Friday, February 13, 2009

Should the games go on?

Tomorrow I am attending the USA Sevens in San Diego. It is the only American stop that the International Rugby Board makes, and though it doesn’t draw anywhere close to the attention the Sevens get in other locations, especially Hong Kong, it is starting to become quite the event after only 5 years competing in the U.S.

I am excited for my first exposure to professional rugby but struggling with the idea that during one of the greatest economic recessions in history I will be spending money on pure entertainment. I am wondering if anyone else has the same inner struggle. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not sitting indoors and refusing to spend a penny during the recession, but I would much rather part with my dollars for something tangible, like clothing or books. However, I am reconciling my rugby adventures as something more meaningful to me than just passing the time watching men run around in short shorts tossing an oversized and lopsided ball. Not only will I have the chance to interact with the fans from around the world and learn something about different sporting cultures, I will become well-versed in a growing international sport. I believe this knowledge will prove to be invaluable, and so have concluded that the experience is a worthwhile investment even during times when I am double thinking how every dollar is spent.

My strict scrutiny of personal spending on entertainment is not shared by all, however. Along with higher education, the sports sector is almost recession proof. In fact, the revenue from marketing during the Super Bowl increased in this year from the 2008 totals. An article in the Feb.14-20 version of The Economist also points out the increasing value of contracts selling the broadcasting rights of various leagues such as the NBA, International Olympic Committee, and the Premier League, an English football league. What is decreasing is the number of companies willing to shell out the big bucks to have their name plastered all over teams’ apparel or large new unnecessary stadiums.

While I agree that sports are entertaining, and I appreciate a good near heart attack from exciting games, especially ones with a 4th quarter like this year’s close call by the Cardinals in the Superbowl, I think that the fact that sports are viewed as recession proof is a fundamental problem because it shows the global emphasis placed on athletics and it worries me slightly.

It’s worrisome because if sports are viewed as so necessary, and if the sports clubs started to fail, would they also be bailed out by the government? The article “Is it recession-proof?” in The Economist noted that the Detroit Pistons failed to sell out a home game for the first time in 5 years. Perhaps it means that more fans are throwing things at their home plasma screen TVs instead of the opposing fans at the stadium during sporting events and saving money on the tickets and over-priced hotdogs and beer.

I do believe sports add a lot to a region’s pride and give the world some common threads to discuss and relate to, but if they really are recession proof, then it is saying something different. If college students are not able to return to universities next year but any sports team gets a new stadium, our priorities need to be reconsidered.

1 comment:

  1. Sports may seem recession-proof, but it's a result of escapism, similar to the success of movies, which have increasing ticket sales. People want to spend their money for entertainment purposes as a way to forget that they don't actually have the money to spend on a football or basketball game. Hope the USA Sevens were fun to watch.