Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Are You Not Entertained?


As Americans, we spend much of our treasure on things that entertain us.  From games to movies, music to theater, the average expenditure on all things amusing is 5.6 percent of our hard earned wages, or $2,827.

I didn't think that was a very high figure, considering that my cable and internet bill alone is almost that much.  Reading The Chant counts as entertainment right?  According to the survey from which I took those figures, entertainment costs included audio and visual equipment and services; pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment; fees and admissions; and other entertainment spending.  I'm not sure if "services" above include cable and internet though, as they might be considered utilities.  If not, add an additional $1920 per household- for an entertainment piggy bank worth $4700.

In the Tuna household entertainment consists of cable, internet, maybe one movie every couple of months on average, the occasional book from Amazon on my Kindle, one NASCAR Race within driving distance, and we usually hit one or two Padres games each season.  We used to spend a lot more on movies, but our tastes have changed.  My kids still see more than me and my wife, but not by much.  They've learned that if it’s not a movie we all want to see, Dad’s not going, so Dad’s not paying.  Therefore, they choose their movie watching carefully.  That’s what allowances are for anyway.  I don’t know if I can say our entertainment interests have grown more sophisticated, but it seems like there’s a lot of drivel coming out of Hollywood which doesn't appeal to us.

MCAS Miramar's Bob Hope Theater- a piggy bank friendly venue 
Sure, I usually catch the latest Marvel movie with the Minnow, and my aspiring animator, the Teenagster- never misses a Disney or other studio's 'toon - at 16, she's far too young to go by herself!  But other than that, our movie theater-going is relatively rare. We also have a lower-cost expanded cable package (which I got after threatening to switch to their much-lower-priced competitor,) with several free movie channels .  I'll also hit the theaters on base which are free showings of semi-recently released flicks.  I can usually catch up on 5 or 6 movies if I take an international flight since it's nearly impossible for me to fall asleep on a plane, unless I'm miraculously up in recline-friendly Business or First.

My cousin, who divorced very well, has season tickets to the Old Globe Theater here in San Diego.  I admit I enjoy the plays, although it took some getting used to. I wouldn't have gone anywhere near the joint, at least not regularly, if the cost hadn't been heavily discounted.  And by discounted, I mean free.  She refuses to take any money for the tickets she gives us- she would rather go with us than save the money and attend by herself.

So it sounds like I'm a cheap bastard- free movies on base or while flying the friendly skies, theater tickets I don't pay for, and you may have noticed I said nothing about Netflix, Hulu or other streaming services- which I don't have.  However, I just don't see the value in spending more of my hard earned money on those, and other forms of entertainment...

Including the NFL.

Don't get me wrong, I love sports, nearly all of them, and I enjoy watching my Chargers and following the NFL season, but I do that from the comfort of my living room.  I just don't think that the experience is worth the cost, which has skyrocketed since I last paid for a ticket.  The amount of money in the NFL is staggering:

This year revenues for the National Football League will be somewhere just north of $9 billion, which means the league remains the most lucrative in the world. But NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, wants more. Much more. He has stated that he wants to reach $25 billion in annual revenues for the league by the year 2027. S

I tend to believe that watching the NFL at home on a large screen HD TV, with snacks at the ready and a fridge with beer that doesn't have a line, or an $8 surcharge, is a much better way to experience a game than the alternative.  I know that most people don't live in a city with an NFL team, and if it wasn't for those fans here who put up with the alternative (and the considerable cost that's in it), I wouldn't have a local team to root for either.  The NFL's goal of ever-increasing revenue, figuring out how to separate us from even more of our discretionary dollars, is why I've gathered you all here today.

It's been 20 years since the Rams and the Raiders fled LA for supposedly greener pastures.  Whatever penance the city was given for allowing those teams to leave has been served and the NFL is now fully on board with getting not just one, but two teams into the greater LA region, and it's willing to fork over a bunch of the cash, and hold other cities hostage, in order to do so.  LA is home to nearly two dozen Fortune 500 Companies, and the amount to be made from corporate boxes and personal seat licenses is crazy money. The San Francisco 49ers just opened their new stadium up in Santa Clara and charged a whopping $80,000 apiece for their PSLs, and a ludicrous $60,000 per game for luxury boxes.

Theses luxury suites have become one of the key driving forces behind teams' demands for new stadiums as they mark one of the biggest sources of revenues that teams don't have to share with the other teams.  Source
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there's been much talk here in San Diego about my beloved very much liked Chargers being part of that LA mix.  Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley is the 4th oldest stadium in the NFL and really looks it.  That stat is worse than it seems as two of those four are practically historic monuments- Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and Chicago's Soldier Field (which was renovated in  2003).  To make things worse, both the Vikings and Falcons are getting new stadiums, moving out of their "old" locales which are actually 15 and 25 years younger than Qualcomm.  And the Rams, with St. Louis's deal with the devil, can leave their 20 year old stadium next year- possibly for LA again.

