Is Attending an NFL Game Worth it?

I’ve only attended two NFL games in my life.

The first game in 2005 I remember vividly: a cold, rainy day in Oakland as the Raiders took a beating from the then Jake Plummer led Broncos.  I was sitting in the upper deck with some family members, wearing an all-black hoodie over the only Raiders shirt I owned.

The second game I attended was in 2008 in San Francisco. The 49ers were playing the Philadelphia Eagles, a team who eventually lost in the NFC title game to Arizona. As expected, the 49ers got killed by a score of 40-26. Once again I was joined by some family members, sitting in the upper deck.

What do these two experiences have in common?


The game in Oakland was my first NFL experience, and it couldn’t have been less satisfying. Even at a young age I knew the stadium was terrible. Sitting in the upper deck was an adventure, as there were at least three fights I remember seeing (that’s just the ones I remember). It was raining, cold and I spilt my soda on myself. The Raiders were my favorite team, and watching them lose in an embarrassing fashion didn’t help the cause. Having family around was great, and I definitely thanked them for bringing me, but in terms of fun, there wasn’t much of it.

The game in San Francisco was much of the same. The home team was losing, the stadium (and area around it) wasn’t pleasant and I still didn’t feel like I was having very much fun. And this was coming from a kid who was excited beyond belief on going in the first place. Like my Oakland experience I was once again sitting in the uppers of the upper deck, and once again seeing multiple fights breaking out. One I remember vividly of a Raiders fan, wearing a Randy Moss jersey, getting into with a 49ers fan. Drinks were tossed, punches were thrown and security came and took them out.

The perfect family experience!

This past weekend following the annual Raiders vs. 49ers pre-season game, reports of numerous brawls and two gunshot victims surfaced. Should we be shocked? No. But it does beg the question:

Are attending NFL games worth it?

It’s no coincidence I haven’t been to an NFL game since 2008 and only been to two in my life.

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE football: I’m a huge Raiders fan and keep up to speed with the entire league, I watch NFL Network on the daily, watch NFL Red Zone religiously on Sundays, own three fantasy teams, listen to multiple NFL podcasts, read multiple NFL blogs and have a season pass to the FX show The League. So why don’t I go to games?

For one, going to games are going to be a grip on the wallet. I have a job that pays fairly well, but I’m still just a college student. Between paying for dates that lead nowhere and Microsoft Office, NFL games don’t really fit in my paying schedule. It’s not the tickets themselves that are bad (I can find tickets for the Raiders vs.  Jets game for less than $40), it’s the extraneous costs the kill you. The gas money to drive to the stadium, food, drinks and possibly merchandise are just some of the costs. I’m not even mentioning parking and all the tailgating materials. Even if you buy the cheapest seat (let’s say $40), you add parking, food, drinks and gas, you’re dropping at least a couple bills. For a college student just hoping to survive, going to NFL game isn’t really in the cards.

Second reason why I don’t go to games: HDTV. The addition of HDTV to virtually every TV now is really incredible. Experiencing an NFL game is just (and even more) enjoyable watching on my couch than it is to attend. You can’t say that about other sports. Baseball is way better when at the park (AT&T Park helps), basketball is awesome up close and even though I don’t really like hockey, actually going to games is really exciting. I’m lucky enough to have a 50-inch HDTV plasma with a 7.1 compatible Harmon Kardon surround sound system. In other words: my shit KNOCKS. So you add the pleasure of every NFL game in HD, replays you wouldn’t normally get, great angles, great sound, cheap food and drinks and the luxury of my own home and you get a guaranteed great time.

The last and most important reason why I don’t go to games: the experience itself. While money and a plasma TV are both materialistic incentives for me to stick around, the actual experience I have going to a game lacks any enjoyment for me. Making the effort to see a mediocre team (Raiders) or a terrible team (49ers) doesn’t turn me on. Making the effort to see these teams at awful stadiums really doesn’t turn me on either. It’s sad that in an area so synonymous with successful corporations and beauty lay two of the worst stadiums in sports. Add these together and you get less than what you pay for. There’s no fun to be had.

My dad went to the 49ers vs. Saints game last season, a Monday night game, primetime, lower bowl center section seats, all free of charge. It was his first game since 2008 and I remember asking him when he got back if he had a great time, he replied: “I wouldn’t do that again.” Really? Free seats from a client to the biggest game of the year and he wouldn’t do it again? His reasoning: too many drunk idiots, fights, the area (Hunter’s Point) and lack of replays in the stadium. For a big 49ers fan like my dad to say that really struck me. If you can’t have a great time under those conditions, how can you at all?

When deciding to attend games I’m under the idea of “you go big or you go home.” I paid for me and my little brother’s seats to the Bulls vs. Warriors game last year, row 11 sideline club, VERY expensive seats. I paid for Cavaliers vs. Warriors a few seasons ago, corner section row 5, VERY expensive seats. I’ve paid for Dodgers vs. Giants seats, AAA level club seats. I’ve paid for Red Sox vs. Giants seats, 2nd level club as well. Why would a tight college student pay for the seats? I knew I was going to have a great time. I knew the experience was going to be a fun one. I can’t say that when going to an NFL game.

Of course this only applies to a 19 year old college student and not the majority of the people attending NFL games. There will always be people willing to fork over money to see their team, there will always be people willing to pay for the food and drinks, there will always be people willing to forgo the drunks and there will always be people who consider the experience to be well worth the money. But for the guy who is given the choice of O.CO or Candlestick Park, the guy who is given the choice of going to the game or sitting at his house watching comfortably, the guy who doesn’t have to have drunk idiots ruin the experience and the guy who is just trying to get through college with a decent amount of cashola, attending an NFL game just isn’t worth it.



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