A Quiet Roar … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The Lakers get swept out of the NBA playoffs and the Celts are close to being sent home as well. The Stanley Cup playoffs are grinding towards their semi-finals with some interesting matchups like an improbable Tampa Bay vs. Boston.

The Players Championship will have the best golfers in the world on the course this week at Sawgrass in Florida. It’s month No. 2 of the major league baseball season, with stories shifting weekly, a couple of no-hitters and remarkable starts for several of the game’s struggling franchises like my Buccos.

And, then there’s the National Football League. America’s favorite past-time, the most popular team sport on the continent, is sitting on the sidelines, watching action in courtrooms and legal offices instead of the practice field and weight room.

Every day that gets ripped off the calendar is another day of tarnish on the NFL.

 A $9 billion a year industry is in limbo because of one word – greed, a disgusting trait shared by owners and players. Guys in thousand dollar Italian suits are working overtime, juggling the legal books, filing motions, destroying forests with the paper work and sucking a little bit of the spirit out of the game on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, this scene does not figure to change any time soon. The league waits for a court of appeals decision on the stay that was granted to the league so they could continue their lockout. There’s also the league’s appeal of Judge Nelson’s ruling on an injunction that lifted the league’s lockout, if only for a few days.

The level of disgust and resentment among the folks that pay the bills remains muted. Other than a bunch of free agents – both veteran and rookie – who have not yet been signed, the NFL is not out anything that it can’t replace. It’s May. It will be July before there even begins to be a sense of urgency in this labor battle. More than likely it will be August before there’s any serious chatter on negotiations.

That’s when some teams will begin to worry. But there are others that are worried right now. One of those is the Kansas City Chiefs.

Coming off a season where they made the playoffs and finished with a 10-6 record, interest in the red and gold nation should be running pretty high in this 2011 team. Internally, the Chiefs are saying they lead the league in new season tickets sold. Considering their season ticket base last year was approximately 40,000, it should not be a surprise that they’ve sold a bunch of new season tickets; they had them to sell.

However, the Chiefs still have a lot of seats to sell for the ’11 season. How many is not information they’ll share. I’m sure right now they are trying to come up with a number of seats that they are going to “kill” for the coming season. A seat that gets killed or blacked out gets wiped away for the entire season – or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. The NFL in the last few years has started to experience problems selling out and the subsequent television blackouts that come from stadiums that are less than full. Rules that were once set in stone are no longer so solidly set.

By finishing in first place last season, the Chiefs have a far better home schedule than they did in 2010, with visits by Super Bowl teams Green Bay and Pittsburgh. But their home opener includes an opponent (Buffalo) that no one cares about. In the first half of the season, only the Chargers on Halloween night provide any type of draw.

America’s financial fortunes remain rocky on Main Street, especially with the price of a gallon of gasoline about to hit $4 around the country. Spendable dollars now have to be saved to fill up the family truckster, especially when a fill-up costs $60 or more.

None of that is new information. The Chiefs knew they had a tough sell on all that to begin with. But now they’ve got other problems and they are happening right now, in the days when the NFL is sitting in courtrooms with motion hearings.

The Chiefs have ruled the roost at the Truman Sports Complex for the last two decades. The Royals have been one of baseball’s worst franchises, losing far more often than they won and they haven’t sniffed the post-season since the 1985 World Series.

Slowly – ever so slowly – current GM Dayton Moore is guiding the franchise on the road back. As they began a series in New York on Tuesday evening, the Royals were two games over .500, with the fifth best record in the American League. There was great excitement last week when the Royals called up one of their talented young players in Eric Hosmer.

A three-game series at Kauffman Stadium drew what the Royals announced as 30,690, 25,828 and 22,435 fans. That’s a weekend crowd of 78,953 fans.

In 23 home games this season the Royals are actually averaging fewer fans in the seats than in the same number of games last year. But in games 21-22-23 in the 2010 season, the Royals crowds were 21,876, 12,796 and 14,722, a total of 49,394 tickets.

Coming up after their road trip this week, the Royals have a 7-game home stand where they host the division leading Cleveland Indians for two games, last year’s American League champion Texas Rangers for two games and then a three-game weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals in another edition of the inter-league I-70 rivalry.

Some of those limited spendable dollars are going to get used visiting Kauffman. If the Royals continue to win, if they bring up more of their young studs from Omaha, the crowds are going to get bigger.

Now, throw something else into the mix – the NASCAR race in early June at the Kansas Speedway. The gear heads in KCK now have two premier races and bringing in the stock car boys will siphon off more money from the spendable pool.

Add to all that the bad public relations that comes with this current labor situation. The Chiefs didn’t help matters last week when owner Clark Hunt announced during a conference call for season ticket holders that parking prices were going up for the 2011 season. Supposedly the price to park a car at Arrowhead for game day will fall somewhere between $27 and $35.

So maybe it doesn’t seem like there’s anything going on in the NFL. But the game and the league are taking hits to its standing, credibility and popularity every single day. Right now, it’s causing ripples on the sporting pond.

