Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The FedEx Field Conundrum: To Renew or To Not Renew Season Tickets?

(Ed. Note: More than likely I will I did be renewing my season tickets, but I thought I would share my thought process on the decision. Trust me, it's not an easy one. Season tickets aren't cheap but it's also not easy giving up on something that I've always wanted to be a part of/have since I was a kid. This post is not encouraging other season ticket holders to renew or give up their season tickets, just my thoughts on the process. Maybe you have had similar thoughts/opinions as well. -WD)

A few weeks ago I received a package from the Redskins discussing rumors that have been talked about by the fans/bloggers/message board folk (for the last few years) about a new HD jumbotron and some other upgrades made at the stadium and in the ticket office. There was also a note from Bruce Allen/Mike Shanahan telling fans about the upcoming season and hoping that "you, the fan" will be there to support the team on their way to hopeful victory. Thus, I starting seriously thinking about whether I should renew or just stay home and watch the games on TV.

A few days ago......the invoice came.

Now the prices are the same as last year since the Redskins decided to not raise ticket prices (a smart move I must say when the 2009 team had an amazing 4-12 record), so there's not a shock when I look at the bill. The Skins even have added a no interest payment plan where they bill you in three installments in March, April and May.

Now here's the big question: Is it really worth it? I mean is it worth the time and effort and money to buy and attend the games when you can just sit at home with a HDTV and get the Skins game plus whatever other games that are on and whatever programming your cable/satellite provider gives (if you have the ability to get it, I highly suggest getting the Red Zone channel- it's just awesome). Here's my pros and cons list that I was running through my head as I worked out a decision.

1. (Pro) Nothing Beats the Live Gameday Experience.
My first Redskins game was in 2001 when an 0-5 Skins played the Panthers. The game was generally lame until Lavar Arrington picked off a pass that lead the Skins to rally to victory (eventually). I've been lucky to be there when Clinton Portis took his first carry to the house in 2004. I was able to watch Joe Gibbs live. I got to see smackdowns of Dallas. I've got to see former legends come onto the field like Riggins and Dexter and address the crowd pre-game. I was also there for the Buffalo game where grown men (including me) cried for a man that most of them have never personally met (Sean Taylor). Live football is just amazing. The crowd. The noise. The cheerleaders. The band. The fans who dress up.

2. (Con) The Advantages of Staying at Home.
You can change the channel at anytime when the Skins suck (see: Giants game 2009). You can flip the channel and watch the other game. Maybe watch Red Zone Channel or even a non-football program (blasphemy!). Most of you have instant access to replays or stats. You can run to the bathroom whenever you want, eat/drink whatever you want (whatever you bought that is) and if you want to watch the game in your underwear and scream profanities at the top of your lungs you can without getting kicked out of the stadium (although your wife/girlfriend/family may be royally pissed with you in the process).

3. (Pro) The Shared Experience (You Are Not Alone in Your Zealous Fandom).
Only at a live game can you see 60-70,000 of your fellow Redskins fans screaming their heads off. Some of them may even be bigger fans than you. Some guys dress up like the Hogettes or have a theme like Super Skin or The Monks (guys who wear cleric garb and celebrate Art Monk....ah, the double entendre). Then you have the Dead Tree Crew who celebrate game day in their own special way (you may like it, you may not). Who can't forget Chief Zee a Redskin legend. Of course you have guys like me who wear their jerseys and hats (sometimes even shoes) celebrating the burgundy and gold. Only at a live Redskins game have I had another guy bear hug me when the Skins scored a TD. Only at a live Redskins game have I given high fives to perfect strangers when the Skins generate a turnover. Only at a live Redskins game have I seen Redskins and Eagles fan team up to make fun of a Cowboys fan who showed up to a Redskins/Eagles game. Plus, I like taking my wife to a few games a year. She's more of a "Fair Weather Fan" both figuratively and literally in that she likes to watch the Skins when they are winning and likes to watch games when the weather is good. But, 1-2 times a year it's nice as we spend a day doing something we both like (although I'm the obsessed one) and have an opportunity to get out of the house.

