31 August 2007

Common Sense Upside Down is Football Season

Athens is a very odd town. A true college town - erm, city - we have an amazing music scene, cheap college eats, and an eclectic make-up. But for some reason, Athens is upside down. Pay differences between faculty, admin, and those who actually work (IT, groundskeepers, food services, and grad students) aside, UGA is above all things, a football town. The Bulldogs are known for having great gymnastics and tennis teams, but football is what brings in the real money. And it's this fact that is the start of our problems.

The first major problem is tickets - UGA is a big school, with about 35,000 students total - including part time, "super seniors" , and grad students. And we have a stadium to match - Sanford Stadium holds more than 90,000 spectators. And yet not every student gets season tickets. Even giving every student season home tickets and allotting 5,000 for away students (and with the exception of major games such as USC, Auburn, and Tech, that's more than enough - I don't know of many people who'll make the trip out from Oklahoma to watch OSU take on UGA), there would still be enough room for more than 50,000 alumni and other fans. I understand that alumni tickets are a great way to bring in support. But the alumni had their chance to be in the sea of red during their four (or five or ten) years at UGA. And what better way to encourage alumni support than to treat the alumni well while they're still students? But instead, part time and fifth year students are on the bottom of the totem pole, my grad student friends only get three or four games, and not even full-time juniors get full season tickets.

Many students buy parking spaces on campus to keep from having to walk to class. Others buy parking spaces on campus because they live on campus. The lot you get assigned isn't determined by where you live. On game days, parking is a premium. It can cost anywhere between $10 to $25 - and that's parking a mile from the stadium. For a very select few (aka the big donors to UGA), parking is a gift from the university and is located on campus. However, this "gift" is actually just a student's parking space. Students who pay sever hundred dollars to park on campus, even those who live on campus, are forced to move their cars to parking lots a few miles from the main campus.

I live in a very nice condo. It's in a gated complex with a pool, a club house available for rent, courtyards in every building, and a laundry/tv/fitness center in the basement of my building. And plenty of parking. But many of the parking spaces cost $10,000. Yes, $10,000. They're "tailgating" spaces. That means that the people who buy them use them, on average, once a week...during the fall. Less than half a mile away is another tailgating lot. The spaces there cost $20,000. This doesn't include an overhang or a grill. Just the parking space. And it's about a mile to the stadium (though the spaces here do come with a shuttle to campus and a tailgate party where you can watch the game if you, like most people in town for the event, don't have tickets). I also go to a very nice church. It's a two minute walk from my place, small congregation, and home to Our Daily Bread, a ministry that provides meals to the poor and homeless. Some mornings I walk by on my way to work and see them asleep in the area around the church. $10,000 for a piece of asphalt - two minutes away from those who need all the help they can get just to get a warm meal.

On the note of tailgating, as you can tell from the real estate, it's very big business around here. I drove around tonight, nineteen hours before kickoff, and people were already setting up their tents and grills. Athens turns into a zoo. Historic North Campus gets trashed. As does the rest of Athens. You can walk around after a game and find the abandon food - much of it unopened - along with all of the trash from the day. Imagine a dump, add some beautiful old buildings, and you have campus on game night. Between the cost of food, clean up, and replacing the grass (which had to be done every spring because the lawn can't stand up to that type of a beating), the amount of money that gets spent every season is absurd. Especially when you figure in how much students pay just to take a semester's worth of classes.

I'm not a football fan, so maybe I just don't get it. I would appreciate a good season this year, but I'm not prepared to spend a ton of money just to be on the same campus as the game. But even if I were a fan of the sport and not just the team, I would hope I would have the good sense to find a better use for my money. Perhaps giving it to Our Daily Bread instead of Tailgate Station. As a student who didn't bother to spend the time or money to get tickets this year, I plan on listening to Larry Munson call the home games and maybe enjoy the USC and Auburn games from the bridge in front of the stadium. The best parts of the season are, apparently, free.

I wonder how long it will take UGA to start selling tickets to stand on the bridge...

Rock on.