To the editors:
When Alan Boomer began his 7/19 "Sports Section" piece with a portrait of a forlorn ten-year-old boy unable to get a Cubs ticket, I thought he was going to be writing about sports ticket availability and, in particular, its effect on children. Since he went in a different direction with the article, I would like to make the point here and perhaps Mr. Boomer would consider writing about it in the future.
Sports writers may find great satisfaction in continual Bulls, Bears, and Cubs sellouts, but to the average sports fan it is not a source of joy. For a person who has no media or corporate connections, or cannot make the monetary commitment to season tickets, professional sports attendance has become very frustrating.
We average guys had a slim chance at Bulls tickets through the 1989-1990 season via mail order, but even this option was taken away this year. Nonseason tickets went on sale at 10 AM on a Friday, effectively eliminating working people and leaving the spoils to ticket brokers and college students who had the time to camp out all night in front of Ticketron outlets. The Cubs still have mail order, but although I got mine in on the first day I was shut out of all the night and weekend games I requested, getting only one pair of seats for a weekday game way back in the right field corner. The White Sox, fortunately, are still accessible; you can usually get tickets on the day of the game.
I could survive seeing only the Sox, but the ticket situation is really devastating for my nine-year-old son. He adores Michael Jordan, and has had a chance to see him play live only one time. I can spring once a year for $27 end zone Bears seats (if I get my order in early enough) but this must be an impossibility for many poor and working-class families, whose children may never see a professional sporting event.
As the pro sports franchises gloat over their current good fortune, they should consider that there is a generation of children growing up for whom sports has become a television event. (And even that is in danger, with the continuing trend toward night events that end well after the bedtimes of young children.) The members of my generation, who were able to attend pro sports events easily and spontaneously, grew up with a loyalty that turned into season-ticket and sky-box purchases for those of us who became well-paid professionals. If there is a major bust in professional sports in 20 years, I would suggest it is because this cycle will not repeat itself.
The owners of our sports franchises may care about nothing but taking the money and running, but if they are concerned about the long term, I would propose the following:
Restore preseason mail order, and make sure it is truly random.
Allow season ticket holders to turn in tickets that they do not intend to use which could be sold on the day of the game. (If we can sell your tickets, we'll reimburse you.) Or sponsor a service where the ticket holders can mail in these tickets and they can be donated to organizations such as inner-city boys clubs. The few times I have sat in season-ticket areas there are always empty seats around. When so many people are shut out because a game is "sold out," this is really a travesty.
Somehow control the ticket broker agencies that seem to end up with so many of the available tickets. If scalping on the street is illegal, why should these people be in business?
And to Mr. Boomer and other season-ticket holders: You see dozens of games a year. If a ten-year-old kid approaches you on the way to a game you are not that enthusiastic about, think about giving him your ticket. It may be his only chance.