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The Scam of Preseason NFL Games

This little guy has probably never even seen a game at Qualcomm Stadium.
This little guy has probably never even seen a game at Qualcomm Stadium.

Every year, I am asked repeatedly if I will be attending the next San Diego Chargers preseason game and my response is always the same: "I don't go to preseason games. In fact, I protest NFL preseason games. They're a scam." Then I start listing all the ways in which they're a scam. I end up giving this speech at least once. This season I've decided to write it down.

Ticket Prices

This one is the most obvious. There is no difference in ticket prices between an NFL preseason game or regular season game. Seriously. Not one dollar difference.

Want to see the Chargers home opener against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2? The cheapest ticket, in the seat closest to the sun, will run you $54 (and, if you buy online, get ready for those Ticketmaster fees).

Want to see the Chargers backups and third-stringers-that-won't-make-the-roster go up against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday? The cheapest ticket, in the seat closest to the sun, will run you $54 (and, if you buy online, get ready for those Ticketmaster fees).

Tell me how that's equal value. Tell me how watching guys that aren't going to make the Chargers go up against guys that aren't going to make the Packers in an exhibition game is the same as watching the Chargers starters go up against the Titans starters in a game that might determine if either team makes the playoffs. Especially when the NFL charges more for playoff games than it does regular season games.

So, just to recap, the NFL thinks preseason (exhibition) games and regular season games are worth the same to the fans, but playoff games are worth more. Am I the only one who finds fault with that theory?


Oh, you thought because you were going to a meaningless exhibition that you might not have to pay that $25-per-car parking fee? I bet that, in your fairytale world, the food and drink inside the stadium would be a bit cheaper as well. It's not.

Per Diem

The largest cost associated with running an NFL team is salary. Since every team is near the same salary cap figure, every team is paying about $7.5 million in salary for each of the 16 games during the regular season. The thing they never tell you is that they only pay for those 16 games.

It's true, there are no "game checks" for players in the preseason. In fact, "game checks" in the postseason come from the NFL directly (instead of the team) and are quite low in comparison to most game checks earned by the "star players" around the league.

During the preseason, players are given a per diem based on their tenure. It's meant to cover their food expenses and amounts to almost nothing. In the practices and preseason games you see, the players are essentially playing for free. Those savings get passed on to.....well, no, not you. It goes straight into the pocket of the NFL owners.

Season Ticket Holders

This might be the worst part of the whole scam. NFL owners know that they're not going to get sell-out crowds to pay regular-season prices just to see Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates play one series and play catch on the sidelines. So, to sell more of these over-priced tickets, they force season ticket owners to purchase them as part of their package.

Think about that. The NFL is taking its best and most die-hard fans, and they're milking them for every last worthless penny. Now, with the occasional exception to this rule, fans can buy single-game tickets without being forced to purchase preseason tickets. Is it a few bucks more than the season tickets? Sure, but you're saving in not having to pay for exhibition games before the season.

A Better Plan

A $54 ticket. $25 for parking. At least another $20 for a beer and some food. When you add all of these things up, it can get rather expensive. When you factor in that most people aren't going to the games by themselves, it quickly gets out of control.

The NFL has priced itself out of the lower-class and possible even the lower middle-class. The NFL also probably doesn't care, they're not exactly desperate to grow their fanbase at the moment. However, it's dangerous to ignore an entire group of people when you don't need to.

The NFL preseason games are cheaper to put on for NFL owners and it's a lesser product. It should be used to grow the audience. For every family that can't attend a game and drop $300, give them an opportunity to take their family to the game for $100 and you'll have them as fans forever. Then, when the kids grow up and have $300, they can take their own family to regular-season games.

You see how this works? It's an easy opportunity that the NFL isn't just missing, they're using it as a soap box that they can get up on so that they can more easily spit in the faces of their fans.


No, I won't be at the Packers game on Thursday. I won't be at any of the San Diego Chargers preseason games this season or any season after this until the NFL and its owners come to their senses and stop charging regular-season prices for meaningless exhibition games of lesser NFL talent. If you have the chance, I recommend you do the same.