The Chiefs must hope solutions come soon before those ripples become waves, they kind of big waves that can sink a season.

9 Responses to “A Quiet Roar … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 11, 2011  - Johnfromfairfax says:

    Well put Bob. There should be no sympathy on the part of fans at this point. We don’t need to choose sides in this fiasco, only note that the fight goes on despite record profits last season while the vast majority of the rest of us keenly feel the changes you detail. We continue to hope they can work through this and hold their greed in check long enough to settle and get back to some semblance of normal before they ruin the season and maybe the game as we know it. I have no faith they will do what’s right unless the courts force them to reconsider. We shall see… We shall see.

  • May 11, 2011  - Milkman says:

    Nice article. These billionaires and millionaires have no clue what us in the real world are facing every morning we wake up. It’s not a matter of where we want to spend our disposable income because a lot of us just don’t have it. It would be nice to see someone such as Clark Hunt acknowledge that and at least freeze the price to park, if not lower the prices until things get better. But these guys are used to seeing a certain amount of profit and will be damned if they will settle for less, no matter the reason. The greed both sides of this dispute are showing is totally disgusting. And when both sides get in front of the cameras and say they are concerned for us fans it really insults our intelligence. You are right Bob, every day this goes by it just wittles away a little more love I have for pro football.

  • May 11, 2011  - RW says:

    This is exactly the kind of environment that fosters the birth of a new league. You know, filling a void, providing an alternative, that sort of thing.

    I’m not saying it will happen but certainly it raises the possibility of a few intrepid souls getting together and exploring the possibility much like that time back in the late 50s when Lamar Hunt and his pals went forward and introduced us to the AFL. Back to the NFL and the current impasse, I think Roger Goodell has been exposed as an ineffective executive.

    Standing on the sidelines, wringing his hands and making statements like ‘negotiations have to start anew for any deal to get done’ is weak. I would expect a commissioner to get squarely in the middle of the problem and drag both sides back to some kind of compromise agreement even if it came with bloody noses and tramped on egoes.

    Goodell is hiding behind the skirts of his owners and that’s hardly a position that will ease the acrimony of the players and thus cause this labor war to continue with no realistic end in sight.
    Nuclear winter is here.

  • May 11, 2011  - CanadianChiefsFan says:

    They all need a swift kick in the head! The owners need to stop paying the players so much which in turn will bring down all the costs that the fans have to endure. But we all know that won’t happen!

  • May 11, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    The sun may not be shining on KC this winter as RW astutely stated.
    Imagine a cold wind from the north swirling around an empty parking lot at Arrowhead stadium.
    Imagine no BBQ with it’s sweet and pungent smoke searing the finest meats and recipes perfected on a grill.
    Imagine no fellowship, no laughter, no umbridled enthusiasm.
    Imagine not looking forward to Sundays or Mondays.

    Thoughts like these really piss me off. No tears or whimpering, just really pissed.

    I will never write off football. I love the game and the Chiefs too much. We will have a season this year. Not sure if it will be a full one. Everybody is a loser the way things are right now and Bob Nailed it on the head. Money is tight and their is competition on how and what we spend it on.
    Football could go to hell in a handbasket for a lot of folks if things are’nt resolved and resolved soon. As of today. I’m not going to spend any money on anything that has a Chiefs or NFL logo until the Lockout is resoleved. Anyone want to join me?
    Go Chiefs.

  • May 11, 2011  - Will says:

    I agree Bob. I seriously don’t think the owners or players care about how they look to the rest of us, all they care about is “winning” the game their involved in now! Litigaton! What they don’t realize is that a lot of people are getting turned off and unplugging from pro football. Because of the NFLs vast popularity the people involved in this mess seem to think “oh, they’ll be back (fans). Well, maybe, maybe not. Players, just keep demanding a huge percentage of the revenue and owners keep raising your ticket and parking prices, and sit back and watch as you price your fans right out of the game…to say nothing of horrific image you’re painting to your base.
    Having said that, there needs to be a drastic overhaul of the first year player’s compensation…paying someone who has never played a down in the league 40 million dollars guaranteed is beyond comprehension. Meanwhile, instead of getting excited about mini-camps and OTAs we wait for a Stay from an arbitration panel. What’s happening is a travesty, where the game itself takes a back seed to greed. Well said Bob!

  • May 11, 2011  - TimR says:

    Well put Bob.

  • May 11, 2011  - Stephen says:

    35 bucks to park? hell, my car better get in to the game at that price.

  • May 12, 2011  - RB says:

    We the fans will be the biggest losers out of this situation. We pay by buying over priced tickets, parking, concessions etc. We are the reason the TV networks are paying the big bucks to the NFL. In essence we are paying the big salarys and the lawyers that are running up billing hours like it’s a life and death situation. But in reality this all means nothing since we do not have a union to represent us. We can only control what we as indivuals can do. I cancelled my Chiefs season ticket account and will use that money to take a nice vacation. I have choices and the arrogance of the NFL owners and players is laughable. They cannot survive without us but I can survive without them. This is only the beginning of the anger that is slowly starting to burn among the fans.

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