Long ago, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell famously said, "on any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team." It's worth noting that Bell died in 1959, long before the current edition of the Oakland Raiders took the field.
But that's just mean. My actual goal here is to salute the Raiders. Pro Football's Dynamic Organization, as the late Raider boss Al Davis liked to call his team, has just dropped some season ticket prices to an astonishingly low level.
As part of a plan to shrink capacity at the Coliseum to about 53,000 (and make TV blackouts less likely), the Raiders have cut some season ticket plans to $250. That's $25 a game (the NFL continues its rapacious practice of making buyers pay full price for exhibition games).
You read that correctly. Sure, these are up in the top deck at the Coliseum, but still: $25 for an NFL ticket. The league average is almost $80. Just for kicks, I ran some numbers. Let's say that instead of paying for that Raiders ticket, you grabbed a seat at the bar at Pican in Oakland's Uptown and watched on TV. A couple of tasty mint juleps will set you back $24, and you haven't even tipped the bartender. Or eaten.
In fact, a $25 Raiders ticket is a bargain of historical proportions. My esteemed colleague Steve Bitker recalls his family held Raiders tickets when the Coliseum opened in 1966. They cost $6.50 a game. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $46 today, or almost twice what the Raiders are now charging.
The Raiders say they are hoping to create a "vibrant game-day environment with a community of season ticket holders." Good for them. A full stadium beats the heck out of a swath of empty seats. Of course, a winning team really helps with that "vibrant game-day environment" thing and the Raiders haven't been one of those in a decade. The last time the Raiders had a winning record, they went to the Super Bowl.
These low prices come as the Raiders face a 2013 home schedule that will include visits by the Broncos, Steelers, Redskins (hey, maybe RG3 will have a miraculous recovery!) and Eagles (come see new coach Chip Kelly import his brand of madness to the NFL!).
The fact of the matter is, ticket sales matter less and less to NFL teams every year. Teams already get close to 2/3 of their revenue from the NFL's TV packages, and that particular pot of gold is about to get a lot heavier. Annual NFL TV revenue will jump to around $8 billion starting next year when new contracts kick in. The Raiders get exactly the same share of that as any other team.
With that kind of money from TV, the league can almost afford to ignore actual paying customers. The Raiders may be on to something here: if the NFL wants to keep its product from being a purely television spectacle, it's going to have to look at ways to convince people to abandon their HDTV's and come to the stadium. A cheaper ticket sure helps.