While we were out for a Sunday drive recently, my 5-year-old son made an inquiry that I have been dreading since before his conception. However, I knew it was imminent and unavoidable. The dreaded day had finally arrived.
Was it one of his many difficult inquisitions on a myriad of subjects? No. Although religious, spiritual or scientific questions pose a challenge at times, they are nowhere near as challenging as when we drove by the "Ralph" and, upon seeing the Bills logo, he asked if we could go to a game.
I am a previous Bills season-ticket holder. Also, when in my teens, I slept outside Memorial Auditorium for multiple nights, waiting in line for NHL Stanley Cup Finals tickets. I am now a parent of two young boys. What soon followed my son's request was the usual conversation with my wife about how much it would cost for our family of four. We figured a minimum of $250 to $300 including parking and a modest trip to the concession stand.
This was not the case when I was a season-ticket holder, but the concession stand is now a requirement, since we can't bring anything into the stadium -- for our own safety of course. I used to bring a Thermos of my favorite drink and some peanuts. But this is not allowed anymore. One must wonder how fan-supplied accoutrements have become such instruments of terror. How convenient for the concessionaires.
Of somewhat modest means when we were children, I remember my parents in the dichotomy of enjoying my excitement and considering the cost of attending. One might see an equivalence of their struggle with mine; however, I don't think it's the same. In their situation it was an actual choice of attending a Bills game and sacrificing elsewhere. With me, I work hard, make a decent living and can afford to go, but I struggle with the justification of doing so.
Do I want to support this greed machine with my hard-earned money? More importantly, what values do I want to teach my children? Do I support, and therefore perpetuate, the continued excess provided to professional sports teams and players?
It's unfortunate that the few who would be role models are overwhelmed by the prima donnas. I remember the likes of Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke and Walter Payton, playing their hearts out for love of the game. Substitute them with the likes of Rob Johnson, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Vick, guaranteed millions regardless of performance or character.
Nothing makes me happier than Buffalo being out of the running for a Major League Baseball team. We can have just as much or more fun, affordably, at a Bisons game. When the Sabres were in deep trouble financially, I was actually hoping we would lose the team. Before you call me a cynic, talk to Rochester hockey fans who have affordable enjoyment with their hockey Americans and a variety of college hockey events. No prima donnas, just a pleasant night out without sacrificing the college fund for the kids.
When you read about the violence during Bills games, and the DWIs afterward, think about the change from an affordable family environment. The NFL prides itself on the behemoth it has grown into, however, I challenge whether its path has really been "growth." While it surely is a financial success, in my view it has lost its true magic, and its value to society.
So there you have my dilemma. How do I reconcile all this with the innocence of my son's request?