Entertaining Inequality

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139 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Well, I think sports does provide a good example of a way that the everyday person can be harmed by having an upper class. I agree that it’s really pretty minor, but it’s easier to put the pen-to-the-paper on that one. A better example is real estate values, but it’s also a much more complicated example.

    Having said that, there’s not much to disagree with here, at least from a personal level. For me, there are two main reasons to go to professional sporting events: To see your team play, or for the experience of a sporting event. Never have their been more options to see your team play. All you need is cable, for the most part, which most people own. And if you’re out there for the experience, then in my estimation you can actually get a better experience with high school sports over professional ones. College and minor league are an in-between and arguably offer the best of both worlds.

    But back to the point he’s making, I’m not sure it’s actually about sports but rather that a society that caters to the wealthy (such as with skyboxes) can squeeze others out (general seating). He might be wrong on the $65, but he’s right about the stadium sizes and who they are increasingly catering to. The counterargument here is that they were mostly getting rid of excess capacity, which may be true here and not true there differing from venue to the next.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I have no idea how pervasive this is, being the rare dude born with an apparently-rare genetic disorder that makes me just not care about sports at all.

      But I suspect, if the trend were running the other way (seats were becoming cheaper/more numerous due to the dismantling of the skyboxes), and I were to point to that as an example of decreasing equality, I am pretty sure I’d get a variation of the sarcastic ‘gee, thanks for the cheaper bread & circuses for the masses’ comment that has been seen on other threads – implying to me that no matter which way the trend runs, resentment is the norm.

      Now, I don’t care about sports – but I do care about music, and there are many acts that I either can no longer afford to see, and/or venues I cannot afford to see them in; but there is pretty much a local band, or national one trying to build a profile, playing in a dive bar near me for next to nothing any day of the week. So I see those when I have the time & inclination.

      I don’t care that I can’t afford to see U2 in a stadium or whatever; nor do I see something wrong with society that I can’t afford it.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        But I suspect, if the trend were running the other way (seats were becoming cheaper/more numerous due to the dismantling of the skyboxes), and I were to point to that as an example of decreasing equality, I am pretty sure I’d get a variation of the sarcastic ‘gee, thanks for the cheaper bread & circuses for the masses’ comment that has been seen on other threads – implying to me that no matter which way the trend runs, resentment is the norm.

        That’s a really good point. Sports are the very definition of the latter part of Bread & Circus.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Exactly, if the govt. decreed ‘there shall be no more skyboxes, they shall be converted to GA seating, and all seats shall cost no more than 10 dollars – and FREE BREADSTICKS FOR ALL!!!’ – well, that’s when I should worry – say, what are they trying to distract me from? 😉Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        whoops, that should read ‘increasing equality’ or ‘decreasing inequality’ in my 1:48 comment. Youse guys oughta get an Edit button.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Glyph, exactly.; it’s not really just about sports.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Back when I was single, I used to organize baseball afternoons for my friends. None of them besides me were rabid fans, bit it was an inexpensive way to spend a day in the sun, drinking beer, talking and, if all else failed, watching the game. With today’s prices, that wouldn’t make any sense at all.

      But the difference is a new, beautiful, convenient stadium that’s almost always sold out vs. an old, ugly, cold and windy, almost empty one, with the threat of the team leaving for greener pastures almost every year. I can’t demand that ownership should stop being competent to make my life more pleasant.Report

    • Will: I think this is right. I’d add that the issue of sports prices and new stadiums is also a particularly good symbol for growing cultural isolation, which is very much at the core of what the “inequality-is-a-problem” side is getting at.

      I think it’s a given that sports are a pretty central element of our common culture, and have been for quite some time. They were a shared experience. Sure the expensive seats were always better, but the main difference was just that they were closer to the action; the experience was “better” if you paid more, but it was still basically the same experience.

      Now? Property-tax funded stadiums (keep in mind that property taxes are not graduated and that tax increases on rental properties are passed on to the tenants in the form of higher rent) with boatloads of luxury boxes from which the game is at best a sideshow, and fewer actual seats. And even those seats are frequently further from the action. If you’re in the luxury boxes, you get a separate entrance and never have to so much as rub elbows with a prole. Once you’re in the box, there is no way, shape or form that you are meaningfully part of “the crowd.” Hell, if you want, you can basically shut yourself off entirely from even hearing the crowd.

      And that’s all before you even get to the point of discussing how it is that much more difficult for a middle class family to afford going to a game. While it’s all well and good that alternatives exist in the form of minor league games and whatnot (and quite often minor league games nowadays can be as or more fun than a major league game), by and large it seems safe to assume that elites don’t frequently attend minor league games.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        +1 to this. Precisely the sort of separation we were discussing.

        And then there’s James Hanley’s classic FYIGM-libertarian commentary about “So the middle class can’t afford an NBA game, and that’s a harm from inequality? When they have countless other sporting entertainment options to choose from at affordable prices?

        So the major sports shall be only for the rich, while the peons have to content themselves with the minor leagues. That’ll be nice, they won’t even be talking about the same sporting leagues. One less reason to talk to the “proles.”Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          M.A., you’re rather pathetic with this FYIGM business. If you had read carefully, you’d see the “M” that I have is season tickets to DIII hockey–I’m not the guy going to the major league events.

