The Preferred Sport At A Cheaper Price

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What I’m going to say here won’t shock many people that are regular readers of this site or call themselves hard-core racing fans. I’m sort of preaching to the choir here, but that’s what we IndyCar fans do in the offseason when there is no racing going on – we talk about how superior our sport is to other sports.

Longtime readers of this site also know that not only am I an IndyCar fan, but I’m a die-hard football fan too. Many IndyCar fans are also fans of stick-and-ball sports, although there are probably just as many who follow no other sport than auto racing. Sometimes I think they may be the smartest of the lot.

This past Sunday, Susan and I went to watch the Tennessee Titans play. Since 2002, she and I have been to more Titans games than I can count. In the early 2000s, we would usually make about half of the home games each season. In 2003, we made five regular season home games, two away games in Charlotte and Atlanta and one home playoff game when the Titans beat the Steelers in overtime.

The first year we were married (2012), we had season tickets. A friend was trying to get us to buy them permanently. When I balked, he convinced me to try them for a year before buying them and committing to buy them every year. The Titans were 6-10 that season. By November, it got to where we would say “Oh, no – we’ve got another Titans game we have to go to this weekend”.

The last game of the season, the Titans were scheduled to play the hapless Jaguars, who were even worse than the Titans. The game was to be played in a cold drizzle and Susan was sick. We chose not to go for obvious reasons. We tried to give the tickets away and had no takers. None. The tickets went unused because no one wanted free tickets to watch a bad team on a cold, wet and miserable day. That was our one and only year for season tickets.

Since then, we’ve trimmed it back to only one or two games a year. It’s just gotten to be too expensive. Last year, we went to only one game all season. This year we decided to make one home game (this past Sunday), and we also have tickets for the Titans-Colts game in Indianapolis on Nov 18.

After that game, I may be done.

No, I’m not saying I’m through watching the Titans. But as far as being a spectator, this past Sunday just about did it for me attending Titans games in person.

It’s not because the Titans looked inept in their 21-0 drubbing at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens that led to their first-ever home shutout in nineteen year-old Nissan Stadium (their previous home shutout had been as the Houston Oilers, when the Steelers shut them out in the Astrodome in 1976). Nor was it due to the rainy weather that persisted throughout the afternoon.

No, it comes down to economics and the whole going-to-the stadium experience. Our seats were in the nosebleed section two-thirds of the way up the third and highest level. They were decent enough – on about the forty yard-line, but still very high. We bought them directly from the Titans last spring when the schedule came out. That means we paid face-value; which was $85 a piece, plus whatever surcharge Ticketmaster throws on top of the order.

We park offsite and take a shuttle that drops us off right at the gate. Even though that’s cheaper than a reserved parking spot by the stadium, it’s still $10 each, so that’s $95 each we’ve already spent before we arrive at the stadium. It was a 3:25 pm kickoff, so I bought a beer before we got to the seats. The cost? $11 and I threw in an extra buck so the two women in the concession stand wouldn’t think I was a total cheapskate. We also ate at halftime. I had a brat ($7) and Susan had a regular hot dog ($6) and a Coke ($6). If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a total of $221 for two people to go to a game in the cheap seats, have a couple of dogs, one beer and one Coke – hardly extravagant.

For that small fortune we endured rude and drunken crowds, sat out in the rain and watched bad football. Before the game, there was nothing to do but wander the overpriced concession area and watch overpaid prima donna athletes warm up. When the game was over, stadium workers ushered us out of the stadium and into the darkness. There was no hanging around or getting to go out onto the field or rub shoulders with any players. It was a race to see how quickly they could evacuate the stadium. We left the house at 1:30 Sunday afternoon and were back home by 7:30 that night. If I had it all to do over again, I would’ve eaten the original price of the tickets and stayed home and watched the debacle on television and saved fifty bucks.

Compare the day we had on Sunday with going to the Indianapolis 500, or any race on the IndyCar schedule. This past May, we paid $109 per ticket for prime seating in Stand A along the main straightaway. Our seats are just south of the entrance to Gasoline Alley and across the track. We are underneath the overhang in the shade and in case it rains. $40 will buy a parking pass just outside of Turn One, so if you come with three other people – it ends up costing the same per person as the shuttle service at a Titans game.

You can buy high-priced concessions at the track if you so desire. A very good breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is now a whopping $10, when just a few years ago, they were only $6. But unlike any NFL stadium, you can bring your own cooler to the track. You can bring your own sandwiches, Cokes and beer and not spend a dime on concessions all day. And how long is that day? All day. At Indianapolis, we usually get to the track before 6:00 am on Race Day and leave around 7:00 pm. That’s what I call a full day.

Before the race, all fans are free to wander behind The Pagoda and along the walkway between the garage area and the hospitality area. On either side, fans are liable to see some of the biggest names in the sport walking just a few feet away or having breakfast in one of the hospitality areas. You can see cars being pushed through the paddock as the teams make final preparations for the day ahead.

