PORTLAND, Ore. (MainStreet) There are many things NFL fans will forgive in the name of football.
They'll let the 49ers move out of San Francisco to Santa Clara and give their core fan base a headache of a commute to Levi's Stadium. They'll let the league squeeze Minnesota taxpayers for $500 million of the costs of a $974 million stadium for the Vikings, force fans to watch games outdoors in the depths of Minnesota winter for two years while the stadium is built and pretend it did everyone a favor when it awards the town a Super Bowl in 2018. They'll let the league pry $200 million in tax money out of Atlanta to replace a stadium that's less than 20 years old and then point to Minnesota to show Atlanta what a deal it got.
NFL fans are already being punished for leaving their cushy, screen-and-snack-filled game day caves, turning off DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket and actually attending games this year. The league's average ticket price jumped 3.5%, to more than $84, according to Team Marketing Report. That's nearly triple the cost of the average Major League Baseball ticket.
That isn't exactly doing wonders for the argument that the NFL is a family-friendly experience. The average cost to take a family of four to a game, park, have a beer, hot dog and soda and go home with a program and a cap also jumped 4.4%, to nearly $479. Even if you're a beer-swilling single, however, it's a bad year. After beer prices dropped from 43 cents an ounce in 2012 to 41 cents an ounce last year, they're up to 44 cents an ounce this year.
That's $7.53 for little more than a pint, but that's not everywhere. In Ohio, fans of the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals still enjoy $5, 12-ounce beers for 42 cents an ounce. That's still costly compared with the 39 cents per ounce paid by folks watching the Miami Dolphins (20 ounces for $7.75). The cross-state Cincinnati Bengals have easily the lowest per-ounce price in the league at 36 cents per ounce (14 ounces for $5), but the biggest surprise may be in New England. Despite having the league's highest average ticket price at $122 and making the AFC Conference Championship last year, the 37-cents per ounce the team charges for beer ($7.50 for 20 ounces) is tied for the lowest price of any team that made the playoffs last year with the Carolina Panthers (also $7.50 for 20 ounces).
Other fans aren't nearly as fortunate. With help from Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index, we found the Top 10 beer prices in the league and the teams that keep tapping fans' wallets until they're kicked:
10. Tie: St. Louis Rams/Buffalo Bills/San Francisco 49ers/Washington Redskins.
Price of a small draft beer: $9 for 20 ounces in St. Louis, D.C. and Buffalo. $6.25 for 14 ounces in San Francisco.
Price per ounce: 45 cents
That's a whole lot of nerve, Rams and Bills concessions folk.
We'd expect this from the 49ers, who just lost the NFL Championship by a hair, play in one of the most expensive cities in the country and have fancy new digs in Santa Clara. We'd even expect it from Washington, where owner Daniel Snyder wants to replace 17-year-old FedEx Field and still seems to think that Robert Griffin III will be an elite quarterback despite a shredded leg and a rough supporting cast.
But St. Louis? This town was built on beer, but that isn't going to make fans more sympathetic when the team hasn't made the playoffs since 2004, hasn't had a winning record since 2003 and has watched the team's owner stomp his feet for a new stadium and buy real estate in a Los Angeles sports complex just to show he's serious about potentially moving the team back to the home it left nearly 20 years ago. To top it off, the team jacked up the price of tickets 8.1% despite the fact that big ticket franchise quarterback Sam Bradford blew out his ACL again and will miss the entire season.
And Buffalo ... seriously? Your starting quarterback is basically your last man standing, your front office just bilked the surrounding community out of $200 million to keep the team around for a scant eight years and you're still playing a home game a year in Toronto. People were just overcoming their fear of Y2K the last time the Bills were in a playoff game on Jan. 8, 2000, and the team has managed only one winning season since a decade ago in 2004. Your fans have to brave lake-effect snow and sub-freezing temperatures just to keep the team on local television late in the season and you charge them more for beer. If anything, that fan base deserves a round of Labatt's on the house.
But no. Instead, they've spent all summer wondering who'll take over for late owner Ralph Wilson, whether some aging hair rocker from New Jersey or some ill-coiffed loudmouth from New York City would move their team to Toronto and whether Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula had the money and influence to keep the team around. Yes, all that deserves a beer that Bill's fans aren't getting.
6. Green Bay Packers
Price of a small draft beer: $7.50 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce: 42 cents
They somehow managed to win a division with an 8-7-1 record, managed to lose to the 49ers in cold playoff weather that Packers fans routinely rave about and still managed to make a bad thing look good.
The 12-ounces of beer the pack sold for $6 last in 2012 looks cheaper on the surface, but that's 50 cents an ounce. Fans at Lambeau Field are paying $1.50 more upfront, but a whopping eight cents less on the unit price. So, yes, in Green Bay a $7.50 beer is actually a better deal than $6 suds.
Even if you're still feeling ripped off, the best part of being a Packers fan is the team's community ownership. If you're a shareholder and hate the price you're paying for what's essentially the life's blood of Wisconsin, make some noise about it.
