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July 18, 2017

Death, taxes ... and the sports fan getting screwed

At times, there appear to be pressure groups for everything from abused shoe salespeople to dimly lit fireflies, but there have yet to be any real watchdog types to take up the plight of the American sports fans.

Perhaps that’s because the national sports fan seems to invite abuse. From city to city, state to state and suburb to suburb, you can count on sports fans to simply line up and pay to be taken for granted.

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This has become a whole lot worse in recent years as teams are taken over by conglomerates. The days of the true sportsman heading up a sports organization has given way to a board room full of executives counting decimal points.

That’s especially true in Philadelphia, where the 76ers just announced a plan to charge fans for the right to be placed on a season ticket waiting list.

The fee is non-refundable, and it comes on the heels of the team tanking season after season in the anticipation of this better future.

To be fair, the Sixers never whined much about a lack of fan support as they booted away multiple seasons in their rebuild.

But the fans of Philadelphia were robbed of the sport on a professional level for several years, which makes it even more absurd to even discuss charging fans to simply be placed on a waiting list – let alone to put the entire mess into actual practice.

Then again, the Sixers are hardly alone in their grab-all-you-can-get philosophy. In Denver, the Broncos recently took away season tickets from a couple that sold all of their games last season on an aftermarket site.

It seems the couple was struggling financially after having a child ... which forced them to sell the tickets.

So, the Broncos rescinded the tickets, choosing instead to put the tickets into the hands of people that wanted to go to the games – and not sell them on the aftermarket.

Of course, it probably had nothing to do with the fact that many teams now partner with ticket companies like StubHub and receive a cut of the sales.

It now seems rather odd that some teams are now reluctant to have their tickets sold by one aftermarket company when another is a sponsoring league aftermarket company.

Either way you look at it, the same ticket scalping issues that they once promoted now trouble the teams and leagues. Then again, you could also infer that the teams and leagues are not happy that they lost the ability to maximize their own profits.

Coming back to Philadelphia, a few thousand basketball fans were taken advantage of over the weekend when Allen Iverson did not play in an exhibition game that was promoted almost exclusively on the fact that AI would be part of the show.

All right, so you might have been a fool to buy a ticket to the event in the first place, and a bigger fool to assume Iverson would show up on time, but you did think he would get on the floor.

Turns out Iverson was ill, the show went on, and the fans were literally left holding the empty money bag.

Such treatment of fans has gone on over and over again across the nation. It starts with the demands for taxpayers – many of whom don’t even watch sports – to pay for a portion of a new stadium. It continues with outrageous prices to park, and inflated prices for food and drink once inside the buildings.

Then you read about what your local team is worth, and how much that has increased in value over the last decade. And then you realize that you’ll never see any benefit of that increase.

Sports are not alone in this money grab. Look at the airline industry, which now charges for items that were once part of the price of a ticket. You now buy your ticket – and then pay extra if you want an aisle or window seat, if you want to board early, or if you have a couple of pieces of luggage.

Take a look at the extra fees you pay every month for nothing. You get charged for taking your own money out of a bank, and then get charged for everything from paying bills online to printing out your own tickets to a show – all under the umbrella of “convenience.”

And more than a few of us are going to pay close to $100 to watch what could very well be a joke of a fight on premium television when Conor McGregor faces Floyd Mayweather.

Face it, many of us are all hooked on the wonderful sugar called sports entertainment, and it seems no matter how much we get sucker punched with abuse, we line up for another.

It was P.T. Barnum who said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

And his circus lasted over 100 years.

So, if you’re waiting for things to get better with pro sports, you’ve got an awfully long wait – but you might be able to pay extra to get to the front of the waiting line.