Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that his team put on a “crap performance” in its preseason game with the Buffalo Bills.
But Jim, what really was crap was paying full price to witness that performance.
Then again, it still would have been crap had they won 44-20 instead of losing by that score.
Now I’m not whining for the paying customers. I’m whining because I am a paying customer. I have four of the cheaper seats in Lucas Oil Stadium, but even the cheaper ones are expensive enough when you multiply them by four, then again times the number of games, 10. That represents a sizable chunk of my discretionary income.
That said, when Sept. 8 gets here and the Colts are lining up to play Oakland and the result matters, I will feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.
Until then, I feel like I’m getting ripped off.
Not that I totally blame Irsay or the Colts, though wouldn’t it be courageous of them to take the lead and be the first NFL franchise to discount preseason tickets? I’m guessing their response would be, they can’t do it unless everyone else does.
Nonetheless, charging full fare for the two preseason games is no less than consumer fraud. Yet part of the blame is on us as consumers. After all, there hasn’t been a mass uprising of “I’m angry as hell and won’t take it anymore” fans around the NFL.
And I must note, for the opening kickoff at LOS, most of those 66,000 seats were full.
Mine were, too, but not with my fanny. Just so you know, I don’t go to preseason games. In the years I’ve had season tickets, the only time I went to a preseason game was when the stadium first opened.
Even then, I didn’t stay until the end.
The rest of the time, I donate the tickets to charities, so they can auction them off and get whatever they can for the good of their cause.
In the game against the Bills, the “starters” were finished before the beer got warm, and that doesn’t take long on a sunny day when the roof is open. I read where quarterback Andrew Luck went eight plays. Any first-tier player with so much as a hang nail was held out of the lineup.
The comparison I like to make is this: On the night before the Colts preseason opener, my wife and I shelled out some pretty serious cash to see John Mayer in concert at Klipsch Music Center. Think how the crowd would have reacted if Mayer, after his third song, announced that he was done for the night, and the backup singers would take it from there.
But, again, the NFL can get away with it. What’s the alternative? For the loyal season-ticket holder, there is none. You’re either all in … or all out.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is reportedly overseeing a “study” of the worthiness of preseason as it relates to the fan experience. So I guess there’s hope.
The larger issue is the schedule itself. Four preseason games is at least two too many, especially with the alternative of controlled scrimmages against other opponents. The NFL has considered bumping the regular-season schedule to 17 or 18 games and reducing the number of preseason games, but that’s not something the players association is eager to see. So we’re stuck with the 16 regular-season and four preseason games for now.
That means we’re left with the only meaning in these meaningless exercises—and the only news to come out of any of them: who gets hurt and how seriously. Sure, players can, and do, get hurt in practice, but the risk rises in preseason games. The Bills game cost the Colts no less than their two tight ends, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, at least temporarily.
As much as I complain about full price for preseason games, the fan in me—the one who wants to see the Colts do well when it matters—would be equally OK if a franchise player, such as Luck or Reggie Wayne or Robert Mathis, didn’t play a down until the real season began.
Anyway, like many of us, I am ready for some football. But I’m only ready for the football I can really give a crap about. A preseason game is just crap, no matter which side of the score your team is on.•
Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.