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Are live sports worth the cost?

I went with a friend in the city to watch a hockey game this past weekend. It wasn’t even an NHL game, it was just a WHL game. (Western Hockey League, a top league for under 20-year-old players, for those of you unaware) which is still good hockey, but definitely a step down from the pros in both skill and parity of the teams. But we went anyway, watching one team really beat up on the other, all while having to hear the guy behind us explain the intricacies of the game to his children, who were either really dumb or had never attended a hockey game in their lives.
Let’s go with option B, to give those kids some credit.

Even though we went to more budget-friendly WHL hockey, the evening was still a significant cost. Our night cost:
$100 for dinner (granted, very expensive. We went to a nice place)
$46 for two tickets
$13 for parking
$11 for two bowls of ice cream
$170 total, not including any vehicle costs to get there
This is a lot of money to spend on a hockey game. Even if you strip out the expensive dinner, it’s still kind of a pricey night. And we went with a much cheaper option than one of the 4 major professional leagues. My experience begs the question: Is going to live sports worth the cost?

The alternative

Today, in the age of LCD high-definition televisions and surround sound systems, watching the game at home is a better option than ever. You also have the option of stretching out on your couch, instead of cramming into an uncomfortable plastic seat. If you have a really awesome wife, you can get her to make your food while you just sit there and eat it. I’d recommend getting a wife like that or at least going to someone’s house where his wife will serve you. Stereotypes are fun.
Watching sports at home has all sorts of other advantages too. The popcorn might not be as delicious as the stuff at the hockey game, but the cost will be about 90% less. It’s the same thing with the nachos or the ice cream. The markups at the hockey game are borderline obscene, but they know you have no other choice, so you’ll indulge in some overpriced snacks. Or, even worse yet, beer. And this isn’t even factoring in things like 50/50 draws or other things that raise money for the local team. If you watch at home, all those potential money drains aren’t there to tempt you.
Ever watched a game live and missed the best part because you were checking out the hot girl two sections over? We’ve all been there. If you watch at home, there will be 14 replays of that great play, and even more, if there’s a PVR involved.
Cutting out cable TV is often presented as an easy step toward getting your budget on track. But, without cable, you might be tempted to spend more on either going to games or going to sports bars to watch them there. Suddenly cable looks like a real bargain compared to the alternatives.

Selective spending

I’m not going to ask you to cut out going to live sports altogether. As a sports fan, I can attest, live sports are awesome. Sports are meant to be watched live. The atmosphere in the building is difficult to describe, especially during a tight game. People watching is often every bit as fun as watching the game. Seeing your favorite team surrounded by like-minded fans is great, especially when said team is winning.
If you can’t bear to cut out going to live sports, at least be selective about the events you go to. No offense to Winnipeg Jets fans, but there’s no way I’m shelling out cash to watch that team play. It’s the same thing with the Houston Astros in baseball or the Miami Dolphins in football. If someone wants a pal to go watch the home team play a crappy opponent, maybe pass on the invitation. Save your time and money for a better game, even if you have to shell out a little more for tickets. Quantity isn’t necessarily the goal when it comes to going to live sports. I know it’s tough to resist the opportunity to watch your favorite team live, but maybe you should, at least sometimes. Your wallet will thank you.


  1. Pabs

    Totally agree with quality being better than quantity but I have issues with making such a statement. Even having been a “ticket broker” for a 3 years stretch in So. Fla. at the turn of the millennium, I probably went to 40 Marlins, 5 Dolphins, 15 Heat and 25 Panthers games a year and did it all on the “cheap.”

    You can’t beat the parking issue so that is always going to be a constant unless public transportation is nearby. But a little secret: Tickets are a commodity and they have a specific expiration date. Normally, if you can stand waiting for the game to start, you can get tickets outside for 50% discount if it isn’t a big game and even if it is sometimes.

    I totally see how 2 or 3 live game experiences could stock the refrigerator for a month or furnish a small entertainment room. Dollars for doughnuts, I would jump off the couch anytime to see any live sporting event. How ’bout we get the Marlins to play the Dolphins in a hockey game: worth every penny

  2. Echo

    That’s pretty expensive to watch a WHL game. I think I’d rather shell out the extra $40 or $50 and watch the Flames or Oilers play live.

    Nothing beats the atmosphere of a live professional sporting event. I wouldn’t go so far as to buy season tickets, but once in a while it’s nice to treat yourself to a live event (sports, big concert, whatever).

    My brother and I flew to Chicago and watched a Bears game at Soldier Field and a Cubs game at Wrigley. What an amazing experience!

    We bought the Bears tickets online, which included a pre-game tailgate party. We bought the Cubs tickets from a scalper outside the stadium (10 rows up the 3rd baseline).

    Rather than regularly attending smaller events, I like to save up for a couple of big ones every once in a while. The experience is definitely worth the money.

  3. Al

    I have the same issue with concert tickets. It just seems like a racket for most regular folks to get decent tickets to virtually any live event. We end up sitting in the cheap seats with the live action taking place via microscopic players so that we can spend big bucks to say that we were there.

    I much prefer watching from the comfort of my home where the seats are more comfortable and the bathrooms are clean with no waiting.

  4. Glenn Cooke

    It’s the atmosphere, not the event. Nothing beats 10,000 screaming fans – you don’t get that in the privacy of your home.

    The professional games are OK (though I went to a basketball game once, and would’ve had more excitement taking a nap) – but a great alternative is local or regional hockey. We can watch our local OHL team for <$100 and no parking costs. And it's still a blast to watch our local OHA team played by local kids, all at our local arena. Total cost on that is like $15-$20, and we can walk to the arena.

    Personally I'd love to see a drive back towards extremely local sporting events over the bajillion dollar events they have in the major cities. Watching locals play hockey in nowheres'ville over a cup of hot chocolate in a freezing cold arena is a real sporting event.

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