          And I’d like to make a formal request to everyone hear to please ask M.A. to stop using that phrase. It’s clearly meant to be a conversation-stopper and noting more.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            FYIGM may describe something real, but its indiscriminate use has rendered it meaningless. Just something to be hurled to signify contempt for those who are not as generous with other people’s money as MA is.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Just something to be hurled to signify contempt for those who are not as generous with other people’s money as MA is.

              Hmmm. I think that very uncharitably misunderstands why MA uses the term. It’s offensive. And a conversation stopper. And inappropriate when used against Hanley, at least. But clearly, the better argumentative strategy would be for MA to say why he thinks a specific policy or argument falls under the FYIGM paradigm instead of just asserting that it does.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                His use of it in this case does not lend itself to charitable interpretation.

                I would agree that the “other people’s money” is particularly uncharitable, but it does seem rather clear to me that it was deployed here in an instance where we are not talking about MA’s money or Hanley’s. Maybe I could have put more thought into wording it differently.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            MA, stop saying FYIGM!

            {{{ That oughta do it, eh? 🙂 }}}Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Can’t hurt!Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              It’s a valid criticism of the line of thinking that leads to most of the positions espoused.

              If Hanley’s going to dodge the point time after time using the fact that I used the acronym as a silly excuse to respond to the criticism then he doesn’t have to respond to the criticism, but I see no point in repeating the longwinded version of it in a repetitive loop any more than I really want to be repeating the shortwinded version in a repetitive loop, save that I didn’t feel like letting the nonsense go unchallenged. I even did explain what I meant by it:

              So the major sports shall be only for the rich, while the peons have to content themselves with the minor leagues. That’ll be nice, they won’t even be talking about the same sporting leagues. One less reason to talk to the “proles.”

              Morat20 has similar sentiment on the difference today in pricing, at least in pro football. He commented later in the thread, “After a certain point, regular people get priced out simply because the sums the truly rich can throw around without noticing get to be outrageous.” That’s precisely the point I have made at many times; there is a serious harm done when the disparity grows to ridiculous levels, levels that cannot be accounted for by disparity in talent or hard work but only can be accounted for by assuming the concentrative effect of corrupt policies, because “money” is a stand-in for among other things, time. The working time of an individual human is very much zero sum, as each human only has a finite number of hours in their life and in the week. The more the hours of the bottom-whatever-percent are devalued, the more damage to them and to society as a whole is done.

              Just something to be hurled to signify contempt for those who are not as generous with other people’s money as MA is.

              As for that, I refuse to worship at the altar of Ebenezer Scrooge ‘Job Creator’, and his prophets the Austrian Economists. I don’t want to wait for the revolution to come in bloody overthrow singing liberté, égalité, fraternité, I’d prefer we reenact the sensible economic policies that made for less income disparity from the 1940s to the 1980s and yes, that includes more, not less progressive taxation and the reestablishment of anti-concentrative policies like the estate tax. And I reject the premise that those who benefitted from corrupt policies with concentrative effects over generations are somehow “better” than anyone else, or for that matter are possessed of morally gained advantage.

              If that makes me “generous with other people’s money”, so be it. I’m not one of the people to oppose raising taxes for those whose lifestyles will barely be affected by it on the grounds that I might get slightly less money in the off-chance that I won the lottery.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                If FYIGM has any meaning, it’s someone saying (explicitly or implicitly) “You need to make due with less than I have (and/or will have to make due not getting to do what I do)”

                You’re applying it to someone who is saying “If you can’t afford to do that, do this like I did because I had a blast.”

                By applying it indiscriminately against people who disagree with you, you’re reducing its meaning to… someone who disagrees with you. It loses any meaning it might have had. The merits of your case (which I have spoken somewhat favorably of in this very thread) are irrelevant as to whether the FYIGM charge is actually true.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                In other words, if I say “I love going to stadium concerts, but if you can’t afford it you should just make due with going to shows in music bars” then the FYIGM charge may have merit.

                If I say “Who needs stadium concerts? I love going to shows in music bars!” then I may be insensitive or unduly unsympathetic to your preferences, but the FYIGM charge doesn’t really apply.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That’s a good way to make the distinction.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                “Who cares if what you are looking at is expensive, what I’m looking at is cheap and you should be satisfied with it” is the core of what James Hanley’s argument was.

                So you admit the charge has merit, finally.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                In this case, no. Because what you’re saying isn’t FYIGM because it has nothing to do with what Hanley does or does not have.

                The charge can have merit, may have merit, when applied correctly. Which you don’t care to do. Even if it has merit, I consider it counterproductive, though, because it’s a non-falsifiable allegation.

                But if you’re going to use it, use it correctly.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Even if it has merit, I consider it counterproductive

                This. The term is insulting enough even when it correctly applies I’d guess. But either way, it’s counterproductive to furthering the discussion as well as changing people’s minds.

                It reminds me of a story. In a country experiencing a fascist revolution, a rabid socialist verbally assaults someone who doesn’t agree with his view of politics, just tears him a new one, and the guy he was yelling at storms off thinking that socialists are assholes. Another person watching the interaction walks up to the socialist and asks him “you don’t like the fascists right?”

                “Of course I don’t!”

