I guess it was last year the Philadelphia Inquirer, which I regard as hopelessly “woke” (sorry), ran an idiotic story about the price of Super Bowl tickets. The gist, of course, was that you had to be pretty damn affluent to afford the thrill. No kidding. This is America. Money talks. If you haven’t noticed, you’re asleep and need to be awakened. Or woke. Whatever. Nobody is entitled to attend the Super Bowl, ya know. It ain’t health care.
I was getting ready to do the research and create a Super Bowl ticket price index, and a later version may incorporate it. But for now, my research skills (I charge plenty) turned this little gem up.
Yeah, click on the link, as they say, or copy and paste it into your favor browser-thingie. Anyway. I caution you about a few technicalities. I got no idea about how the inflation-adjusted prices were calculated, other than assuming the base year must have been around 2021. And then there are lots of other index-number problems, but this is close enough for a blog. If you don’t like it, go and do likewise.
Let’s take a first cut at this. If you wanted to use nothing more than the consumer price index, well, $1 in 1967 would be about $8 in 2021 (you wanna play around with this stuff in a more sophisticated way–why would you do that when some professional historians don’t?–go to https://www.measuringworth.com/ (same deal, copy and paste). Now, technically, you gotta be comparing the same good, and oh my God, right there you have a problem. In 1967, Super Bowl I (I watched the game on TV in black and white, and, yes, it was “Sper Bowl” even then), I don’t remember any half-time extravaganza. The game itself is very different, so, I guess you can say you’d need a different sort of index (called a hedonic price index) to really get an accurate feel for how much improvement you’re actually paying for in “the experience.”
But forget all that. Let’s keep this simple (think ENRON accounting, where they just made it up). Figure a “typical” ticket (don’t ask) in 1967 would cost you about $80 in 2021 dollars. Yup. The list on 2021 tickets (El Cheapo, to keep the Inquirer happy) was $7,200. Let that sink in. $7200/$80=90, right? So, the “relative price” (relative to the price level in 1967) of Super Bowl tickets, on a much, much, simplified, heroic assumption basis, has increased 90 times, or 9000 percent? (Am I doing this right? So many damn zeros). My Dad’s home cost about $10,000 in 1960. When I sold it after my Mom passed 8 years ago, it brought about $190,000, or 19 times what it had cost back in the Sixties. For God’s sake, First Class postage has gone up about 15 times since them days. So, class, yes or no? Has the relative price of an NFL Super Bowl ticket increased? You bet your sweet life it has. By a lot. Y’all want to hazard a guess why?
Let’s try supply and demand, just for a start. Nothing fancy. No graphs, unless you want one. Just words. But we’ll simplify. Think (Supply) Cost and (Demand) Benefit. OK. Now, I warn you, I’m not going to get into the weeds on this. Just a few observations. Because no matter how complicated the real world is, the econ carry these little heuristics in their heads, at least as a way of sorting the basics
Ok. Supply is cost. If the price of a ticket depends on the cost (this is arguable) of providing a professional football game, you want to think of what goes into cost. Again, let’s keep this simple. When you look at pro football, the largest item in a team’s cost is its payroll–players’ salaries. I know, stadium fees and all the rest, but believe me, I’m sure if we’re looking at the Eagles’ books (wouldn’t that be fun?), it would be players’ salaries that would comprise the bulk of operating cost. Being in Texas, I looked this up for the Cowboys, and it comes out to about 62 percent. I have no reason to think that isn’t typical of most NFL franchises, give or take a few percentage points, so we’re talking around two-thirds of the cost. Hey, that’s enough. If supply is cost, then players’ salaries are cost. So what has happened to players’ salaries since 1967. Guess? They’ve gone up. By how much? A lot.
