By Kevin M
When is it acceptable, if ever, to sell your season tickets to a huge game for financial reasons only (i.e. – you’re in town, no family member is sick, you have no work obligations the next morning). For example, prices for Heat/Spurs Game 7 tickets were pretty ridiculous. If you owned a pair of average seats in the lower bowl and could get 8-10x’s face value, at what point do you start thinking like an investor and cashing out on your overvalued asset? Does your fandom for that team automatically get revoked if you sell?
First of all, you can’t let the ends justify the means so you can never retroactively look back at the decision and determine after the game whether you made the correct call. If they lose and you sold your tickets, you don’t get to claim you made the right decision because they lost. Same holds true if they had won – that doesn’t automatically mean it was the right decision when it was made.
There are two main sliding scales at play here, and they’re inextricably intertwined: your level of fandom and your financial situation.
If you own a pair season tickets in the first few rows (the ones that were being sold on the secondary market for 5 figures), you probably don’t need the money and can very easily turn down the chance to make a huge profit without much guilt. The question doesn’t apply: you’re attending the game! But if you’re a relatively middle-class family and season tickets are one of the things you treat yourselves to every year, when do the resale prices start to justify a decision to “buy low, sell high?”
As a season ticket holder, we’ll assume you are a die-hard fan or very close to it. You wouldn’t be forking over that kind of money for something you were only half-interested in. It would pull at your heartstrings to NOT attend the game. So you as a sports fan are in direct conflict with your ‘prudent decision-maker’ self.
On one side, you sell your tickets. Selling tickets for Game 7 could pay for a significant portion of next year’s season tickets, or a mini-vacation, or the down payment on that new car you need. Plus, watching the game at home has become a fulfilling option these days with HD, mic’d up coaches, replays, etc. You wouldn’t pay for parking and you wouldn’t pay for $9 beers and $6 hotdogs. Hell, you could go to a bar, spend $100 of your new money to have the time of your life watching the game with tons of other fans, and still walk away with a HUGE profit. With this in mind, can you justifiably turn down a 10-fold profit?
On the other side, you attend the game. Like Coach Spo said, the two best words in sports are “Game Seven,” especially when it’s Game 7 of The Finals, and not the Conference Semi’s. Can you really pass up the chance to attend it? Best case scenario here is being ‘in the building’ for a magical and historically famous game that your team wins. Worst case scenario here is that your team gets beat handily. You wake up the next day with tons of “what-ifs” scrolling through your brain. What if I had watched it on my couch? What if I had an extra $2,000 in my bank account? What if the wannabe socialite next to me didn’t wear sunglasses indoors?
If they win and you were there to see it, you won’t care what amount of money you might have made by selling your ticket. You’ll have had the time of your life, and you’ll be bragging about being there to anyone who will listen for the rest of your days on Earth.
If they lose, well….if you could afford season tickets in the first place, you’re not dying for money. Plus, you paid for your playoff tickets several weeks ago when the team mailed out their playoff notices. The money is gone and has been for a while. You essentially attended the game using house money. No matter the outcome, you got to experience it for much cheaper than market rate. But the opportunity cost of attending a losing effort is what really stings. Your team didn’t win AND you passed up the chance to make a huge profit.
In making the decision whether to attend the game or sell your tickets, I think you have to assume your team will win – after all, that’s the outcome you’d want whether you were attending the game or watching it on TV. So the decision becomes, “where do I want to watch my team win the title?” The answer, then, is a no-brainer: you have to attend the game.
As I’m writing this, I’ve decided that I could NEVER pass up the chance to attend a Game 7 in the Finals if it involved one of my teams. The way I feel about my teams, how much joy they bring me when they win, I’m not selling my tickets. That’s the thing about sports…they don’t always allow us to make prudent decisions. Why do we live and die with every shot, or every fumble, or every strikeout? Because we’re delusionally attached to our teams, that’s why! I think you have to attend the game, regardless of what price you could get for the tickets. But I realize not everybody would be so willing to walk away from a potentially huge profit. So if you did sell, at what point would I not be able to give you shit or knock your fandom? This is an extremely important piece of the puzzle. Sports enthusiasts take their fandom very seriously.
The answer to the fandom question is more related to the amount you could profit expressed as a % of your income rather than a % return on the investment. By using this method, it inherently adjusts for different priced seats. For example, assume a guy makes $100k a year. Let’s say face value is $10 per ticket and he could sell them for $200 each. That’s essentially a 20x return on the investment but he’s only generating a profit of roughly .20% of his annual income ($190/$100,000) per ticket. That’s hardly gonna make a difference to him. But let’s say face value was $400 per ticket and he could sell them for $2400 each (for easy math). He’s getting back 6x what he originally put in (which is less than the 20x in the example above) but it’s generating a profit of 2% ($2000/$100,000) of his annual income per ticket. A lump-sum payment at any point in the year that equals 4% (2% profit for each of the 2 tickets) of your annual income is pretty significant and would almost assuredly be the difference between a good year and a great year. Do the math right now for your own situation. How hard would it be to turn down a profit of 4% of your annual income?
My position is that if you can generate a profit at or above 3% of your annual income for the transaction, you can sell your ticket(s) without risking your fandom. That’s like getting a raise, or a year-end bonus. I’m still gonna give you a lot of shit for selling your tickets, but earning a lump-sum profit equal to 3% of your annual income is too big in these still-recovering economic times to turn down, and it certainly justifies your decision. So you cou can still claim your fandom for 3%, but you’ll have to tell me about it tomorrow…
I’m on my way to the game!