If you are lucky enough to be on the inside of the fence at the garage area; you can get up close and personal with the drivers who will be competing that afternoon, or chat with some of the stars of yesteryear. Try getting that kind of access at an NFL game.

I’ve been going to the Indianapolis 500 off and on since 1965. I’ve never left with the feeling I had on Sunday when I saw the Titans get annihilated. If the driver I’m pulling for gets knocked out early, I quickly find another driver out of the starting thirty-three to cheer for. My driver doesn’t always win, but it is rare – if ever – that I leave the track upset with the outcome.

While alcohol can affect fans at no matter what type of sporting event you are attending, at least races don’t have “Mr. Get-Up!” You know who I’m talking about. He was sitting about four rows in front of us on Sunday. With the rain we were sitting through, coupled with the Titans’ poor play – the crowd was pretty subdued. When you are under a poncho and you’ve wiped your seat dry, you’re not really motivated to get up unless you have to.

This didn’t set well with Get-Up guy. Between every play, he would turn around and admonish everyone for sitting down. He seemed excessively angry when no one followed his command to get up and scream. The more we sat there, the madder he got. It’s not as if our one section in the top of the stadium was really going to make a difference, but he seemed to think it would and he took it personally when no one responded to his yelling at us. You don’t get that in racing. Everyone is in a much better mood.

Then there are the participants in the two events. At NFL games, the players celebrate, gyrate and take part in risqué dances every time they do their job. A defensive end is paid a lot of money to sack the quarterback. It’s their job. Why do they act like they’ve discovered plutonium when they’ve simply done what they were hired to do; regardless if their team is winning or losing?

Graham Rahal generally passes more cars in a race than any other driver. But when he is interviewed after the race, he is usually scowling unless he actually won the race. Winning a race really is special. When a football team plays, they have to beat one team. Every IndyCar race, you have over twenty other competitors you have to beat. When you do make it to victory lane, it is actually worthy of a celebration – but an Indianapolis 500 winning driver that just met his lifelong goal still doesn’t go through all of the histrionics that some of these NFL players do just for making a tackle.

When a pit crew executes a crucial quick pit stop, you’ll see them high-five each other and congratulate each other for a job well done as a team. You’ll never see a single individual stand up on the pit wall and beat their chest like Tarzan because he changed his tire quicker than the others. NFL players talk about teamwork, while IndyCar crewmembers show it.

When Susan and I go to Indianapolis for the Titans-Colts game, we will stay over on Saturday night before the game. While it will be the reason for our weekend, very little time will actually be spent going to the game. We will make our obligatory stop at the track and do some Christmas shopping at the IMS gift shop. We may go through “Lights at the Brickyard” again like we did last year, since it will have started back up the night before. We will most likely eat dinner at Dawson’s on Main, just because we’re there. Oh yeah, we’ll go to the game on Sunday.

Most people don’t just go to races and do nothing else at the track. Race weekends at any track are an event – and a much better value than high-priced tickets for a three-hour football game. Right now, through the end of October – Road America has a deal, and I mean a deal. For $100 (almost what one bad ticket at Sunday’s debacle costs), you can get a four-day pass to everything that Road America has to offer for next year’s IndyCar race. This deal offers free parking and full paddock access all four days (Thursday through Sunday). There is so much track action that weekend each year, they have had to push some of the support series to Thursday.

Club Level season ticket holders to the Titans don’t get to wander the Titan locker room, but holders of a $100 four-day pass get to wander the paddock where they stand a good chance of bumping into AJ Foyt, Roger Penske, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon. You might also get to have your picture made with  Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell or Robin Miller. Do you think that would happen at an NFL game?

This is not my declaration that I’m done with the Titans and the NFL. I know myself better than that. But this past weekend has prompted me to scale back even further after this season. Depending on how the rest of this season goes, we may not go to a single Titans game next season, and that would be the first time that has happened since I moved to Nashville in 2001. As I talk about skipping the Titans altogether in 2019, we are currently looking at the 2019 IndyCar schedule and figuring out what races we can add to our schedule next season. I think you can see which way our priorities are headed.

George Phillips

11 Responses to “The Preferred Sport At A Cheaper Price”

  1. “get-up guy” very funny. Eleven dollars a beer, not funny.

    • elmondohummus Says:

      Not only that, it’s often lousy, miserable beer. At that many bucks a pop, I’d expect some outstanding stuff, not Bud in a plastic cup.

      So yeah, I agree with George about the NFL experience. It’s much better to watch it at home or at a bar than at the stadium.

  2. BrandonWright77 Says:

    Hey, at least you know you’re likely to see a Titans victory at your final game! Our Colts are pretty lousy this year…

    I had someone similar to “get-up guy” a few seats down from me at the 500 this year, I honestly got concerned that he was going to start a fight with people but luckily nothing came of it.

    I spend several hundreds of dollars at IMS during the Month of May but I’m down there every weekend and at least a couple weekdays and usually get to wander the garages and pits. I always feel like I get more than my money’s worth, and even though I hate paying $10 for a tenderloin I still buy several every year.