Chargers proposal downtown

New stadium on existing site

Another Chargers design downtown.

Potential redevelopment near existing site that could bring in new tax revenue

The owners of Chargers are threatening to leave for the more lucrative LA region if we don't fork over up to 1.4 Billion for a new stadium like the ones above.  Why are stadiums costing in the billions now when just 10 years ago they were closer to between 500 and 800 million?  I'd guess that stadium developers want a larger piece of the NFL pie.  In all fairness, the Chargers and the NFL are businesses - a couple big fat rich greedy business, but businesses all the same. And they've tried to work with the city on a new plan for 14 years.  If I was the Spanos Family, I'd be doing the same, and loyalty to a city just doesn't fit well into the mix.  The Chargers could have moved several years ago, but they either wanted to work with the city, or there just wasn't a good market elsewhere.  Now LA looms large and that money is enticing.

If you believe the article here the NFL is using the NFL cities and their fear of losing a team to help their owners to get even richer.
Los Angeles is best understood not as a potential destination for an NFL franchise, but as an exceptionally large bargaining chip to help the NFL get what it wants. Namely, new stadiums in St. Louis, Oakland, and San Diego.
I don't want the team to bolt to LA, but I'm not sure the Mayor's newly appointed Stadium Task Force- chartered to pick a site (downtown or at the existing site) and figure out a way to pay for it, can come up with a workable financing plan.  They've already determined that tearing down Qualcomm is easier and cheaper- the city already owns it and no relocation (and buy out) of existing businesses is needed.  The financing is what gets tricky, and is the part I hate about the whole thing.

In LA, the Chargers say they can get a stadium with no tax dollars whatsoever.  I'm not at all a fan of taxpayers building a home for a billionaire so he can just get richer, but I also think the 8th largest city in the US should have a stadium, not just for NFL games, but for the San Diego State Aztecs (which play in Qualcomm), large concerts, soccer matches, moto-cross events, and so on.  It would be great if they can come up with a plan that uses zero tax dollars, redevelops the current site with a mix of retail, residential, and hotels, cleaning up the San Diego River, possibly with a Riverwalk like in San Antonio, OK City, Austin, Jax., bringing in a whole mess of new taxes to pay for it all. We just can't give the Chargers the land for them to redevelop, and take all that revenue away from the city, but that might be an option since the city has so many other unfunded liabilities - up to $10 Billion for infrastructure and capital improvements, and over $1 Billion for its underfunded pensions.  Those are making this more likely.

Are there many more important needs for the City than a new stadium?  Absolutely.  However, the Task Force wasn't formed to come up with "it's too hard."  The die-hard and voting fans of the Chargers are a very vocal bunch, ones that don't necessarily care if the city doesn't pay to fix potholes, or get its pension house in order- they want their bread and circuses.  And the Mayor doesn't want to be the one in power when and if the LA Chargers become a reality.

If the Chargers do accept the recommendations from the Task Force (Spanos has previously stated the downtown site is the only viable one), we will be entertained.  We should know something by Memorial Day- the recently accelerated schedule after the Chargers stressed the urgency (gotta get there before the Rams do!)

I'm part of the problem- I'm either too cheap frugal or smart (not entertained enough) to spend my entertainment dollars on an industry that just seems to be getting out of control- kind of like the Defense Industrial Complex.  If it came down to a vote on new sales taxes for it, I'd have to vote smart, not emotional, and therefore No.

But I think there just isn't enough money here in San Diego anyway- not enough big corporations, celebrities, etc.  And when money talks, the Chargers walk.

It was nice knowing you.


  1. Aw, comeonnn, Hulu has a cheap old bugger program also, and a handy dandy app, for the android user also. Use them on my tablet. Got two tablets, the kids don't like the tv loud enough for a very/white haired retired fftr to hear.

    1. Mr. President, I don't have enough time to watch all the shows I'd like to watch. Adding hulu just means I'd be spending money to miss shows!

  2. Fortunately, I don't have a dog in this fight, as I don't feel that Professional Sports have much societal benefit (specifically, I think they're managed by cheats and thieves and played by thugs, but you know me, I like to sugar coat things). That having been said, Tuna, I thought your post was very informative and useful to understanding the many facets to the situation. Thanks.

  3. Many of the things you discuss in this most excellent post are among the reasons why I did not watch much football this past season. It's the reason I seldom watch baseball.

    Sports as "business." Yes, it's entertainment and much like movie and TV actors the participants make far too much money and the owners make obscene amounts of money. I find myself asking "How much is enough?" all the time. It's all bread and circuses anyway. The older I get the more cynical about this nonsense I get.