                “Then why are did you just create one when you yelled at that person?”Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                If FYIGM has any meaning…

                I’m fairly certain that it means “I would prefer to discredit libertarians and conservatives by smearing them rather than by addressing the substance of their arguments.”Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                MA makes some decent and cogent points here. I still mostly disagree, but I can sort of see where he is coming from.

                Even granting his basic point, I still maintain that NFL/NBA/MLB (or U2) prices are a silly hill to die on.

                Regular folks in the US getting priced out of food/clothes (mostly does not happen), shelter/education (arguably happens, with qualifications), medicine (definitely happens, though I suspect the reasons here are complex and not easily solvable, at least not within the timeframe many would like)? These are valid concerns. Poverty should concern us, for reasons of both security/stability and basic human decency, and safety nets are A-OK.

                But regular folks getting priced out of scarce sports entertainment resources (leaving out the public funding question), especially when there are many, many other options for entertainment (live and tech, sports and other)? Not that big a deal as far as I can see. Again, back in that ‘golden age’ income distribution may have been flatter, but there were also far fewer opportunities for entertainment than there are today. I am just not seeing the crisis here.

                And I still suspect that if I were to wave the magical ‘repeal basic economics’ wand and get cheap seats for everyone, I’d just get muttering about ‘bread & circuses’ instead.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                More importantly, his insistence that sports have become the exclusive retreat of the elite is simply untrue! He maintains that prices have gotten so high that middle-class folks can’t afford them, despite the fact that stadiums have grown and the resource has, presumably, become less scarce. But if prices really are out of reach for the middle class, than how are larger stadiums remaining? MORE people can afford MORE expensive tickets? Doesn’t that mean that the middle class, or at least some segments of it, is doing well?

                It also wrongly assumes that it was once the norm for middle class folks to attend 80 baseball games a year or 40 basketball games a year or even 8 football games a year. It might have been more common once upon a time, but it was far from the norm. And the primary reason I’d argue that it is less common nowadays is because people’s disposable income is spread more diffusely. In the 70’s, most TV was free and no one paid for internet or cell phones. What do those things cost us on average nowadays? People dine out more frequently than they used to, on average. There are many more movies released, more musical available through more means, and most folks who do read buy books rather than visit the library. I don’t have hard numbers, but it is my guess that the same number of middle-class folks could afford season tickets if they allocated their funds differently (football might be the lone exception).

                I should also note that the Green Bay Packers have a waiting list of 96,000 for season tickets. 96,000! And I doubt Green Bay is littered with the 1%. But 96,000 people are trying to get tickets! I’m sure there is a not insignificant percentage who would ultimately turn down tickets if/when their name is called. But clearly the idea of buying season tickets is a bit more than just a pipe dream.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Quick a dirty…

                According to this website (http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/haupert.mlb), using 2002 dollars, the average cost of a baseball ticket in 1970 was $12.57. In 2002, it was $17.85, with almost ALL of that gain realized in the 8 year priors to that (for a long time, tickets were actually cheaper after accounting for inflation). 1994 through 2002 was also one of the most popular periods in baseball, with various HR records, Cal Ripken, and the Yankees’ championship run all contributing to a boon in interest. So, prices did indeed go up, but not to the point that tickets are simply unaffordable to the middle class. It should also be noted that this is the AVERAGE price for ALL tickets, which means if the very best tickets have gone up at a much faster rate, than other tickets have gone up at a much slower rate, if at all.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I checked this on the Packers’ web site. Season tickets have been sold out since 1960, and single-game tickets are only available if the visiting team doesn’t use all of theirs. So I’d think getting season tickets and selling the games individually would be a great investment.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well sure, if you guys want to get all factual with numbers and stuff.

                I’m more interested in the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose-ness of the argument.

                Seats not available to you? That’s The Man keeping you down. Seats available to you? That’s The Man using bread & circuses to distract you, so he can keep you down.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                The Packers are an outlier. They’re the only team that’s NOT owned by some rich person or persons. Instead it’s owned by the community of fans, through shares of stock. IIRC, you are only allowed to own one share of stock so they can’t just get bought up and concentrated.

                I imagine that’s the only way they’ve managed to keep a major league team in a town the size of Green Bay.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Rod-

                While all of that is true, I don’t think it necessarily means that the season ticket situation is related to the ownership structure. And while they are the most extreme of examples, there are a number of privately owned teams that also have absurdly long waiting lists. With demands like that, can we really expect teams to artificially depress ticket prices? I mean, I’m sure there’d be a waiting list for BMWs if we priced them like Kias.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Glyph,

                I’m not persuaded that average people really are getting priced out of those things, but I agree that, assuming they are, that’s the issue to talk about, not whether the guy who can’t afford decent food or shelter also can’t afford a ticket to watch the Lakers.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                James, in case it was not clear from my comment, nor am I.

                I think those on the other side have their strongest case when it comes to medicine (since I think that in general it is *fairly* rare to starve or freeze to death in the US unless mentally ill or drug-addicted).

                Whereas with medicine, some number of people do die in lieu of treatment that they simply cannot afford. Even if not a huge number of people, it is certainly different to not be able to afford medical treatment and die as a result, than it is to not be able to afford season tickets.

                However, I think we are in agreement that any attempt to artificially force changes to that in the here and now risks distorting (further) the market mechanisms that drive increased innovation/availability while at the same time decreasing costs.

