8.00. A small glass of off brand merlot was $7, which I paid for to go along with the free food from my food voucher. Without the voucher, some brisket, a hot link, beans and cornbread would have been $13.50.

I thought about getting a glass of whiskey instead, but that would have been $11.

Of all the major sports, baseball tickets are the most reasonably priced, but given the way fans are robbed at the concession stands, this form of entertainment could easily find itself getting hammered by the economic downturn. The Friday night crowd was sparse, and that's being generous, which is hardly a surprise given the lackluster product both teams are fielding right now.

In early May, I wrote a post about a cultural evening I had with sfmike, who shared his bounty of free tickets with me. After a shortish program at the symphony, Mike got us into the end of the long program next door at the Ballet, and asked me to buy him a drink. Given the great deal I was getting, two shows for the price of none, I happily complied, and the ballet bartender, seeing that I was a friend of Mike's, gave us both a generous pour. I spent $20 on the two drinks, leaving a liberal tip. The point I make here is that it's cheaper to get liquored up at the ballet than it is at the ballpark! The world has officially gone mad.

Then there was the game. The Giants' and Atheletics' roster are exceedingly depleted this year, and looking at the stats of the players, only a few of whom I knew by name, it felt like watching a Triple A game at big league prices.

Even that isn't a fair statement, because I have enjoyed Triple A games much more than I enjoyed this. The Coliseum was always kind of generic as a ball park, but since the addition of Mount Davis in center field the place is now officially a pit. The Sacramento ballpark where the minor league Rivercats play is ten times more charming and the minor leaguers put in more effort. It took a full hour to play three innings of 1-0 baseball. I could almost forgive the teams if it took an hour to score four or five runs total, but the pace was excruciating. My brother predicted that the drug ban that would take a larger toll in baseball was not banning steroids but amphetamines, which used to be regularly available and never mentioned by the press. Without the greenies, the players are dragging badly. I left after three innings.

I said the game was slow and boring, but I want also to add that I am a lifelong baseball fan. I enjoy a well played game and some of the favorite entertainment moments in my life have been at ballgames. I also want to give a shout out to minor league games, where the quality of play can be very strong and the smaller parks give the game a more intimate feel.


sfmike said...

The ripoff prices at the concessions at the baseball parks make airport food and cocktails seem almost reasonable. It's been disgusting for a number of years now and is one of the major reasons I don't go anymore.

Matt said...

I live 3 minutes from a minor league ball park and we go once or twice a month. We can get 2 for 1 tickets for $4. Watching guys playing to make the show is indeed more fun.

I think they should start handing out greenies to the fans. This would insure that they are able to make it through the game.


Matty Boy said...

This blog in no way condones the use of illegal drugs or prescription drugs taken without medical supervision, but Matt certainly has a valid point.

Mathman6293 said...

We are baseball fortunate around here. The Rome Braves (A) is only about 15 miles away. Those games are a blast to go to.

I do miss the summer outings. Back in my software days, the company always took us to that giant outdoor bar called Wrigley Field. Fun for parties bad for baseball. The Cubs always seemed to lose to the Brewers 22-20.

Being a White Sox fan did not care.

Distributorcap said...

one of the many reasons i never go to a sporting event

Art said...

Sorry for the late comment. It hadn't occurred to me to look at the official attendance figures until now.

Now that I've done that, here's another strong piece of evidence that Americans are, to put it mildly, heterogeneous folks. In Chicago, the two sets of Cubs-White Sox games played to sold-out crowds -- and they would've done so even if both teams were, say, 30-50. But in the Bay Area, not even 28k fans could be bothered to even show up for the Friday night -- much less stay until the end of the 9th.

That tells me that fans in the AltaCal are just choosier than their counterparts in Chicagoland. Or that they're just more spoiled. ;) You decide.

Matty Boy said...

Well, Art, you should take into account that the Cubs and White Sox are playing really good ball right now, and the A's and Giants, not so much. If you switched records for the teams you might also switch attendance figures.