I went crazy this year, purchased two Four-Pack ticket packages for the coming Red Sox season. I know it goes against longtime sportswriter protocol, buying tickets for athletic events, but what the heck. If you win a World Series, you get my interest. That’s what I say.
The seats are low budget, Section 4, right field, cheapest grandstand seats in the park, but I will be able to split the four games between my two grandsons and they mostly are interested in the progress of the cotton candy salesman around the park. Section 4, which served as the auxiliary press section for both the playoffs and Series last year, will be more than fine. I saw the cotton candy man out there for every Series game.
The ticket transaction was handled on the Internet, invisible money flying through the air, but this past week the actual tickets arrived in an unmarked envelope. I fanned through them just to remind myself what the dates were, and came to an interesting discovery: one of the games, the Yankees game on Aug. 1, was almost twice as expensive as the other three games.
“Wait a minute,” I said upon reflection. “This is the new ticket structure for next season. Some games are more expensive than other games.”
The concept is called Tier Pricing. It is based on the decidedly undemocratic notion that all games are NOT created equal. There is truth in that notion, for sure, days and times and moments that probably should cost more than other days/times/moments in a given season. The scalper market always has reflected the difference. Now some primary sellers, teams in different sports, have joined the crowd. The Red Sox are one of them.
The only problem with the concept, my opinion, is that it doesn’t go far enough. The tiers in the present pricing consider only that name of the opponent and that date of the game. This might be a good idea to start — the Yankees and the Red Sox on a sunny Sunday afternoon certainly is more attractive than, say, a midweek visit from the Kansas City Royals on a dank April night — but in sports there are no guarantees.
That Red Sox-Yankees game could be a lopsided clunker, everyone gone after the ritual booing of Jacoby Ellsbury in the first couple of innings. The Royals and the Sox could create dank April magic. A no-hitter! (either side). A 17-inning thriller! (Jonny Gomes steals home). Seven home runs from Big Papi in seven at-bats! (“You think now they’ll talk about an extension?” the big man asks as he pets a puppy nestled in his gold chains). Fun! Weirdness! Maybe you even met a girl in the dank April beer line! Love!
To alleviate this random quality — people should get what they pay for — there need to be more variables, more tiers. Many more tiers. The name of the opponent and the date of the game are fine starting points, but no more than that. The ultimate price of the game should be determined by all of the factors involved in the game.
How will this work? Walk with me into the future.
Credit cards will be handed to the nearest ushers before the first pitch, the same way they are handed to bartenders to start off a night of hard drinking. The ushers will keep a running tally of the many charges and discounts that occur during the course of the game, then present the final bill at the end. Tipping optional.
The weather, for instance, will be charged at the beginning. Temperatures in the 70s, into the low 80s, no threat of rain, add $10 to every ticket across the board. Temperatures in the 30s or below or 95 degrees or above, subtract $10 from every ticket. Rain? Subtract $2 every time the tarp covers the field. Snow? Subtract $5 if it continues for all nine innings, $10 if you cannot see the scoreboard.
The starting lineups. Five dollars per ticket if the leaders in home runs, batting average, and OPS are in the lineup for either side. Ten dollars if the No. 1 pitcher in either team’s rotation is on the mound. Twenty dollars if they both are. Ten dollars, no, make it $20, if someone in the lineup is on some publicized record-setting streak. Five dollars for every player who is leading the league in any statistic except errors or hitting into double plays or home runs surrendered.
The game itself. This will be a continuing string of fluctuating figures, sort of like the NASDAQ reports on CNBC. Everything will have a price figure, pro and con. Home runs for the home team will be $5. Make it 10. Home runs for the visitors will be minus $5. Ten dollars every time the lead changes. Subtract $5 for every error. Five dollars for every stolen base for the home team. Subtract $5 for every stolen base for the visitors.
Fan behavior will be important. Money will be charged or subtracted for the behavior of the fans sitting next to you. The ushers will judge. Drunks, big mouths, and simply annoying people will be rated on a sliding scale, rebates ranging from $5 to $50. You will be judged on the same sliding scale, charges made for your own behavior. No fees will be added or deducted for participating or not participating in The Wave, singing or not singing “Sweet Caroline.”
There will be a fee, of course, at the end of the game. The score could cost you up to $100 more for a walkoff home run. A 17-1 rout by the visitors could save you that same $100. A no-hitter? A pennant-clinching moment, champagne goggles and all? The mind reels at the possible cost.
The bill will be presented at the end.
You will sign on the dotted line.
This will be true Tier Pricing. Just hope you don’t see a great game.
(Instant update: The Patriots on Friday announced that they also will institute tier pricing for 2014. Uh-oh, here we go . . . )