                Just as access to an MRI or a computer are no longer the exclusive domain of the very wealthy, neither will treatments for many or most of the medical conditions that commonly afflict us eventually be, if we let the market work.

                As always, the wealthy will be the early adopters. Unfortunately that means non-rich people will die unnecessarily in the here and now, and people resent that, and we can’t be blind to that fact – at a bare minimum we need to acknowledge it (even if it seems obvious to us, or ugly to our listeners ) while continuing to make the case for markets.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    I would agree attending sporting events isn’t a good example since it is trivial and the improvement in media/tech options has made it easier to see events. If anything we are more equal in our ability to see sporting events given cable and sat. services. Seeing them in person is often ridiculously expensive ie: NFL and seat licenses. Tech is good.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Well, you can easily extend this analysis beyond sports. When Nissan and Toyota became better quality and their prices went up, along came Kia and Hyundai. As smart phones get fancier, disposable cell phones come on the market for next to nothing. As McDonalds becomes classier…ok, that one doesn’t work. They keep trying to become classier, but it never happens. But companies constantly try to bring in higher-class, higher-price clientele, and that opens the door for low-end competitors. Department stores become classier, so Walmart undercuts them. Walmart tries to shake off its white-trash image, and gets undercut by The Dollar Store. Lion’s Gate was content making Saw and Hostel movies, but when they got their shot at The Hunger Games, they took it. You know some studio is already aiming at their old cut-rate horror market.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Sorry. I didn’t really complete my thought there. What you’re seeing isn’t the disappearance of the family-friendly sports market; you’re seeing the emergence of an upper-class sports market. The college ball, minor leagues, and occasion cheap seats at major league games are still available. The real change is the expansion of the conspicuous-consumption sports market.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    The real issue with attending sporting events, if there is indeed an issue, is that many arenas are now funded with public monies. Meaning each of us is paying for a stadium that we have LESS access to than we previously did. We still have access, mind you, as most professional sporting events (save for football) offer tickets that are reasonably affordable for a middle-class family and even reasonably affordable to a lower-class individual. Add in the impact of dynamic pricing and access grows.

    Furthermore, sporting events by their very nature are exclusive. There is one and only one Tampa Bay Rays baseball game being played on Friday, June 15th. Only about 41,000 people will be able to attend. That is less than 1/50th of 1% of the American population. And right now I can go online and buy a ticket for $20! For a once-in-a-lifetime event (in that this singular game will be unique and unlike any others) reserved for less than .02% of the population, and I can go for $20!

    Generally speaking, sporting events are not all that pricey, considering the product itself.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Exactly.

      When the Vikings demand that the public give them a billion dollar stadium, and then price the cheapest tickets at $80 in the nose bleeds…we have a problem.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      For a once-in-a-lifetime event (in that this singular game will be unique and unlike any others) reserved for less than .02% of the population, and I can go for $20!

      If any of you want to see the one and only day I’ll be painting my garage, tickets start at $10. (Lawn chairs at a very reasonable premium.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Perhaps I oversold a bit. But I think the point still stands. Attendance at sporting events is a finite resource.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          And a shrinking one.

          Old Yankee Stadium capacity: 56,866, with 19 luxury boxes.
          New Yankee Stadium capacity: 52,325, with 56 luxury boxes and 4,300 exclusive access “club seats.

          Cost to screw the public, reduce seating in the areas the hoi polloi could afford, and jack up ticket prices: $1.5 billion of taxpayer money.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            You left out “destroy a classic stadium in favor of a cookie-cutter bandbox.”Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            > Cost to screw the public, reduce seating in
            > the areas the hoi polloi could afford, and
            > jack up ticket prices: $1.5 billion of
            > taxpayer money.

            Not that I’m a fan of public financing of stadiums, but the taxpayers do get some ROI on that, if you have local sales taxes or parking lot surcharges or (like Los Angeles) both. Building a stadium requires construction labor, puts people to work, etc., etc.

            Not that this is probably anywhere near a great investment, but if the price tag is $1.5 billion, you need to calculate in the returns to be truly fair.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              PC-

              That assumes that the Yankees would have left. Which they never would have. Steinbrenner used to threaten to move to NJ all the time but he never would have left the Bronx. Yes, the jobs created was real but the other costs were already there.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            Is this where I can point out that libertarians are much better on professional sports stadium financing than most big city liberal mayors?
            http://dcist.com/2012/03/gray_commits_to_meeting_with_capito.php (and that one is not even a real stadium, just a darn practice facility)Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      You know you’ll get no blowback from me on the public finding issue.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      The real issue with attending sporting events, if there is indeed an issue, is that many arenas are now funded with public monies. Meaning each of us is paying for a stadium that we have LESS access to than we previously did.

      This gets pretty close to what I think is one of the central issues in the fairness debate: the relationship between who bears the burden of a specific arrangement and who derives the benefits. I’m a fan of progressive taxation because I think – maybe incorrectly – that the higher up you go along the income scale, the more dependent you are markets derived from lots of state intervention. For example, individuals wouldn’t enjoy the protections of a corporate structure without an explicit privilege accorded by the state. Income derived from financial transactions are incredibly dependent on structures maintained and heavily influenced by the state. This contrasts, it seems to me, with a person who digs ditches or serves food at a restaurant, where state intervention isn’t a necessary component of the market they function in or the transactions they engage in.