4. (Con) The A-Holes Who Try to Ruin Your Day.
They come in a variety of forms. Obviously, many opposing team fans will try to do it. Ironically, I have had only minimal problems with opposing team fans as long as you have a sense of humor and they likewise. Mostly you have problems with drunk fans. It sucks for us fans that actually enjoy a few beers before the game but don't get drunk or become complete jackasses in the process. The drunks are the worst because the are jerks. I still remember one guy (A Redskins fan nonetheless) who wanted to fight with me during a 2004 Bengals game b/c Mark Brunell got benched in favor of Patrick Ramsey. Brunell looked horrible in that game, but I never boo players. I only clapped when Ramsey came in and the guy almost jumped me. I saw another fan spill a beer on a guy's wife during the Skins/Raiders game in 2005 and instead of apologizing, the guy started to start to pick a fight. We almost had a Skin on Skin fan fight. How stupid is that?
I also refuse to have my wife come to games when the Eagles play. More or less, I don't trust Eagle fans when they're in groups. Many of them have a pack mentality just like hyenas (sorry to the few Eagle fans who aren't like that). And I almost forgot the people that I wonder why are there. These are the people that come to read a newspaper or a book. When it's 3rd and short and the Skins are asking for crowd noise, they sit on their hands and are offended that others stand up to make noise. They'll report you to an usher as making a disturbance if you're "loud".

5 (Pro) Tailgating (Possibly More Fun Than the Actual Game?).
Like Camping without the overnight sleepover? Enjoy cooking or just sitting around the stove/fire shooting the **** with friends/family. Well, then tailgating might be for you. I enjoy cooking (grilling moreso) and I like to impress my friends and guest with the fact that I can do something else that actually just talk football. You can share stories and develop stories in the process. Heck, me and SHD have a great story where we tailgated in a lot at M&T with other Skin fans in 2008. Mark the Homer (of ES) brought a full pig to cook and it kept all of us warm in 30 degree weather (more like 10 degrees with the wind chill), but I digress. I've also met some great people at tailgates like Tastes Like Chicken (from ES), Billfishead (BGO) and even the Redskins blogger Matt Terl. Of course, the preparation for the tailgate and the drive to the stadium are a pain.

6. (Con) Gameday Preparations/Parking/The Drive.
This may not apply to you, but from my house to FedEx and back is approximately a 2.5 hour drive each way depending on traffic. Add gas, toll fees, wear and tear on the car etc. and the trip is a costly long one. When the Skins win, it's not too bad. Sure, you're tired and your throat is sore but it's the good kind of tired and you only get annoyed when ESPN 980 fades out and you can't get another sports channel to pop up on the AM dial (you want to bask in the glow of a victory as long as possible). When they lose, it sucks to have to drive home. Your body aches, your back is sore. You're tired and know that you have to clean up the mess from tailgating. Every radio station is playing the same crappy song that gets on your nerves. You only listen to the Redskins post game show to hear callers go off on the team and are baffled that Jim Zorn is the head coach based on his post game press conference (still love the Z-Man, but some of his post game pcs are just terrible). Parking can be a real pain depending on what time you get to the stadium and who's the parking attendant. Some are very good, but some can't direct traffic if their lives depended on it. Parking isn't cheap either. And, I forgot to mention the cooking preparation, loading up gear...blah, blah, blah and leaving at the crack of dawn for a 1PM game.

7 (Pro) The (Burgundy and) Golden Ticket.

Growing up in DC/MD/VA area, there was one thing that stood out as an almost instant status symbol: Redskin Season Tickets. Of course, this was back in the RFK days and when the Redskins were generally good. Nonetheless, it was something that many people wanted because it was so hard to get (then). Even today, it's something that somebody can still say "Wow, he has season tickets." It's something I had to wait five years to get and something I always wanted since I was a kid, so it's hard to say that they aren't worth it.

8. (Con) Price
Of course, when you can go on Stub Hub, ebay or some ticket broker and get practically better season tickets than what you would have gotten by being a season ticket holder (sans the pointless preseason games), that's not good. Also, selling tickets on the secondary market generally yields less than what you paid for. Try selling your preseason games, you'll find out quickly that you'll be lucky if you get half of what you paid for. Also, season tickets aren't cheap, but you already knew that. One year of season tickets (depending on your seat location), parking and other gameday monies could yield a very nice LCD, Plasma or LED HDTV.

9. (Pro) Season Ticket Holder Perks
The Redskins offer a few perks to the general admission STHs (there are more if you have premium seats, but frankly I'm not interested in club seats). You get early offers for some college games or concerts, which is nice. I think I will take the Skins up on some Army/Navy tickets if they offer them for the 2011 game. And if Metallica ever plays FedEx again I'll definitely take them up on their offer.