This is complicated, and I’m not about to kid you. In the 1950s, the average player made (wait for it), less than $6,000 per year. Ok. Some guys made a lot more, but I can recall the days of players having off-season gigs. The patron saint of this blog, Chuck Bednarik, was nicknamed Concrete Charlie. Because he hit so hard he almost killed Frank Gifford in 1960, right? Wrong. No, he actually was a salesman for Warner Concrete in Philly for 18 years. And Warner was God’s concrete, you know, a selling point for houses built in the `1930s and 1940s. I don’t know what Chuck made, but when I was in high school, he was doing the Communion Breakfast circuit to bring in cash, and I doubt he was getting big money. These days, the average is about $2.7 million, and the minimum NFL compensation is in the neighborhood of 400,000. So the average has gone up 450 times!!! You read that right. Even if you used the minimum today, you be talking an increase by a factor of 60. 6000 percent. Why???? Grin, back to S and D.
In 1960, there were 13 clubs. Today there are 32. That’s about 2.5 times as many. Do you really think the elite college talent pool has expanded by that much? I mean, USC, Michigan, Alabama, etc? Of course not. So for one thing, there’s a lot more competition for pro-level players today, and that itself would pull up their salaries. But wait: there’s more! There wasn’t any Player’s Association in 1960. No Collective Bargaining Agreement. There had never been a strike. No Free Agency, albeit restricted. Dude. This is modern America. Teams no longer have property rights in their players (aka, slavery). The market rules!!! And see what it’s done? So whatever else you think, costs since the 1960s have soared in the NFL. What? Profits too. Well, that’s another blog post. There’s more, since a lot of these guys could play another pro sport too, but enough is enough. Oddly enough, all these increases in cost are considered a decrease in supply.
Now, demand. 100 million people gonna watch the Birds and KC, worldwide. In 1967, it was NBC and CBS (I guess one for the NFL and one for the AFL?). Super Bowl. Who knew? A lot more eyes. And, by the way, a lot more money around, especially at the top end of the scale, right? So higher incomes, more people want to see. That’s called an increase in demand. Here’s another way of visualizing the increase of interest in the Super Bowl: an N Gram of the phrase “Super Bowl.” Ok. Convinced? No? What do you want?
So you got a decrease in supply and an increase demand. Voila. The relative price of a Super Bowl ticket rises.
According to some data that I could dig up–and who knows how accurate–at one of the recent games, 55 percent of the attendees came from households with $60,000 per year and up, Up means who knows, and, honestly, that figure struck (for household income) struck me as too low. But even so, it would mean 45 percent came from households less than that? Really? While it’s true you don’t have to sit at the 50 yard line, stay at a luxury hotel, and hit the “Meet, Greet, and Eat” with Big NFL names of the past (like Jerry Rice) if you do, exclusive of transportation (your private jet?), you’re going to have to lay out $42,000. Yeah, you read that right. Of course, Super Bowl festivities began on the 7th of Feb, so this is not a one day thing, but that amount was about yearly median per capita income per US worker in the 2020 census. Somehow, I doubt that Billy and Bonnie Six Pack are living high this weekend out there in Arizona. Where the Hell would they get it?
Max out your their credit cards–if they’re not already there? Put a reverse on your home. Well, I can say I actually knew somebody who did that and then gambled with the proceeds (I knew the person, the story is hearsay), so working class people are capable of doing very crazy things. “Hey, Yo. It’s once in a friggin’ lifetime! Ya can’t take it with you. This the greatest Birds team ever.” Check. Persuasive “reasoning” like that did make Agent Orange our President for a few bright, shining, plague-ridden years. No one thinks (or I don’t, at least), that half of Americans have a clue as to what is going on around them. So why should the willingness to go into hock to watch a historic meeting (aren’t they all, according to the shills of the NFL) not come into play? This is trickle down at its finest.
So don’t complain about the ticket prices, like the Inquirer, further covering itself in the economics of social justice. After all, people need Super Bowl tickets, just like they need everything else. Problem is, in America, other than common sense, we can’t seem to find anything we need less of. But I sound like some economist. Yes, 100 million will watch the Super Bowl. Our food banks might not be doing too well, but hey, BP and Exxon and cleaning up, and I bet some of their CFOs will be at the game. Isn’t that all that really matters. That our role models are millionaire jocks and crooked executives, plus some lamebrain from Georgia who shouts at Brandon at the SOTU soiree?
Color me disgusted?
Go Iggles. I’ll be watching from my Texas. Home of the Dallas Cowboys. Grin……..