      Taking that premise (and assuming it’s sorta-maybe sound), I think a further conclusion about fairness can be generally defined: when benefits of arrangements are increasingly accruing to those who don’t bear a proportional share of the cost, then that arrangement can (as in might!) be viewed as unfair. On the other hand, the types of situations I’m talking about here might be best understood along the lines of the ultimatum game mentioned by Frog, and people probably differ as to what constitutes an unfair in these types of arrangements.Report

  4. Avatar wardsmith says:

    James, two points. First, this Inequality Symposium idea you promoted was absolutely brilliant! I’m glad I was able to sneak a post in before the starting gun so it would happily sink to the bottom. 😉

    As for sporting events, clearly no one will buy tickets if there isn’t perceived value. It happens that someone I went to school with (and played basketball with in multiple pickup games) went on to be in the top 50 NBA players. I’ve been to his games (he had tickets for me in will-call) and I’ve been in skyboxes multiple times with the corporate heads who own those boxes for the express purpose of utilizing them as come-ons to try and drive business. Those CEO’s may well be just as disappointed with the quality of NBA play as you are, and not at all thrilled to be at the game. It isn’t “time off” for them, they get special watered-down drinks because they have to have their wits about them as they work the customers and do deals during the game. Obviously if your skybox is with the Sacramento Kings it isn’t as valuable as if it were the Miami Heat.

    The IRS cracked down on “entertainment” deductions because the deduction was being abused, but the well-documented reality (such as with drug salesmen and doctors) is that there is a definite psychological impetus to push business towards the company employing the person who fed and entertained you, your “friend”. Entertainment is still the grease that lubricates the majority of business relationships in this country and I suspect around the world. The international tradeshow/conference I just got back from had dozens if not hundreds of VIP parties, free food, free booze and tremendously beautiful women hired to walk around and “mingle” with the guests. I went to several, I’m a “qualified” VIP. I was of course less interested in the influence peddling of the sponsoring companies than in meeting and talking with the other “customers” present. After a certain level, the “schmoozing” component becomes yet another draw to get you to go to their VIP party instead of the competition.

    We’re still a long way from “frictionless” economic transactions and there are many lubricants humans have devised to smooth the way.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Hey, Ward, welcome back! Looking forward to you catching up on the posts…Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Thanks Patrick. I just spot checked and only read the first and last posts (saving a quick scan for yours of course). They all look fishing AWESOME and I’m thoroughly looking forward to cozying up with my ipad to read all the posts this weekend. I have the same feeling I get when I’ve just purchased a really good book and I hold off starting it until I can set aside time to really enjoy it. I just know I’m REALLY going to enjoy these posts!Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Thanks, Ward, but of course I only co-opted an idea that was already floating around, and said let’s do it about this issue.Report

    • Avatar Rod says:

      Well that just makes the public financing of those stadiums, with their expanded box seats, even more egregious, doesn’t it?Report

  5. Avatar Kimmi says:

    If you can’t even afford to get into the places where the deals are getting cut, you are at an extreme competitive disadvantage in getting those deals.

    But hell, let’s actually pretend that people get Yankees boxes to Watch Teh Game!Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Has anyone (besides Ward, who acknowledged he has) ever sat in a luxury box? I’ve been in several. While I have no doubt that many are used as de facto meeting places, a whole hell of a lot of them are filled with folks who want to watch sports.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      I’ve been in a luxury box at the old Vet in philly. Crappy stadium and the box was far, far away from the game. I only got in because my ex-wife worked for a company that used the box for entertaining rich suckers/gamblers.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I got to sit in the SkyBox at Candlestick once, as a thank-yon from a large (and now defunct) computer manufacturer to my then employer. It was luxurious, and the lobster and shrimp buffet was great, but it wasn’t a great location for watching the game.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I most recently sat in a box at Metlife Stadium (new Giants and Jets stadium). Compared to boxes I sat in over a decade ago, the difference in terms of viewing is night and day. The most modern boxes are much more viewer friendly, which I think reflects a difference in how they are being utilized.

      I will note something that was REMARKABLY uncomfortable…

      The boxes, at least the ones we were in, didn’t have private bathrooms. Instead you went out in the hall and used a bathroom shared with a few other boxes. No problem, I thought. I go in to take a leak and as I’m wrapping up, I notice no flushing mechanism. “Must be one of those automatic ones,” I think. But then I notice there isn’t any of the sensors. “Perhaps one of those waterless types.” But it didn’t have the funny drain. “Whatever. I did my part. Back to the game.” As I turn to leave, I see a worker coming in behind me with a spray bottle and a squeegee. “No!” I think, “He’s not going to hand clean that toilet, is he? IS HE???” He was. And he did. Why was that necessary? Who needs that? And from later visits to the bathroom, I will say that he didn’t do it after every use; if a line formed he (rightfully, I’d argue) let everyone do their business before moving in to clean. Which means this was likely a far more ineffective way to keep the toilet clean. But, dagnabbit, I and my fellow boxed brethren got to piss in a hand-cleaned toilet! Whatever helps you sleep at night, I guess?Report

      • Good to know my tax dollars are being put to good work. Please, please tell me there was at least a tip jar.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Not that I saw, no. I should report/clarify that this was how the urinals worked; the toilets did have flushers.