5. Detroit Lions
Price of a small draft beer: $9 for 20 ounces
Price per ounce: 45 cents
Those prices aren't from Team Marketing Report, but from Lions spokesman Ben Manges. TMR originally quoted a price of $8 for 12 ounces as Ford Field's cheapest beer. That's 67 cents an ounce, which caught the attention of folks within the Lions organization.
While that's what the team charges in the suites, Manges says 93% of the beers sold during Lions games go for the figure we listed above. The team sells an $8 beer in its stands, but in 16-ounce bottles. That's 53 cents an ounce, but the Lions say that only accounts for about 6% of their beer sales.
What all of this obscures is the fact that the Lions have raised their draft beer price 50 cents or roughly three cents per ounce from 2012. That wouldn't hurt nearly as badly if the team hadn't gone 4-12 and 7-9 in the two years since making its first playoff appearance since 1999. Or if it wasn't just the latest losing campaign for a team that's only had winning seasons twice since 1997. They also haven't won a playoff game since 1991, which was their only playoff win of the Super Bowl era. Last year's stumble was particularly special, however, as 6-3 optimism was dashed by a 1-6 end to the season that included a last-minute loss on a 61-yard field goal by the Baltimore Ravens' Justin Tucker. Not surprisingly, coach Jim Schwartz was fired for leading the whole mess.
The Lions' concessions people can get as angry as they'd like, but beer served at Ford Field at any price is only numbing fans to the continued pain inflicted by their team.
4. Oakland Raiders
Price of a small draft beer: $9.75 for 20 ounces
Price per ounce: 49 cents
Man, what happened to the kinder, gentler Mark Davis?
The Raiders' owner was seen as a benevolent respite from his late father, Al, but has turned O.co Coliseum into the House Of No.
Want to accept the 49ers' offer to share a stadium in Santa Clara? No. Want to let baseball's Oakland A's sign a 10-year lease at the new Coliseum while you make up your mind? No. Want to hear reasonable offers from anyone before jetting off to San Antonio and pretending you have any concrete plans to move the team there? No.
Nope, instead the Mark Davis Raiders are going to continue the "Commitment To Excellence" his father began by continuing to lose and have home games blacked out on television. Only in Oakland were two 8-8 seasons in 2010 and 2011 considered steps in the right direction. The Raiders walked back expectations quickly with two straight 4-12 campaigns played in a building so decrepit that the sewers back up into the locker room.
In the meantime, it's making fans shell out $2.75 more for its smallest beer than it did two years ago, but reducing the cost by a scant 1 cent per ounce. If new pickups Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Tuck and Khalil Mack don't come through, it could be yet another bleak year in the Black Hole.
3. Tie: Seattle Seahawks/Pittsburgh Steelers
Price of a small draft beer: $8 for 16 ounces
Price per ounce: 50 cents
The Super Bowl champion pretty much has free rein to do whatever it wants with beer prices, and Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and company gave Seahawks concessionaires license to raise prices to the roof with their domination of the Denver Broncos in February.
Forget that this is a town where there are countless small breweries and brewpubs that will give you pints of great beer for about half the price you'll find at CenturyLink Field. Forget that this is a town where, for the rest of the year, soccer outdraws baseball and hiking and biking outdraw just about any summer sport that keeps you seated and indoors. This is Seattle, and football season brings back the cold and rain. In that environment, a winning Seahawks team is about the only bright spot you can find. There will be a time to complain about high stadium beer prices, but this isn't it.
It was kind of the opposite situation in Pittsburgh, where a second 8-8 season in a row definitely has the Yinzers nervous. Coach Mike Tomlin tried tripping people to give his team an edge, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked like he was finishing his 50th year in the league and his surrounding roster of veterans including Troy Polomalu and Heath Miller are deteriorating before our eyes. The team's two top running backs were arrested for smoking marijuana and it was just about the most exciting news Steelers training camp had to offer. It's tough to raise prices on Iron City and Penn Brewery beers under those circumstances, so just don't.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Price of a small draft beer: $8.50 for 16 ounces in Dallas
Price per ounce: 53 cents
NFL beer prices came down from the highs of 55- to 58-cents-per-ounce in 2012. That left the Cowboys with the dubious distinction of serving the most expensive beer in the league despite not raising beer prices since last season.
In owner Jerry Jones's stadium wonderland of giant screens at midfield and dancing girls in the cages around the stadium, there is no public transportation to games whatsoever. That means you're either taking a cab or paying $75 for parking, well over the $31 league average. Want a program? That's $10, or more than double the league average of $4. Jones is aware that the Cowboys haven't won a Super Bowl since 1995, have won one playoff game since 1997 and haven't made the playoffs since 2009, though, and he's held the line on prices for much of the life of his new stadium.
The team even gave AT&T naming rights to Cowboys Stadium to generate more cash. Meanwhile, the Cowboys just finished their third-straight 8-8 season, the defense is leaky, special teams are nothing to write home about and the offense hinges on the health of 34-year-old Tony Romo -- who has been sacked 35 times or more in each of the past three seasons. Head coach Jason Garrett is a depressing 29-27 since taking over the team in 2010, which has only made JerryWorld's bells and whistles more welcome distractions amid the disappointment.
Holding the line of beer prices is great and all, but keeping Romo healthy and finishing atop a very winnable NFC East would make fans in Big D far happier.
By Jason Notte