Paper is in peril. The digital world creeps more insidiously into our lives each day, making ink on paper increasingly less important, expected, desired.
Exhibit A in the sports world: the Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs just the other day notified their season ticket-holders that they won’t print tickets for the upcoming season (please, Bruins fans, don’t let go of your CH voodoo dolls just yet). Instead, loyalists will have their tickets zapped directly to their smartphones. Arrive at the Bell Centre, flash the phone, and . . . Allez Habs!
Paper tickets in La Belle Province have gone the way of a Guy Lafleur slapper off the wing.
Digital doesn’t work for everyone, of course, because, shock of shocks, not everyone in Quebec owns a smartphone. Not to worry, the Habs will accommodate. For a fee of $172.46 (tax included) per seat, Canadiens customers can have their season tickets in hard copy. Then there’s another $100 (plus taxes) in administration fees, standard for all Habs season-ticket accounts. Total cost, two season tickets, hard print: $477.14, or roughly $5 per seat per game.
Once was the time clubs considered such things as printing tickets and general administration part of the cost of doing business. For Montrealers, it’s simply another cost of a being a fan. Membership has its privileges . . . and they come with a price.
Here in the Hub of the sports universe, none of our four major teams hits the wallet nearly as hard for paper as the Habs. The Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox all still offer their season ticket-holders a print option, typically at no additional charge.
The Bruins last season gave season ticket-holders their choice: paper or digital (via PDF or mobile device). No extra charge. Plans have not been finalized, but the club anticipates no change in policy or fee for 2017-18.
The Celtics offer both options, print or digital, imposing only a $40 service fee on accounts that opt for print.
The Patriots, with only 10 home games scheduled each season (including two exhibition games) print oversized tickets on heavy paper stock for their season ticket-holders. No extra charge.
The Red Sox, with some 3 million fans attending Fenway each summer, offer season ticket-holders hard tickets, also for no additional charge.
Look, no one has to tell a career newspaper man that paper is yesterday’s news. More than 10 years ago, I told pals my goal was to remain on the job, still writing, when the Globe’s last print edition rolled off the presses at Morrissey Boulevard. I’m still working, thankfully. The Globe is now printed each day in Taunton and my office space, a shared hovel of about 8 square feet, is located in the Globe’s new shiny downtown digs.
Nearly everything we do now, how we think and report and write, is with the bostonglobe.com digital world in mind. More than just a newspaper, the Globe is a news provider, and similar to the Habs with their season tickets, we charge a whole lot more if you want that news printed.
Tickets are different. They are part of the product, the experience. They are evidence, memory, feel, smell, taste, a sensory being. I still have my two stubs from the final game of the 1967 Red Sox season, and those from Games 1 and 7 of the World Series that followed.
For 50 years, those stubs have been pressed in a scrapbook, along with page upon page of game stories, columns, and pictures cut from the Globe, Herald Traveler, and Record American. A favorite is the picture of dazed pitcher John Wyatt, felled on the mound, after getting beaned by catcher Bob Tillman on a throw to second base to try to cut down base-stealing Al Kaline. Same ol’ Red Sox, we said, until they gave us reason to shut up.
The great Will McDonough that summer also reported that disgruntled club owner Tom Yawkey, fed up with his old ballpark and the neighborhood’s lack of parking, was poised to vacate Fenway. An open patch of land along Route 128 in Newton looked ideal. He decided not to build it, and they came. Oh, they most definitely came.
All of that on paper. The tickets. The pictures. The stories. A half-century from now, without stubs and news clippings, what will a fan have to remember of the 2017 Red Sox?
If season ticket-holders have no tickets, are they season ticket-holders? Not really. They’re just buyers, patrons who come and go, proof of their attendance vanished with the click of a “delete” button on the smartphone.
No doubt, the whole digital thing has its advantages. In their e-mail to season ticket-holders, the Canadiens noted security, ease of use, and environmental sustainability. Go to a game, save a tree?
Sorry, I don’t think it makes sense. Not for the customer. Not for the team.
A hard ticket is important. It’s the holiday gift, all wrapped up, that brings Pops to tears when he thinks of going to the game months later with his daughter or son. It’s the once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Super Bowl that carved $10,000 out of family finances. It’s the tiny orange stub from Fenway, Oct. 1, 1967, that shows, “Standing Room, $1.50” with “final game of the year” written on the back.
It’s 2017 and we’re moving on to digital. In an industry that thrives on keeping fans connected, it’s one more disconnect waiting to happen.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the Canadiens’ arena as the Molson Centre. It is the Bell Centre.
Kevin Paul Dupont’s “On Second Thought” appears regularly in the Sunday Globe Sports section. He can be reached at email@example.com.