NFL to fans: If you want it at a game, buy it there

You can’t bring bags into NFL games anymore. Or rather, you can’t bring in bags unless they’re either 1) small “clutch” bags or 2) “clear and made of plastic, vinyl, or PVC, with dimensions not exceeding 12 inches by six inches by 12 inches.” Which effectively means no bags that are at all useful:

The reason for the new league-wide policy, according to the NFL, is to “make the job of checking items much more efficient and effective” and “to deliver a better and quicker experience at the gates and also provide a safer environment.” Plus, of course, as a side benefit, it makes it easier to stop fans from bringing in outside food, drinks, cameras, or anything else that might get in the way of football teams ensuring that they pay captive-audience prices for any and all needs they might have during the game — can we interest you in a $5 Cowboys-logo souvenir diaper?

The only thing surprising here, really, is that the NFL is currently engaged in a very public war for customers with big-screen TVs, and telling people they can’t bring all their crap to the game that they paid $80 a ticket for is only going to make it more likely that they stay home. Maybe they have surveys that show that people will happily arrive empty-handed if they are lavished with enough WiFi access (for, um, the iPads that they’ll be carrying in their clear PVC bags?). Your guess is as good as mine — unless you really think it’s about making life easier for the poor bag-checkers, because suspension of disbelief has to have some limits.

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12 comments on “NFL to fans: If you want it at a game, buy it there

  1. Coming at this from another angle, Neil, do you suppose this might be a reaction to endless public complaints regarding the awful delays people face when trying to get into a stadium these days?

    It’s still likely to be – at best – a zero gain solution… for every fan who will consider attending if the security delays are minimized, one will likely stay away because they can’t bring their kids (or pot or enhanced Dr. Pepper etc), but I do know people who’ve given up their tickets largely because they can’t stand the wait at certain facilities (and no doubt the transit headache and increased cost play in… and maybe even because the NFL direct package is a much cheaper, more pleasant, easier and better way to watch the game).

    Of course, if your long range plan as a business is to largely exclude the wage earning, taxpaying fan that mostly funds the stadium in order to ply your wares to the more well heeled (who can afford higher PSLs, rental iPads at the stadium, and getting sushi delivered to their armchairs in the club seats), I guess this does make some sense.

    Not that many budding terrorists within the 1%, either, I would assume.

    I wonder if in 30 years the working poor will become interested in and support opera because professional sports is too expensive and too elitist for their tastes?

  2. John,

    I find the scans and inspections to get into a stadium humiliating and while I might have to endure it for air travel, it’s not worth it for a game. Last Giants game I went to it took 20 minutes to get through security and I missed the entire 1st inning.

    At least at Sharks games I attend every now and then things are civil as I’m able to present my ticket and walk in just like I do for SF Ballet.

    Speaking of opera, it was my understanding that in Italy it was entertainment for the masses; it’s not that here but now sports tickets now match (or exceed) performing arts prices which is something I have trouble getting used to.

    I agree with the poster in the other thread that it isn’t worth teaching one’s kids about pro sports (unless you want to teach them about greed). My 12 year old asked me the other day “is the quarterback the one who hikes the ball?”.
    I felt kind of proud.

  3. I’ve neither experienced long delays nor heard complaints about them, but then, I don’t go to NFL games. Isn’t this easily solved by having bag-check and no-bag lines, though, as most stadiums do in my experience?

  4. Jay, what kind of security do you have to go through to get into an SF Giants game that takes 20 minutes? I go to A’s, Angels and Padres games all the time in “scary” Oakland, Anaheim and military filled San Diego and “security” consists of nothing but a few people giving ladies purses and big bags/backpacks a quick once over with a drumstick looking for booze. And if you’re smart enough to go to games without a bag (hint: Cargo pants or shorts are your friend), you can walk right by the bag checkers and head to the turnstiles.

  5. Dan,

    It was last year and I did have a backpack with a sweater and sandwich in it. It wasn’t obvious to me if there was a “no-bag” line (there might have been) but I wasn’t eligible for it regardless. Cal-Train dropped me off a few minutes before game time and a crunch at the last moment may have contributed.

    I’m going to see the A’s Sunday. I’ll have a bag again–hopefully it’ll go better.

  6. What were they doing in particular that was taking so long? Was it just the bag check? And if so then that’s a Giants problem, not an MLB problem.

  7. So does this policy extend to the skybox owners/leasers? (Clumsy syntax, I know…) Depending on the stadium, they get VIP parking and separate entrances. I can see it happening but I can also see it starting a whole new fight.

  8. I think most teams have a good handle on what their average crowd will be. Hence, the security lines are set up for a given number of checks. But there are certainly some clubs that seem to enjoy cheaping out on the $9/hr bag check employees and forcing their ($50-90 ticket purchasing) fans to wait. It’s a curious form of customer service…

    I don’t go to games often enough these days to know if it’s a chronic problem or not. I do have friends that are giving up their ST’s and say that it’s because of the security line waits.

    This could be avoided by going through the “no bag” line, but as Neil says, there are certain groups of fans (those with kids etc) who simply can’t attend a game without bringing ‘stuff’ with them. It could also be avoided by buying everything at the game (again, as Neil notes), or by arriving an hour early, breezing through security and then spending 50 minutes and most of your money in the team store to fill the time before the game.

    More and more, I think the sensible shopper stays home and watches on TV. The real positive in this is that teams are already pumping in crowd noise to cover empty stadia and apathetic corporate fans, and CGI is now so good they could be playing most of these games in TV studios to electronic fans (*Hint: The guy with the “I heart Jeffrey Loria and David Samson” T-shirt is not real) and those of us watching on TV wouldn’t know it. They don’t even show the streakers on camera anymore….

  9. For whatever it’s worth, I always bring a bag to games (because I hate paying for stadium food), and I have never felt oppressed by long security lines. In fact, last night I got to the Mets game ten minutes before game time, had to wait on the “bags” line, and after the guard gave it a cursory look I still made it in without missing any of the game. (Which was arguably a shame, as it was a Mets game.) The worst time I’ve ever had is Red Bull Arena, where they make you take the caps off your water bottles, something that I’ve learned can be easily remedied by leaving home with a pocketful of water bottle caps.

    My favorite story along these lines, though, was at the 2001 World Series, when after 9/11 they briefly banned bags. I dutifully took my winter coat and stuffed all the pockets with snacks, binoculars, etc.

    The guard took one look at me with my bulging pockets, and said, “Open your coat.” I unzipped it. He patted me down, under the coat, not touching it. Then he said, “Remove your hat.” I took off my fitted Yankees cap, under which I could maybe have hidden a stick of gum at most. Then he said, “Okay, go on through.”

    As I boggled to my friend about this, a guy who had just experienced the same treatment turned to his friend and said loudly, “Man, this security sucks! I just walked in with a whole pound of crack!”

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