The Unaffordability of Sports Is Crippling Fandom
By Brett Lawson
In the world of sports, bigger is usually better. Whether the subject is contracts, stadiums, or event size, it seems as if the solution to everything is always expansion and growth. Yet, as the sporting industry enlarges its footprint, and the leagues, teams, players, media and other corporations profit from the largess, there is a pillar of sports that continuously gets the proverbial shaft: The FANS!
Sports fandom suffers in a caste system of unaffordability. Compounding the insult is that sports now have a wider influence on our culture than ever. Why hasn’t the exponential boost in power and wealth we have witnessed in the sports world trickled down to the myriad fandoms across the nation? It is painfully obvious that as the global sports industry continues to rise in participation and influence, sports fans’ collective interest and power diminishes, and the ideal that sports is an inclusive pastime has become less attainable.
As the son of a golf pro and friend of countless athletes and sports fanatics, it was inevitable that I too would find myself immersed in the sports industry. After a successful, albeit brief, career as an amateur athlete and now sports media personality, I have more experience in sports than many in their late 20s. Through it all, I am one of the fortunate ones. I have been able to witness historical sporting events and experience milestones in sports history because I have been privileged to work in sports media. Most die-hard fans are not so fortunate.
As tickets continue to sell, sporting goods dominate our economy, and leagues expand and fill the airwaves, it is sad that the lifeblood of sports is sucked dry in the process. The demographic that makes sports such a cultural positive impact, repeatedly finds itself left in the cold, despite a co-dependency that enable such an imbalance. Yet, I can count on one hand how many NFL games I have attended purely as a spectator, how many players’ jerseys I own, and how many times I have made a major sports-related purchase as a fan. In fact, if it weren’t for press passes and media access, I can only ponder at how many great experiences I would have missed out on due the rising costs of sports.
Until sports is can appropriately balance profit and affordability, the gap will only grow more intolerable. If revenue is the heartbeat, fans are the heart and soul of the global sports industry. As the spotlight grows brighter, fans must realize that the status quo is not sustainable, and that the balance of influence must shift toward the fan.