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SportsMonday: The Cubs' Bear Market

Ticket prices are escalating at an even more ridiculous rate than usual aren't they?

As I become, what, the one billionth fan to complain about how expensive it is to attend a sporting event these days, it is clear that prices are even more untethered to reality right now than they have been the past few years.

My wife came home last week and told me we had a chance to purchase tickets through her place of work for the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks versus the talented Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field. We would be able to watch the March 1 Stadium Series match-up scheduled to start at 7 p.m. for the low, low price of $179 per ticket.

We could afford to purchase a couple of those tickets. There is no way in hell we will do so.

The tix are expensive but not completely over the top. I'm sure we would have relatively comfortable seats in a section of the stadium where it would be tough to really see what was going on on the ice but hey, the seats would be better than those possessed by tens of thousands of other suckers.

But who cares what you can afford when it is clear that the event in question is ripping you off. There are more than 60,000 seats at Soldier Field. You could sell a few hundred more premium tickets for spots on the field. Do you really have to totally gouge your fans? Or couldn't you charge more reasonable rates and still make plenty of money?

Then again, at least the Hawks are trying to win. In a different part of town, every Cub fan who buys a ticket this season is the easiest mark in the world. The Cubs are tanking the season FOR THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW! They continue to trade away all their best players for prospects to slash payroll even though they are the most profitable team in baseball. They have preserved those profits even as they have plummeted in the standings.

This offseason, the Cubs did not add one significant piece to the major league roster that lost 96 games last year and 101 the year before, and which has a payroll that is tens of millions less than the league average, let alone what it should be for a team with massive revenues.

If you want to look at green grass and savor the smell of hot dogs this summer in Chicago, go to a park and have a picnic near a push cart. Don't give your money to the Ricketts family, who refuse to even consider lowering the prices on tickets or concessions despite offering an abysmal product year after year after year.

Local media nitwits have bought the line that the Cubs can't afford to upgrade their major league roster because the Ricketts' incurred too much debt when they bought the team five years ago. But the Ricketts family has hundreds of millions of dollars socked away back in Omaha, where it is based. They have exactly as much debt as they choose to have.

Other local media nitwits say you can't sign major league free agents now because then they would be in the way when prospects are ready to come to the majors in the next few years. That's ridiculous. No matter what relatively high-priced player is playing where in the next few years at the major league level, when prospects are ready to go, the team can trade the major leaguers or they can just release them. All it would cost is a relatively tiny portion of the aforementioned profits.

This stuff is not complicated! Here's an idea, sports fans. Take the money you save by not going to Cubs games and put it in index funds. That way, when the Cubs eventually get better, and I figure that process starts in about 2017, you'll have that much more money to spend on tickets that I'm sure will be priced through the ceiling.

In the end, the answer to the question "What is going on with ticket prices?" is of course what the answer always is: The team charges what the market will bear.

Hey, market, it's time to start bearing less.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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