10 (Con) Stadium Food/Drinks
If you're smart, you eat as much free food you can find at the million tailgates at the stadium. Bring some big subs or grill enough food for ten when you have a party of 5 and you're set. However, you may be running for time and decide to eat in the stadium or have a beer or two. You may be like me or just need a soda or some water to help your throat as you scream throughout the game. Fair warning: stadium food is expensive and generally not that great. I can't speak for the club level or the lower bowl, but the upper bowl doesn't offer much. For the most part, you can get a hot dog ( a few I have gotten have been overcooked and unedible), a soft pretzel, chicken tenders, BBQ pork sandwich, nachos etc. It's ok I suppose, but the price isn't worth it. Beer is usually around 8 bucks. Large soda is 5 or 6 bucks and water is 5 bucks. There is a nice italian sausage/philly cheesesteak stand around sections 452-454 (I can't remember where exactly, SHD went on a quest for it at the Cowboys game and never found it).

11. (Con) Service
Some people who work for the Skins/FedEx field are great folks so let me make it clear that not everybody is like this, but sometimes you scratch your head about how you're treated at FedEx. I just wrote about the sausage stand and the good/decent food it has. So for the Rams game, me and the Mrs. decide to get an italian sausaage with extra peppers and onions. The only problem, the sausages aren't ready, they just started to cook them. Now  I'll remind you, the stadium opens at 11:00AM for a 1PM game. We are at the stand around 12:15PM. In then end we wound up getting a philly cheesesteak and buying sodas at another stand (they didn't have ice for their sodas- D'oh) but you see my point in poor preparation. Then you hear stories of beer vendors blocking the view of fans, or the vendors selling beer in the bathrooms. FedEx also lacks a fan friendly vibe. They warn fans to behave but the warning always seems to be aimed at Redskin fans. There never seems to be warnings to all fans......get my sentiment? It feels like at times FedEx is catering to opposing team fans moreso the fans that root for the Redskins.
I've had my opinion of the ticket office from another post so I'll re-post that here:
First the TO pissed me off when they talked of upgrades to those who renewed their tickets ("first come first serve, so renew early" the guy at the TO told me), yet few were upgraded unless they called to complain. It's one thing if the Skins didn't have any open seats a few rows below me to give out (that's all I really wanted), but that was not the case at all. What really made me mad was that I know fans who had given up their tickets 1-2 years ago in better spots than I and were offered (in some cases begged) by the Skins to come back and offered their seats back or an upgrade. I also know that some folks coming off the season ticket list got better seats than people who have been season ticket holders (like me) for years. There just doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to how the TO works and nobody wants to explain anything either.
Then we read the reports from The Washington Post about how the Skins TO sold GA and premium seats to scalpers (aka "ticket brokers") in 2008. In particular, this was partially responsible for the massive wave of Steeler fans that showed up on MNF in 2008. This and the deal with Stub Hub pretty much makes FedEx a place where there is no home field advantage.

Now, I will give credit to the TO credit. In 2010 they've made a better effort to be fair about seat location (hopefully) moves. They created a computer based automatic upgrade system that applies to any/all STHs who renew by the deadline. They also have a survey where they ask the STH whether or not they want to be moved and if they are moved, do they want to be moved to a more expensive local. It's small steps, but hopefully a step in the right direction.

12. (Pro) Bye-Bye Lite-Brite (Hello HD)
After years of demand, jokes about our jumbotron looking like a child's toy and rumors of a move towards modern technology, the Redskins have announced that the old jumbotrons will be replaced by new jumbotrons that are 100 feet wide, are in HD and are digital. Digital is the word, b/c this means that the Skins will now be showing more replays, which was difficult with the old analog system that they had. I'm looking forward to seeing this new screen. Although, I guarantee the Redskins will use it to just show even more commercials before the game, during the game and at halftime.

13. (Pro) The Future Is Now(ish)!!!!!
Obviously, bringing in Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan to replace Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn is clearly a move in the right direction and I want to be there for the beginning of the Mike Shanahan era. Of course, despite my stereotypical Redskin fan nature of "We're going to the Superbowl, Offseason Champs!!!!", I'm cautious of the 2010 season. I think the Skins are a few years (and good drafts) away from being at the level to seriously compete in the NFC.

So those are the big issues to me, I'm sure you can add more to the discussion.There is currently a discussion over at BGO (see below link):

or you can email me at: deadmanblog@hotmail.com

or leave a comment below and start a discussion here at IIWII.


Anonymous said...

what do you think about the overall cleanliness of FedEx going into the new season, I heard lots were trashed after the first pre-season game and they are not ready for Dallas

Walking Deadman said...

Not from what I saw. I was at both the Bills and the Ravens and FedEx looks great. Love the new HD boards and it looks like the FedEx staff have improved greatly. I was impressed to be honest.

Now the parking lots after a game are generally a mess (same can be said about bathrooms and some parts of the stadium). But the Skins have had 3 weeks to prepare for dallas week and will also be adding some nice features to the parking lot prior to the game. Everything should be fine.

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