    They will continue to do whatever they want to do as long as we encourage them by buying their product. Throw back uniforms are something I hate with a passion, the only reason they exist is to make more money. Too much money is being spent on sports and not enough elsewhere.

    Meh. A pox on all their houses.

    (Why yes, I am feeling rather crabby today, why do you ask?)

    1. Thanks, Sarge, for saving me the trouble.
      If we look hard enough we can see that organized sports, at all levels, is about the money.

    2. I'm in complete agreement- that it's all about the money, but for that matter- so is everything- even government and defense- somebody is making money and they just want to make more. Sure, the NFL gets less of mine since I don't go to games, but I pay for it through the products that advertise during them. We just need to be smart enough to not let them take our tax dollars like defense has. Actually, not everything is about the money- family- that's the only one I can think of though.

  4. Great stuff Tuna!

    There's gonna be an adjustment at some point. It'll be a train wreck. Hopefully it'll wait until my carcass is safely returned to the front of the carbon cycle.

  5. You want to read about how a sports team owner played an entire State? Go read up on how Robert Kraft of the Patriots played John Rowland the governor of CT in the late 90's. CT spent millions on the design and marketing and bribing of Robert Kraft to being the Patriots to Hartford - when Foxboro refused to rebuild the stadium to add luxury boxes. I was watching and laughing my ass off because it was so obvious to anyone who used to live in a big city that the Patriots were not moving to Hartford Connecticut.

    and they didn't - and Kraft walked away with about $10 million in fees from the CT taxpayers for his little game . . . .

  6. In Sacramento the specter of the Kings leaving made for great theater. The previous owners tried, "under the radar" to move the team to Anaheim (face it for California the big money is in the LA area) - the fans got wind of it and somehow killed the deal. The Kings wanted a new stadium - the "old" one was - gosh - 20 years old which itself had been built to replace the temporary stadium Greg Luckenbill - local developer - built when he lured the Kings away from Kansas City.

    The NBA commissioner stood by Sacramento - saying the fans were the best in the NBA franchise (we had a payoff game stolen by us against the Lakers but just to give you an idea of the rabid nature of the fans - when Laker's coach Phil Jackson made a disparaging remark about Sacramento being a "cow town" the next time he came up there were thousands of fans with cow bells). Jackson complained to the refs that he couldn't he beard to his team.

    Anyway long story short the Kings were saved (after all we stole them fair and square), a new stadium is being built downtown and my friend who has had season tickets for years has found the cost to be going way up - over $8,000/year (and these are decent seats but not great seats). He is wondering if he wants to keep buying them.

    BTW Spanos is an interesting character - I think he grew up in Stockton, selling sandwiches to construction crews as I recall - was great friends with Bob Hope. His office complex is right on the north side of Stockton and rather impressive. A self-made billionaire.

  7. Yep, we drive by the A.G. Spanos HQ every time we drive up to Oregon to visit relatives. I have mixed feelings about the whole issue- Qualcomm is a dump and we owe it to the teams to be a decent landlord (not a slumlord), but how we can do that without giving them the keys to the kingdom is tough. I'd like to call their bluff. If we lose them, so be it. I think the Rams and the Raiders are likely movers though.

    1. But a lot of people - as you & me - resent the fact that teams threaten to move unless they can have a new stadium, paid for by someone else, of course. And then, if they do move the city is stuck with a stadium and no team. Anaheim was willing to build a new stadium, and that was held over the heads of Sacramento.

      The previous owners of the Kings, the Maloofs, got the revenue from parking (at $10/car) and the concession revenues, and still that wasn't good enough for them. If enough cities said "let them go" the cycle would be broken, but with limited numbers of teams and more cities that want them...

      We were surprised when the Kings sold for, I think, $500 million - a losing team. In fact Steve Balmer, of Microsoft fame, was trying to lure them to Seattle who lost their own team to Oklahoma.

  8. Raising my kids in the Seattle area, 15 years ago, taking them to a Mariners game was easily $100. We drove South to Tacoma, saw the Triple A Tigers (now Rainers) for about $30. Parking was free, the kids could gorge themselves on $10 each, and we were outside. The old Kingdome wasn't a great place to watch baseball. Now days I don't go to any professional sports events.

    1. I have been to a couple of games of our AAA team the Rivercats, and those are a hoot. AAA baseball is, I suspect, what the major leagues were up though the 50s - a fun, affordable day for the family. One game I am sitting right on the 3rd baseline and the coach is literally about 10' from me. And the difference in skill between those players, many of whom were in the majors, is so small as to be nearly meaningless.

  9. Considering how broke San Diego is, they'd be nuts to fork over that much $$ for a new stadium. But they probably will and your grandchildren will be paying for it, and not able to afford to go to the games.


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