          I am also deliberately leaving out one of the finer/grosser points of the story, for fear of offending the females amongst us and/or letting them in on some of the secret realities of manhood.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            grumph. now you’e got me curious. can’t offend me, I swear. Maybe rot13 it?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              I can probably just say it.

              While I was relieving myself, I noticed that the pube fairy had made a visit to the urinal (the pube fairy is a mystical creature who sprinkles pubes on public toilets and the like). I initially thought I should do my civic duty and pee them away but the figured I’d just flush them. Since I couldn’t flush, I left the pubes (which were not mine, in case that wasn’t clear) for the attendant to clean, on top of squeegeeing my urine.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                At least it wasn’t one of those urinals we had back in the day.

                The trough in the middle of the aisle.

                There’s nothing like peeing whilst staring into the eyes of another man.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Geez. Candlestick had troughs, but they were decently against the wall so you could look at ads.Report

          • If Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I is to be believed (and why wouldn’t it be?), then we’ve gone from the aristocracy being able to piss wherever they wanted while watching human chess and have someone come to them to make sure they didn’t make a mess…..to the aristocracy having to take a break from watching a football game and go to the room next door to take a piss if they want to have someone make sure they didn’t make a mess.

            It’s tough being an aristocrat these days, I tell you what.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I’ve had four windfall experiences, all in the Staples Center.

      A college buddy’s brother was the regional something-muckity-muck for PepsiCo and got a shot at the Pepsi luxury box once a couple of times a year. We sat there twice.

      The seats were actually pretty good for watching the game. Then again, it’s actually the Pepsi box, center of the stadium.

      Another friend had his company rent a luxury box in Staples and everybody got to bring a friend. That time the box was in the low post; terrible place to watch the game (except for the screens in-box, which are nice), but we had a bartender, so it was a fun experience in another way.

      The last time was June 19th, 2000, game 6 of the 1999-2000 NBA finals. An AT&T sales rep was trying to schmooze Idealab’s director of telecommunications (this was right before the bubble popped), and he was a cranky old Brit who hated basketball but sat right next to me. He turned down tickets twice before I overheard him talking to the rep on the phone and I said, “If you turn those tickets down, I’m going to stab you”, so he said yes and I got to go to the game.

      Row 14. Just down from Jimmy Smits. Not courtside, but better for watching the game actually as you have just enough height to watch the game.

      There is no way in hell I would ever be able to afford those seats for an NBA finals game in Los Angeles for a potential “bring the trophy home” game. Not ever – barring Lottery winnings.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I’ve never been in a luxury box, but my high scool age daughter has, in a class group that was entertaining a group of German students. Apparently companies that aren’t using their boxes at a particular event sell the use of them, and if you have a decent size group it’ pretty reasonable per person.

      I did once get the Fox corp seats at an LA. Kings game at the Forum–no luxury boxes so we were three rows from the ice.Report

  7. Avatar Morat20 says:

    Anecdotally:

    My Dad used to have season tickets to the Oilers. For like 15 years. In a fairly nice tier of seats. He did this as a parent of two kids (he had two tickets. My brother and I would alternate attending, or one of his friends would go), with a wife who was a stay-at-home mom, then a teacher’s aide while finishing college, then a special ed teacher. (And she got paid peanuts. I’ve seen that district’s pay scales. There’s a reason she didn’t pay for daycare and watched us herself).

    When the Oilers left, obviously he stopped having tickets. When the Texans came, with their bigger, better stadium….he wanted to take me and my brother for a game. And couldn’t afford it. Despite the fact that he’s now white collar making a much larger salary, my mother has moved on to a much more lucrative role than ‘teacher’, and they don’t support me or my brother.

    I could have bought a new computer for the price of tickets that were actually available. (It’s fun to see “Tickets as low as XX” and then go to buy and find out that, like car sales, there’s like four of them and they’re behind a pole and they’re sold out already. Cheapest actual tickets you can acquire for any game that SEASON were much, much higher).

    We went to see the Astros instead. Those tickets are cheap. If you go mid-week. During the day. And also, let’s face it, the Astros suck and probably couldn’t pack the stadium right now without paying people to attend.

    So that’s my anecdote: Season NFL tickets used to be within my parent’s means. They are not now, despite the fact that my parents ARE much better off. They’re well outside my reach — maybe if I traded cable, internet and a few other luxuries I could afford tickets to all, what, 7 home games? For two people.

    And I am cheerfully, happily, in the top 10% of incomes in my area. I want to watch the Texans play, I gotta watch it on TV.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      And also, let’s face it, the Astros suck and probably couldn’t pack the stadium right now without paying people to attend.

      Maybe next time Matt Cain comes to visit. (And no, I am not going to leave it alone, Stop asking.)Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    It should be noted that many sports leagues are setting records in attendance. Supply-and-demand and all that jazz…

    Football tickets tend to be the most expensive because there is a low supply (8 home dates versus 41 in NBA/NHL or 81 in MLB) and a super high demand, as attending a football game is often a day-long social gathering in a way that most other pro sports are not. All but a few stadiums sell out every game, with the NFL’s blackout policy being a real black eye for the league.Report

  9. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    It’s worth pointing out here that scarce resources are scarce. No matter how you ration the tickets, you can only fit 15,000 people into an arena with a seating capacity of 15,000.

