The NFL Game Experience

Owen and Oliver Enjoy the Game

Yesterday we attended a National Football League game at Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The game featured the host Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Washington Redskins. In an exciting finish, the Redskins defeated the Eagles, 27-20 to take a lead in their division. You can read about the game and see the highlights on NFL.com.

This post is more about the game experience for a family. The American sports stadium experience is much different than other countries. First of all, the tickets were extremely expensive. Our seats, as you can see, were very high up in the stadium near the end zone, cost $95 each. If you include parking ($30), food ($20 for 2 cokes, a hot dog, and small pizza) and gasoline (approx. $20), it was a $370 day. I would never pay that on a regular basis and if we had season tickets, that would be $3,700 for the year. I didn’t mind paying it for a one-time experience for the boys, but it is too much to ask for a season.

Why so high ticket prices? Well, the minimum salary for a rookie is almost $400,000 per year. I also think the cost of the stadium, which was partially publicly funded, also has to do with the cost. I don’t think the experience for me and my two children is worth $370. I would prefer to lesser level of football (player skills, stadium comfort, etc.) and a lower ticket price.

Robert Griffin III hands off to the running back

That being said, we really had a great time and it continued the boys’ interest in football. We’ve been playing everyday during the holidays, which is becoming a Christmas break tradition.

As I written before, attending a game is really an excuse to drink. I am not sure how many fans understand the game well or have played the game. Personally, football is the sport I enjoy watching the most. Despite an average of only 11 minutes of action per 3-hour game, it is the only sport (except Detroit Tiger baseball game, or Tour De France or Olympics) I can watch from start to finish.

Another aspect of going to the game is comparing it to staying at home and watching the game on television. With the hassles of lining up to get in, the cold, having limited access to other game highlights and statistics, the NFL should really consider the in-game experience. It is much more comfortable to stay home with the DirecTV Red Zone channel and watch all of the games.

I would like to thank my Uncle Jack for getting the tickets and taking us to the game. It was an experience we will not forget!

Green Bay Packers: A Money-Making Machine


I apologize to my readers about not blogging much lately. With the passing of my father and jet lag, I really didn’t feel much like writing. I do want to do two a couple of blog posts on my time in the USA, and then I’ll start again this week with my blogging about Serbia.

The city of Green Bay, Wisconsin is the largest regional airport near my home village of Caspian, Michigan. It is also the closest American Airlines gets to Caspian. Before we flew back to Belgrade, we spent the day in Green Bay and due to my son’s interest in American Football, we took the tour of the Lambeau Field, home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. The stadium is like the Wembely of American Football. The Packers were one of the original teams in the NFL and have more championships (13) than any other franchise. The Packers won seven of those titles in the 1930’s and 40’s, but they did win the first two Super Bowls, in 1967-68, and they won two more in 1996 and 2010. The field has seen many historic games, and being located so far north, it is nicknamed the “frozen tundra.”

They are also a unique major professional sports franchise in that they are publicly-owned team. The league started in small towns in the midwest, and they are the last remaining. It is amazing that such a small city as Green Bay, which has a metropolitan population of just over 200,000 can support one of the best teams in one of the richest leagues in the world. The city and surrounding area are fanatical (borderline obsessed) about the team, and support it both financially and emotionally.

For example, we took the official stadium tour on a Wednesday afternoon in February. Our group had about 20 people and it was one of the six tours going that day. It was a very interesting tour and we got to see the atrium, luxury suites, go down on the field, and even run out of the players’ tunnel, just like the team does on Sundays. I couldn’t get over how much money the team generates! We went into a 25-person suite that charges $102,000 to rent for the season. The stadium seats  over 80,000 people and they have a waiting list of season tickets of 96,000 people. Last summer, they wanted to raise funds for a $143 million stadium expansion, and so they printed “stock” certificates and charged $250 each. They sold out immediately, even though the stock is worthless. In the stadium there are restaurants, bars, conference rooms, etc. They even offer to get married in the stadium! The gift shop is two floors and is the size of a Wal Mart.

Owen and Ollie loved the tour and they both bought jerseys. Owen especially loves the game, as Ollie is a bit young. We’ll have to try to make it back for their summer camp one of these years. Unfortunately, I am not a Packers fan. People in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are mixed between supporting the Packers, Detroit Lions (my team), Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears. I say unfortunately, because the Lions have not won any Super Bowls and only 4 championships, despite starting in 1930 and the last championship was in 1957.

There is a small football following here in Belgrade, and there is even a league, the Central European Football League, with the Belgrade Vukovi, the defending champions. We will check out some of the games down at Ada Ciganlija. The season begins in two weeks and runs through June. A

In thinking about the impact of the Packers on the city, they do take a lot of money that would go to other businesses. However, I think that they bring in as much as they take. Without the team, Green Bay would be a non-descript mid-sized town near the Great Lakes. Instead, it is known throughout the nation. The Packers are one of the “national” teams and due to the influence of television and the internet, also have a national following.

I recommend

A Great Serbian Comeback in an Empty Stadium

It was a strange scene last night at the Red Star Stadium here in Belgrade. Northern Ireland came to town for a Group C Euro Cup Soccer Qualifying Match. No one except for 200 VIP Northern Ireland guest supporters were allowed in the stadium. The normal packed scene of lines of fans around the stadium was eerily empty. The only people we saw the press corp and plenty of police and military personnel to keep spectators and hooligans away. (photo below) The Serbian Football Federation was serving a 1-game penalty for fan behavior in October’s match in Italy. The match couldn’t start because of a group of hooligans and Italy was awarded a 3-0 forfeit victory. Last night’s game was the second part of the sanction.

 

It was an entertaining match. I was surprised because Northern Ireland plays a defensive style and after scoring a beautiful goal off a set play in the first half, (screen shot above from the Serbian television station RTS – Radio, Television of Serbia) I thought it would be more boring delay tactics with nine men in the box for the visitors. Fortunately, Serbia kept on pressing and in a dominant second half, scored two goals to win 2-1. It was odd to watch on TV and hear individual voices of players and coaches.

The first round of games in the group are complete. Despite the forfeit, closed stadium, losing their coach, and suffering many injuries, the “White Eagles” are tied for second place with Slovenija in their group behind Italy. The top two teams qualify for next summer’s European Cup hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine. They have 5 more games with the next game being in Talin, Estonia on Tuesday. Hopefully the momentum of the victory will carry them through a probably cold and dreary game in the far north of the European continent.

Note that the “Gazprom” painting on the seats is the owner of the Red Star professional soccer club in Belgrade. Gazprom is the Russian National Petroleum company. Earlier in the week, Vladimir Putin was in Belgrade and the stadium. Red Star played an exhibition match in his honor with a Russian team.

I can’t wait to go to the next Serbian in September against the Faroe Islands. I think it is good that FIFA penalized the Serbian Soccer Federation. They need to invest in the stadium and clean up those disaffected youths that give the country a bad name. I also feel that the Serbian government is also to blame in that it does not have a good economy to provide opportunities for these young men to put their energy towards making Serbia better and establishing careers.