Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Live Sports?

In the wake of the NFL lockout that is threatening the 2011/12 season, I recently read an article that talked about the steady decline of MLB attendance over the last 3-4 years.  This all has me wondering, are live sports dead?  This article went on to mention that NFL attendance has dropped at similar rates over the past few years, and many say the NFL is as popular as ever!

What is causing this? There are a number of reasons:  the recession, HDTV, busy schedules, etc. the list goes on and on.  I sat back and thought about the article last night, and I started to think about all reasons why people don't go, and I must say they all make sense.  I can't think of any reason outside of just wanting to be there to go to a professional sporting event these days.  Games are expensive, traffic is brutal, and at least in Atlanta, there is nothing to do before or after around the stadiums.  What can the leagues do to bring people back to the stadiums?  I am going to walk through a list of things I would change if it was up to me below.

1.  Speed up the pace of games:  Whether we are talking about the NFL, MLB, or NBA, games are too long these days.  TV timeouts take forever in football, batters step out of the box in baseball, and basketball players call timeout every 10 seconds in the waning minutes of a game.  All of this must be streamlined, and a sporting event should go no longer than two hours in my mind.  Two hours is a long time, especially if the game starts at 7pm on a weeknight and you are expecting families with kids to come and enjoy the festivities.

2.  Lower food/beverage prices:  You know why Augusta National is so great?  There are a lot of reasons, but one of which is that the food/beverage prices remain constantly moderate over time.  $2 cokes and $2.50 sandwiches are a far cry from the $6 cokes and $6 hot dogs at the ball park.  Once you get fans to the park/stadium, there is no need to fleece them with crazy food prices, it just drives people away.

3.  Entertain us:  Overshadowed by the big money at stake and the various labor disputes and other issues that take the focus from the games themselves, many forget that sports are a form of entertainment, and really nothing more.  Long ago the money became so big that sports distanced themselves from the fans and began to take themselves a bit too seriously, while forgetting that they are just entertainers.  Just like I don't care to listen to Sean Penn lecture me on international affairs, I also don't want to hear about athlete labor problems or the money problems of billionaire owners who own teams because they are bored.  Your number one priority is to create an entertaining atmosphere, with an exciting product.  If you happen to make a lot of money doing it, then that is great, but don't sacrifice entertainment value in order to line your pockets (Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Bengals, etc)

Those are just three of my suggestions for sports in general, what would you do to improve the entertainment value of live sports?

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