    Sporting events actually give a pretty good example of how consumption inequality differs from income inequality. Modern high-definition television sets provide a much, much better substitute for attending a sporting event than the TVs of 40 years ago. Even as incomes have diverged, consumption has in many ways converged.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Yeah, perhaps I’d be a bit more okay with the whole supply/demand thing if for some reason these teams didn’t ALSO feel the need to extort brand new stadiums out of taxpayers.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think everyone has acknowledged that the public funding of stadiums is a HUGE!!!! issue.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Also, since I hit send without adding it:

          Is football all that much more popular now than in 1985? Stadium sizes have grown as well as population. It sat 51,000 in the late 80s. Harris County’s population in the 1980s was ~2.8 million . (Harris County encompassing Houston and it’s surrounding sprawl — basically the area of potential ticket holders).

          It’s 4 million now. Reliant Stadium holds 71,000 people. So the population increased by a little over 33% and the stadium’s seating incerased by about 40%.

          I can’t find sources on ticket prices, but I’d be shocked if the median ticket price was anything less than a doubling. If not a tripling.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            But they’re selling out! Which means MORE people are able to afford ever-increasing prices!Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            “Greater Houston” area supposedly has a population of 6.1 million as of the last census estimate, but a growth rate more like 25% or so, not 40%. I’ll take a guess that like most NFL teams, they pull from the surrounding metro and at least part of their state area for attendees, rather than just from the city itself. Right?Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              I used Harris County stats (and Astrodome seating) from 1990 and 2010. Harris County covers about 95% of the “likely to drive to anything less than a playoff game” crowd. Harris County includes Houston proper, and pretty much every major surrounding town and city.

              Even then, you’re looking at the same increase in seating capacity as population.

              So why the three-fold increase in price? Fancy new stadium they got for free? Pretty much identical supply and demand for tickets?

              I’d imagine it’s pretty simple: There’s enough people with a TON of disposable cash to bid the seat prices up. (Houston’s got a surprising number of those 1%s — and nobody can compete with them).

              After a certain point, regular people get priced out simply because the sums the truly rich can throw around without noticing get to be outrageous.

              There’s a big and growing difference between “middle class” and “rich”. And while you cna hide it behind iPods and big tvs (themselves only better due to Moore’s law, not some awesome benefit of an unequal society), you can see luxuries getting priced out of the middle class’s reach.

              One real problem is COLLEGE is starting to be one of those.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Don’t blame me—I’m one of those crazy libertarians.

        Even with the subsidies, though, price is still the best way to ration scarce resources. We could, and should, make the teams pay back the subsidies, but that wouldn’t make the tickets any cheaper.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Getting rid of the anti-trust exemption to sports leagues would likely help correct some of the distortions of artificial scarcity.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        There’s still that whole “scarcity of talent” problem. We could pick on the Astros some more but the cold hard fact is there are a limited number of humans who can play at the superhuman level we expect of pro athletes. Even if we “roided” everyone up, people won’t necessarily have the coordination, eyesight, reflexes, drive and so on that are requirements to elevate to that level. I went to high school with the NBA pro. He was already better than me then, he only improved, while I may have already peaked. My only real skill is extremely fast reflexes, but I lack most of the rest. As Rose’s article (I believe, haven’t really read it yet) says, we’re not all equally blessed. Curt Shilling might have a smokin’ fastball, but his business acumen and IQ might not match Romney, just to pick a name out of a hat. ;0Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Baseball is a game of numbers but it’s also a monopoly. Therefore it lacks the depth and breadth of pro soccer as a case in point. Because it lacks depth, baseball is a self-inhibiting organism, rather like the insects and reptiles had to downsize in a world with less oxygen.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            If we want to lower the overall quality of play, we could always kick out the current players and bring in the replacements. Soccer does well spread across multiple countries, not sure we could replicate that system in US-centric sports.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I remember a great cartoon from back then, two limos side by side, seen from the top. One’s labeled Players, the other Owners. A speech balloon, it’s not clear who’s saying it, reads “Get your own damned Grey Poupon!” Used to have that on the fridge door. Still can’t work out which side is a bigger bunch of assholes, the owners or the players.

              MLB is a mug’s game. A bunch of prima donnas.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          There is not much scarcity of talent, when it comes to most sports. In fact, absolute talent really isn’t even the issue. If it were, nobody would watch college sports.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I’m not sure I follow. How would that work, in concrete terms? Would they be forced to admit new teams?Report

  10. Avatar M.A. says:

    So the middle class can’t afford an NBA game, and that’s a harm from inequality? When they have countless other sporting entertainment options to choose from at affordable prices?

    Let me rephrase that for you:

    “FYIGM, little people. Go back to your bread and circuses where you belong.”Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Middle class folks can afford an NBA game. Can they afford season tickets? Probably not. Most people can’t afford extravagant luxuries. That’s what makes them extravagant luxuries.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        That’s ridiculously circular.

        “If middle class people can’t afford it, it’s an extravagant luxury. Which is, by definition, that which the middle class can’t afford”.

        The actual question is “When and why did NBA games become an extravagant luxury?

        Much, much, MUCH has been made of the fact that we can afford bigger TV’s (because they’ve gotten cheaper!) and iPods, but why not the converse? What of the things the middle class used to be able to afford but can’t now? What changed?

        As I noted upthread, the expansion in seating of the Houston football team’s stadium was in-line with population growth. The stadium itself was built with taxpayer money. And yet…season tickets were within the reach of my father, but not myself.