  3. George, back in 2007 I drove in from Maine to see my favorite event and had tickets pit side just north of the Pagoda. There was an older gentleman in row four who absolutely INSISTED everyone in his section had a Bloody Mary before the Race! It was a riot, and something he said he had been doing as a tradition for some 20+ years! He stood facing the stands with his back to the track yelling, pleading and cajoling everyone to “come on down” and get a free Bloody Mary. Hell, I’ve never drank much in my life but my friend and I had to have one of those! I never got to return to that section but always wondered if he’s still at it every year. FAR different than the “stand up guy” you had to deal with, and a helluva lot more fun!

  4. The NFL long ago priced itself out of my consideration set.

  5. While I have been and still am a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan, I quit going to games because of sometimes having my children see and hear obscene drunks. I can’t afford private seating. Regarding the over the top celebrations by NFL players when they score a touchdown, perhaps Vince Lombardi said it best when he admonished his teams: “When you get in the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” (I received a postcard from the Packers the other day informing me that I have moved up to 67,238 on the season ticket waiting list. That comes after about 20 years of waiting. I imagine one could do better at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.)

  6. Randy Holbrook Says:

    You absolutely nailed this one George. Something inside me from my childhood still forces me to watch the Atlanta Falcons – I was a season ticket holder for over 20 years until they moved into their new stadium and wanted me to buy a “Personal Seat License” for the privilege of then being able to actually buy a season ticket. It has driven me nearly insane suffering through so many losses. Racing on the other hand has brought me pleasure and a fun time at every event I’ve ever gone to – especially Indycar races.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    In that Oilers-Steelers shutout in 1976, Oilers linebacker Gregg Bingham intercepted Terry Bradshaw. Binghamm owns a coin-op car wash in Houston that has machinery provided by Hanna, sponsor of Mario Andretti’s pole-winning car at the 1987 Indianapolis 500. Mario’s son Michael fielded 6 cars and his grandson Marco raced in the 2018 Indianapolis 500.

    There you go, connecting the most recent Titans game with the most recent Indianapolis 500 in less than 6 degrees.

  8. George,
    You know how I feel about that team your inept football team will be playing when you visit later in the year. This is definitely NOT a primo year for either franchise.

    Last time I was in Indy during football season, I asked my brother to see whether he might be interested in taking in a Colts game. Accordingly, I did some investigation as to what the tab for such an enterprise would run.

    My brother lives on the far northeast side of Indy, actually in Hamilton County. An Uber from his house to downtown would run roughly $100 to go there, probably TRIPLE that for the trip back to his house.
    Tickets, if you can get them on StubHub, ran a minimum of $400 a copy. While these weren’t “nosebleeds” they weren’t loge level 40 yard line seats either.

    Incidentals at the game (a couple of $12 beers, hot dogs, nachos, or whatever would add another $100 quickly. Then, there’s the matter of eating after the game. Any downtown restaurant worth its salt will run another $50-75 per person (and we’re NOT talking St. Elmo here.)

    Long and short, by the time I figured out what the adventure was going to cost, I was perilously close to $1000, regardless of HOW you figure it. I can get away with spending that kind of money once every 5 or so years to go to the 500, (including motel, tickets, transport, souvenirs, etc., although I have probably done THAT for the last time.

    However, to spend that kind of cash on a one afternoon football game would cause my wife to go ballistic. (I’m not married to a sports fan like you.) Happy wife = happy life as they say, and an excursion to an NFL game would definitely NOT make mine happy. She DOES understand my love for the 500 (though she doesn’t share it,) and I did take her to the race in 2011, so she does “get it.”

    Point to all this is that the NFL has become so corporate that the average guy has to go into serious debt to be a season ticket holder, let alone what it costs on a per game basis. I’ll leave that to guys with deeper pockets than mine.

  9. You will love the game at Lucas Oil Stadium. All the Titans need to do is stand back and watch the Colts beat themselves. And I completely agree about all that unsportsmanlike “celebrating”. It almost makes the games unwatchable.

  10. Ed Weglarz (Speedsport) Says:

    Could not agree more with your comparison. Wife and I have attended scores of college and NFL football games, but that has come to an end because of all the things you and your followers have mentioned. NFL games are no longer for kids nor women. The whole operation is amatureish for the prices being charged. But the actions in the grandstands has become almost obscene. The “Stand Up” guys are strategically placed around the stadium, because we always have one (or more) in front of us. And the ridicule directed towards opposing teams fans is equal to assaultive behavior. I find the fans (and participants) to be much more civil at Indy Car races, and support rational behavior. Haven’t been to NASCAR race recently but I found the fans to be equal there also. For value, entertainment, reasonable fans and participants you can’t beat it Indy Car racing and Indy. Since 1962, mostly in what was Grandstand “L”, turn three. Come on up to Toledo Speedway to see ARCA and/or Silver Crown races and you’ll meet the friendliest fans, promoter, and extremely reasonable concession prices.

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