Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Consumers Get Fleeced Simply for Being Fans

There are two things I know for sure. One: somebody somewhere is making a killing off sports. Two: I am not that somebody.

I went out this weekend to buy a new baseball glove, and found that I had to justify the purchase to myself. It’s an investment. You’ll have it for the rest of your life. That’s all well and good, but (I know this is going to make some people angry) it’s just a baseball glove.

I’m well aware that Simeon Rice is making eight gazillion dollars for every step he takes on the field. And I’m well aware that Kevin Garnett has more money than God. And of course I’m well aware that LeBron James will soon be making an amount of money roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Russia – per season. And finally, I’m well aware that every columnist since Gutenberg has written about the exorbitant amount of money that athletes make.

So I’m not. I’m talking about the folks making money in marketing and memorabilia and merchandise. I’m talking about the guys who made the $48.75 profit off my buck-twenty-something baseball glove. That’s where the real money is.

People will do just about anything to capitalize on the sports merchandise market. It’s ridiculous. And just as ridiculous, if not more so, is the fact that we buy it, like kids in a candy store. We’ll buy just about anything having to do with sports, and we’ll pay whatever’s asked.

Sports is like Valentine’s Day in that way. Someone once decided that it would be cool to put a check mark on a hat or a shirt or a pair of shoes, ask their favorite athletes to wear the products, and then sell replicas. Only, they called the check mark a “Swoosh.” Sounds classy. Sounds like “hey, let’s make up a holiday where the only point is to get people to buy flowers and chocolates and cards.”

Not only can one company buy the rights to produce certain team’s apparel, they can also buy the rights to produce commercial replicas of it. That’s where the big money is, because thanks to Mr. James, we all know that two replica jerseys are worth more than $800. And, as if that weren’t good enough, if another company makes a product too similar to yours, you can sue for copyright infringement.

For instance, the Oakland Raiders apparently own the idea of a pirate and the colors black and silver. They’re suing to stop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers from wearing each team’s respective uniforms to Oakland next season because parts of the uniforms too closely resemble Oakland’s own suits.

I remember buying Georgetown basketball season tickets in the fall and thinking that $70 seemed a bit steep; a friend gave me a ticket to an Orlando Magic game – face value: $70. Then you get into the game. God did you a great favor if he forbade that you should come hungry or thirsty. I could go anywhere else in the world and buy a whole package of hot dogs for $2.50, but in there it costs me that much for one. Bun sold separately.

And if sports is a poor excuse to bump the price of a wiener (and believe me, it is) then it’s an even worse excuse to inflate the tags of things having nothing to do with sports. At last count, Abercrombie has both a baseball and a track team, American Eagle has a crew team and Gap has a whole athletic department! I know, because I’ve seen people walking around campus wearing shirts indicating that they play for these teams.

And hats (officially licensed, of course) off to the fellow who decided to put an athlete’s mug shot on the front of my Wheaties box. Thanks to you, a box of pretty bland corn-based flakes now costs more than $4. Meanwhile, you’re rolling in a box of bland paper-based money. All because you took cereal – which has nothing intrinsically related to sports – and associated it with them anyway.

Subaru became the official car of U.S. Rowing, the governing body for crew. I’ve never seen an Outback gliding gracefully down the Potomac or a Forester pushing away from the docks early in the morning. Maybe rowers are supposed to stick the oars out the optional power windows? Or maybe I’m not the only one missing the connection between the two.

I will admit that I’m just jealous that I didn’t come up with these ideas. We’re Americans; we’re born and bred consumers, and we’re born and bred sports fans. And these people are very literally cashing in on those truths.

And I’m not. Hell, maybe I should be getting paid for this gig.

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