Who's to blame?
First it was the National Football League. Billionaire sports team owners and multi-millionaire professional athletes squabbling over the distribution of monies collected from supportive fans and media outlets that spoon-feed those same fans.
It literally took them months to figure out how to fairly split your money.
The negotiation tactics are simple. Players refuse to play, so owners lock them out of team facilities and stadiums. Both sides hold press conferences, each claiming to understand the disappointment of the fans that are being denied the enjoyment of the sport because of the intransigence of the other side.
In the case of the NFL, this went on throughout the time teams normally use to bring players to peak physical condition and to hone the playbook and teach the rookies and new veteran players the schemes.
Now, we watch weekly as top football players are injured or suffer from reduced effectiveness because they were denied the crucial training camp time to improve their condition and performance. In the end, the two sides agreed to minor concessions in order to get back to playing and being paid.
They just settled on how best to divide the fan's money between themselves.
Now it's the National Basketball Association's turn. Just like their padded counterparts, NBA Players, owners and league officials are at a negotiating standstill, and already training camps and the first few weeks of the regular season have been cancelled. Soon the whole regular season will be lost.
Players are signing temporary performance agreements to play in Europe and across the globe. They won't make the millions they make playing here, but most will still pocket tons of cash to play for a different group of fans.
As the Major League Baseball season winds to a close, we think back on an exciting summer of America's favorite past time. On a mid-summer trip to the City of Brotherly Love to see my beloved Phillies, the cost of a night at the ballpark left the wallet lighter and the brain puzzled.
Who do we blame for the explosion of costs for a typical fan to enjoy professional athletics played in stadiums and arenas that, for the most part, have been built by the tax revenue paid for by those very same fans?
A ticket for good field seating is over $100 per seat. A game program costs $10. A hot dog and soda topped $8, almost $17 for two people. A bag of peanuts sets you back another $6. Forget a ball cap, pennant or tee shirt. You may as well take out a second mortgage.
What about the Dad who wants to take his kids to a game to experience the thrill of live sports? This little evening can easily become a $500 outing, well beyond the affordability of most. Even minor league sports have become a pursuit of the wealthy, as the food concessions at our own Harry Grove Stadium are priced far too high for the typical Frederick family. How about $2.50 for a kid-sized soda?
So, the owners and players continue to fight over the spoils; hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars in tickets and television contracts, the subject of so much labor tension and trauma. It's fun to watch the owners and players arrive for these negotiations, dropped off in limos and wearing $10,000 suits with giant diamond-stud earrings, Patek Philippe watches, and huge gold rings.
All while Joe Fan sits at home, fretting over how to spend a Sunday afternoon without football, or a lonely weeknight without baseball or basketball. Joe Fan is probably sitting in his rec room, decorated with his team's colors, wearing a $100 jersey and $50 ball cap, eating chips out of a logoed bowl, drinking his favorite beverage out of a logoed mug. He can't believe he'll have to surrender the big screen TV to his wife so she can watch The Hallmark Channel instead.
So, in the end, who's to blame? Look in a mirror. If the guy staring back owns more than one NFL Players Association logoed item, or merchandise bearing an NBA or MLB logo, if you feel an intense sense of loss if you don't have a game to watch, or if you find yourself shelling out hundreds to attend a live professional sporting event, you have met the enemy, and it is YOU.
Want to know how we end this silly cycle? Stop spending the money. Just like a crack addict, you can't stop if you surround yourself with the paraphernalia.
As long as all of us keep going, keep buying, and keep supporting the ads that buy the airtime, the financial incentive behind this money machine will dictate that every few years, we'll watch sports celebrities and owners argue over how best to take our money and split it up between them.
And when they tell you they understand your disappointment, guess what? They don't give a damn about you!