MONEY FOR NOTHING
Why the Astros' current proposal for fans in 2020 doesn't add up
For several months, there's been a lawsuit pending by some Houston Astros fans demanding that the team refund money spent on tickets during the 2017 season because the Astros were caught cheating. That ain't never going to happen. That's ancient history.
This week, that lawsuit was expanded to insisting that the Astros refund in full money spent on 2020 season tickets because, just accept it, those tickets are worthless because of the COVID-19 crisis. This part of the lawsuit makes sense.
"The Astros refuse to refund season ticket payments for the entire 2020 season in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus … with full knowledge that the full slate of Astros 2020 home games would not be played in front of fans at Minute Maid Park," according to the complaint.
I don't have an Astros bank statement in front of me, but my friend at MLB.com says the Astros sell about 25,000 season tickets (I think that's a little high) at an average price of $70 per game (sounds about right).
I'm not an arithmetic wizard – I was absent that day, but let's Cap'n Crunch the numbers. That's $70 (ticket price) times 25,000 (tickets sold) times 81 (number of home games) equals $141 million total take from season tickets. That's a rough estimate.
The Astros current position is, they're willing to refund season tickets for 33 games, the number of games that would have been played through May 31 – if the purchaser contacts the team by May 22. So let's subtract $57,750,000 for 33 games from the Astros' total season ticket haul. That leaves them holding onto roughly $83 million to keep in the bank gaining interest, invest in projects, overpay a .270 career free agent, or whatever. If the U.S. economy comes back from the dead, as President Trump insists it will, that $83 million plowed into the stock market could become … hey, I thought there wouldn't be any math on this test. Ticket buyers also could ask for credit on next year's tickets. The Astros would love that.
This is like when Britney Spears (or a bunch of acts) announces she's performing a concert in Houston that's more than a year away, but tickets go on sale 10 a.m. this Friday. She easily could sell $1 million worth of tickets. Who's holding onto that $1 million for more than a year? That's a lot of, as Dire Straits would say, money for nothing.
This is like the Rodney Dangerfield joke, where he borrowed $200 from a loan shark, paid him $50 a month for 10 years and still owed him $10,000. United Airlines called, they're telling the Astros to lighten up on their refund policy.
The Astros are willing to pony up refunds for 33 games. There are several scenarios for the resumption of the 2020 baseball season. Not one of them has 25,000 fans, plus single-game ticket buyers, packing Minute Maid Park. Even if a limited number of fans are allowed to return to stadium – there is a far-fetched plan that would include social distancing - the Astros still should offer refunds for all tickets purchased. Some fans justifiably might feel uncomfortable attending events with large numbers of people. Or they have health issues that would make attending games unwise. Would the Astros ticket office make them produce a note from their doctor? That's insane.
Just chalk up 2020 as a ghost year, refund every ticket if the purchaser wishes, build up some good faith with fans, and start from scratch in 2021. Baseball will still be around. The fans will still be here. Life will go on.
I know tennis isn't the most popular sport with readers, but I was emotionally moved by Reilly Opelka's speech after winning a TV-only exhibition tournament (no fans in attendance) last week. Opelka told viewers that he was happy to win the event, and commented that it was Saturday … which meant he could hit a Chick-fil-A for dinner on his way home. It was probably the most normal thing a tennis pro has ever said in a victory speech.
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