Are fans suffering from Patriots ‘playoff fatigue?’
When the New England Patriots offered season-ticket holders the opportunity to buy playoff tickets in mid-November, longtime fan Robert Biggs did something out of character. He said no.
“Don’t get me wrong — the atmosphere at playoff games is fantastic,” said Biggs, a Boston firefighter. But he’s already been to six or seven Patriots playoff games in recent years, as well as a Super Bowl. And so, with Christmas bills in mind, he said his $400 could be better spent. “As a New England sports fan you kind of get used to it. It’s like, here we go again.”
Over the past decade, Boston teams have made it to the playoffs so many times that the once-unthinkable may be settling in: Some fans have become a bit blase about it all.
“There is definitely playoff fatigue at this point in Boston,” said Glenn Lehrman, a spokesman for ticket dealer StubHub.
The evidence? Tickets on the secondary market for this Saturday’s Patriots game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium cost substantially less than tickets for the other three playoff games around the country.
In fact, prices for Patriots playoff tickets have been falling steadily since they played the 2011 postseason, according to SeatGeek , which tracks the resale market among fans and brokers.
The average seat for the AFC divisional playoff at Gillette was selling for $171 on Thursday, according to SeatGeek. That’s compared with $356 for the Seahawks-
Saints game, $324 for the Broncos-Chargers matchup, $273 for the Panthers-49ers. In 2011, tickets for the Pats-Jets divisional game went for an average of $302.
StubHub’s Lehrman has a theory about Boston’s meh state of mind.
“A lot of people want to go to a sporting event as much for the memory as the ability to tell people ‘I was there,’” he said. “But once you’ve done it, there isn’t as big a need to do it again. How many times can you update your Facebook page with ‘Look where I am!’”
Of course, the comparatively low prices for Patriots playoff tickets stands in marked contrast to the team’s wild and enduring popularity.
But when the choice is between shelling out big money to sit in the forecasted rain or rooting couchside, even some of the team’s biggest fans go for comfort.
How good is Boston’s winning streak? Since January 2004, the Patriots have gone to four Super Bowls and made the playoffs in 10 seasons. During the same time period, the Celtics have played in two championships and gone to the playoffs eight times. The Bruins made it to two Stanley Cup finals and appeared in postseason play seven times. The Red Sox have won three World Series titles and gone to the playoffs six times.
Boston’s recent win record means that fans seeking to rationalize pricey tickets can no longer rely on the old “it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance” line. These days, postseason sports opportunities arrive as reliably as twice-yearly dental appointments. In the past year alone, a diehard sports fan could have indulged in postseason splurges for the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, and the Patriots.
With the average ticket price to Saturday’s Patriots’ game still pricey, “a family of four could easily spend half a mortgage payment on a single game,” said SeatGeek spokesman Will Flaherty, “or two or three months of a car payment.”
“The prices get to the point where you start framing it in those terms,” Flaherty said, “and the decision to make that impulse buy gets harder. In the past 10 years, a lot of Boston fans have already had the opportunity to cross [a post-season game] off their bucket list.”
A Patriots spokesman said that more than 90 percent of season ticket holders purchased their playoff tickets this year, “slightly” more than in recent years. Even so, the resale market is taking a hit worthy of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork — if only he weren’t on injured reserve.
Ramsey A. Bahrawy, an attorney in North Andover who’s decidedly not going to Saturday’s game, says he’s been “spoiled” by the Patriots’ success. He’s twice been in the stadium when the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens in the post season, but he fears that this year’s team, with its many injured players, is going to lose on Saturday.
“I know what it’s like at Gillette when the fans are high-fiving each other,” he said. “I don’t want to go and be disappointed. I’d rather watch on my [50-inch] TV at home.”
Patrick Clunan, a veteran of three Patriots playoff games, is also opting out.
“I can’t justify it,” the North End resident said. “I don’t want to spend $300 or $400 to watch a game they may very well lose. I’d rather see Justin Timberlake and Jay Z. I know I won’t freeze — or go home disappointed.”
Meanwhile, with postseason spending opportunities mounting, some fans are resorting to subterfuge. Some buyers show up at ACE Ticket stores with credit cards — and cash — in hand, the better to conceal the full price from a spouse who doesn’t understand the need to spend a week’s grocery money on an “experience.”
As for those who are facing not a spousal expense review, but a self-imposed audit, ACE CEO Jim Holzman offered a helpful rationale for justifying a purchase: “We went through years with no playoff games,” he said. “The fear is that at some point we could again go through a period in our lifetimes where no Boston teams are playing well. These are the good old days.”
In West Roxbury, veteran season ticket holder Jonas Bromberg says Bostonians are lucky to have the “problem” of too many victories. “I’ve sat through some very lean seasons,” he said.
Bromberg is eagerly anticipating Saturday’s game — and the pre-game tailgate — despite the rainy forecast. “I’m not taking the winning streak for granted,” he said. “Brady’s like 35 or something. [It’s worse— the quarterback is 36.] What’s going to happen when he goes?”