        As best I can tell from the website, what he’d spend on a season for two seats I could afford…two tickets to two games (so four seats) at a roughly comparable level. So a three-fold increase in prices, despite the same (if not better) ratio of seats to populationReport

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Morat, you sort of answered your own question about this. Population increases are as responsible for ticket scarcity as much as anything else. Especially as it pertains to the NFL. The other leagues remain more affordable, with only some exceptions.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Professional sports are MUCH more popular than ever before. Attendance is way up. Season tickets for a middle-class family were never the norm. Achievable, perhaps, if sacrifices were made, but mot the norm. Sell your giant TV, which your dad never had, and maybe you can afford a set. How much more do we spend on cable and internet and cell phones these days? How many families own two cars? All that money could be spent on season tickets, easily, but isn’t, because people opt to spend it on other things. None of those were the norm for the middle class. That some but not all have become the norm isn’t a symptom of growing inequality. There is plenty more to hang your hat on… Why you seem to insist that middle-class fans had their seats stolen out from under them boggles my mind. And, yes, the public funding remains a HUGE issue. I could get decent season tickets to the Yanks for all 81 games for $1600. That’s half what I spent in one weekend at a bachelor party.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            $1600 is my yearly “fun money” budget, and out of that comes the cost of flying home to see family at christmas time.

            Excuse me if I say your experience is not remotely “middle class.”Report

          • Avatar Trumwill says:

            The fact that there is such increased demand would seem to be indicative of something. It seems reasonable that an increasing inequality is a part of that formula, but it’s not the inequality of the few rather than separation between the rest of us.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I misjudged you, sir. I can tell by this comment that you are a very serious and intelligent person.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        And not at all bigoted.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          The response of the 1% to the inflated pricing of pro sports tickets is “well you should be grateful you can still afford to go to the minor league and college games.”

          Really?

          And I’m still waiting on that apology from you. Not that I expect it’ll ever come.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Was I not clear when I said I stand by my comment?Report

          • Avatar Trumwill says:

            Not “you”, MA. “We.” He goes at length about the minor league and college games he has attended. You say it’s FYIGM because you assume that anybody who disagrees with you on this must have theirs and be aggressively saying F-You instead of, you know, having a different perspective.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Thanks, Will. I’m pretty amused at the idea that I’m in the 1%, especially as I’ve spent my day reprinting the kitchen of my $75k house–repainting as a substitute for the remodeling it really needs that I can’t yet afford. 😉Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            I’m fairly certain that James isn’t in the top 1% of income earners. But you asssume he is, even though he’s given no indication of such. Is that beacuse you just can’t conceive of the possibility that anyone might disagree with your childish “Fish You, Give Me Yours” ideology for any reason other than greed?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Is there anything at all that you’d be willing to say that a person should have to pay for if they want it?

      Anything?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      James, just admit that you’ve constructed this M.A. persona to give us all sonethin to argue against. This whole week would have been significantly less interesting if it weren’t here to argue with.

      Like I said, the troll that provokes only flames is not the true troll.Report

  11. Avatar Will Truman says:

    As the fellow above states, MA, the NBA *is* a circus.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      On top of that, and what Kazzy says, it’s not clear that Hanley has his. In fact, he talks specifically of making due with the alternate entertainment he’s talking about. You’re just bound and determine to interpret disagreement with you as contempt. Doing so contemptuously, I should add.Report

  12. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Even when people are “equal” they still will find a way to spend money “extravagantly”.

    One of the supermodel-beautiful “hostesses” at the party I went to a few days ago was wearing a Vera Wang original. No doubt it cost much more than season’s tickets at most venues. Of course she looked stunning in it, but it isn’t exactly practical, unless of course you’re a twenty-something beauty with not much more in your favor than a pretty face and a spectacular body. Go to enough VIP parties and perhaps you’ll meet the sugar-daddy who can afford to buy you as many Vera Wang’s as you’d like. Calculated risk, but potentially worth it. I let her know I wasn’t in the market but we did discuss “business” development strategies. Her dress looked a bit too much like a wedding dress, recommended a tad more subtlety and gave her ideas on how to spot the richest guys in the room (not what you’d think). I hope she (and her future he) end up in a win/win transaction within limited friction. 😉Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      That link reminds me of a thought I had had a while back, which is that status-jockeying is a constant, and if we restrict people’s ability to compete for status based on income, they’ll find other, less productive ways to compete for status. At least competition for income-based status has beneficial side effects.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Brandon, I have had essentially this same thought in the past but I would go beyond ‘less productive’ to ‘potentially outright destructive’ – that is, I’d rather have the Smiths competing with the Joneses to see who can buy the bigger boat, than competing with each other to accumulate raw naked power.

        Wealth-status pursuit may be gauche but is mostly harmless competition and has beneficial side effects, while power-status pursuit will likely morph into outright aggression – physical violence.

        Not that money isn’t a proxy for power, but the violence can be minimized/abstracted.Report

  13. Speaking of basketball, I’m glad the dribbling robot is back.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Perhaps I’ll do a post on all this sports stuff. It may be too political for MD and need to go on the FB. But there seems to be a lot of interest and confusion around the topic. I’ll see what I can muster up. Though I might just end up drinking beer and watching golf…Report