Someone asked me the other day if I had visited the new Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis baseball Cardinals. No, but I’ve seen it, I said. I watched from the outside as the new ballpark was being built. When it was finished I watched games on cable and the free stations. I anticipated the next question. When would I go to a game in person? I have to admit I don’t really know when that will happen. America’s favorite pastime doesn’t seem to be available to the average Joe anymore. Ticket prices have been raised significantly, parking is more expensive and a hot dog and a beer now go for about as much as a ticket in the bleachers once cost. A friend of mine who is a teacher in the city told me the tradition of awarding straight A students a free ticket was stopped this year. Rather than bestowing merit for hard work, it was now turned into a lottery for the lucky. I hated to hear that.
As each new stadium is constructed, the separation between the middle class fan and the privileged fan grows wider. I believe the game was designed to be enjoyed by everyone, not just people lucky enough to work for a company that offers free tickets or those rich enough to absorb the rising costs. St. Louis was voted the best sports town several years ago. That had to do with fans who demonstrated considerable knowledge of the game and uncommon respect and courtesy for the opponent. Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 500th home run inside the old Busch Stadium last year. His feat was greeted by a standing ovation. Would that be repeated today? I was disturbed to learn that fans in the new Busch stadium have already begun booing when things don’t go their way. Is this a different class of fan? Perhaps. The very people who helped St. Louis earn that recognition can’t even afford to watch a game in person anymore. That’s just wrong. What is right is making something as American as Babe Ruth truly open to people from all walks of life, from different levels of the economic spectrum. How could this happen? Follow the lead of the NFL and put a cap on team spending. Don’t slap a commercial on every play. I believe greed is a terrible excuse for forcing smart kids and average folks to lose easy access to what was once as affordable as a slice of apple pie.
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