As sports fans, we’ve all had the “turning point.” You head to a game, sit next to a bunch of people you’d normally never interact with, and at first it’s a little awkward. You’re trying not to step on their feet while moving into the aisle. You’re kinda annoyed they’re on Facebook during the action. You put up an imaginary wall.
Then a big play happens, and you pump your fist. And that person beside you does the same. So the next time the hitter drives one in the gap, or the offense picks up a first down on third-and-long, you look at your neighbor and nod. Feeling a little more empowered, you heckle the opponent, your aisle-mate laughs, and suddenly you have a bond. By the end of the game, you’re laughing, joking, cheering, and booing together.
The Yankees would like to eliminate that because building a community is apparently bad for business. This week the team announced it would no longer accept print-at-home tickets from secondary providers, which is how most fans acquire seats below face value. That way you’re forced to buy from the Yankees directly, or the team’s Ticketmaster service. Sounds like a way to simply soak the consumer for a few more dollars. But that’s actually not it.
These Yankee-controlled seats will never drop below a certain cost to make sure they price-out the consumer they don’t want in that part of the ballpark. If the Twins are in town on a rainy midweek night, sorry you’re not getting a deal. If you were thinking about going to the Tuesday night game against the A’s in mid-April you’d pay $250 from the Yankees to sit in section 115, behind first base. You could get those for about $100 less on the secondary marlket right now.
But unless you can somehow get the actual hard copy of the tickets from a seller or the online site you bought them from you can’t go to the game. Because the Yankees won’t accept that printed paper. Originally they claimed protection against counterfeiting. But yesterday team brass let the elitist cat out of the pinstriped bag. Because the customers who paid full price don’t want to sit next to the bargain hunters.
COO Lonn Trost told WFAN, “That fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount. And quite frankly the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”
And right there, perfectly encapsulated, is how the Yankees want to build a money moat around their wealthier fans. Instead of incentivizing their supporters of all social classes to come to the ballpark, they’d rather protect their Manhattan hedge fund managers with aisles of empty seats, keeping them at an arm’s distance from the rest of us riff raff. You might as well segregate sections by zip code.
Just parsing Trost’s comments is so interesting. “Someone who has never sat in a premium location.” That an unfamiliarity with good seats means we wouldn’t know how to properly act? That loud cheering or passionate booing is taboo? Don’t put your feet up on the chair in front of you? To tip the vendor the full 20%? What are the rules of engagement in the lower bowl?
This is a baseball game dammit, not dinner at the Russian Tea Room. What kind of behavior would be deemed unacceptable at a place where fans wear jerseys of young men half their age and old sweat-stained hats from a Belmar summer of ’93, beg for signatures on a piece of cowhide, and throw peanut shells on the floor for someone else to sweep up? Do you have to eat your hot dogs with both pinkies up in the lower bowl? Sip your Bud Light out of a Waterford glassware? Apologize to A-Rod before asking why he struck out for the third time on a two-seam fastball?
The upper deck is so often the best experience you can have. The truest fans are usually up there, wearing the passion on their sleeves. My parents bought me one ticket to Game 5 of the 2000 Subway Series. Spending $125 on a ticket was unheard of for us at the time, so I flew solo. I sat in in the orange seats, way up along the leftfield line. I’ll never forget being a complete stranger without anyone else I knew at Shea, yet building the most amazing group of friends for those three hours. I sat next to an elderly couple who were born in Italy. I sat behind an African-American family from Queens. I sat in front of a middle-aged Dominican woman and her daughter from Long Island. I ended up chatting and cheering and taking pictures with all them, right until the final out.
Sports has long been our most communal activity. It’s one of our last bastions of organic in-person interaction. We wear our ear buds on the train. We walk the streets with our faces in our phones. We fake like we’re asleep on the flight so we don’t have to talk to anyone. Sports allows us the common ground to break down all those silly invisible walls, as though we just can’t possibly be bothered by anyone so different from us.
It’s the foundation of so much of today’s political rhetoric. Keep your neighbors at arm’s length, everyone is the enemy, it’s us versus them. It’s nice to know the Yankees are encouraging that behavior. I’ve never sat in the $250 seats. And now I don’t really want to.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.