Wizards Economics 101: Season Tickets Are an Unconsciously Bad Investment

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I’ve been a member of the DC 12 Club, more commonly known as Washington Wizards season ticket holders, for the past two seasons.  With the playoffs approaching, it’s now time to decide whether I’ll opt into a third year of buying tickets to 41 NBA basketball games at the Verizon Center.  Every week my inbox is filling up with deadline reminders from my guest services specialist and renewal sweepstakes promotions from the Monumental sales staff.  I’m easily the biggest Wizards fan I know personally, but after two years of loyal patronage, it has become glaringly obvious that purchasing Wizards season tickets is a horrible investment.

I first purchased season tickets two years ago in the middle of the Wizards playoff series win against the Chicago Bulls.  What most appealed to me about signing up for the commitment was that season ticket holders were guaranteed cheap prices for the duration of the playoffs.  I was predicting a second-round win against Indiana and a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, so this was too good of a deal to pass up.  Instead, the season ended with me witnessing three home playoff losses to the Pacers and drunkenly heckling Ted Leonsis at the conclusion of Game 6.  Still, I was excited for the upcoming season and I had a strategy to recoup most of the season ticket costs.  After a year where I attended 13 games and almost broke even on the resale market, I re-upped for another year of season tickets.  The price had jumped almost 33%, but the WizKids were surging again and I was sure another deep run into the playoffs would help me offset some of those higher costs and increase the resale value for the upcoming season.  Again our season ended with me drunk at a Game 6 at the Verizon Center, but this time it wouldn’t be filled with a season where I made a good return on my season tickets.

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I’m told I have about a week to decide on whether or not to renew my season tickets.  The first year it was an easy choice to sign up for tickets.  Last year, I mulled over the decision and went back and forth before ultimately opting to renew.  This year, it was an easy “No, thank you.”  Let’s walk through the decision making process:

Rising Prices: When I first purchased Wizards season ticket for the 2014-2015 NBA season, my two tickets in section 117 (lower level behind the basket) were priced at $35/game for a season total of $2,975.  The next year, for the 2015-2016 season, the prices jumped 33% to $46/ticket for a season total of $3,950.  At that time, I could reasonably justify the price hike with the team’s progression, consecutive years with a good playoff run, and the promise that resale prices on regular season games would continue to rise.  This year, prices for the same seats have risen another 8% to $4,250, even though the team has struggled all year to remain competitive.  Of course, Ted Leonsis is running a business, and having a monopoly on NBA tickets in Washington, DC, he can set the prices however he sees fit.  But, as I’ve seen over two years, this owner is getting greedy and clearly setting the season ticket price above market value.

Resale Prices:  Most season ticket holders buy tickets not expecting to attend all 41 home games.  My strategy when I first signed up was to sell tickets to most big ticket games in order to recoup a majority of the costs.  As a real Wizards fan, I attend games to watch the home team, and I can have fun at every game, regardless of the opponent.  For the 2014-2015 season, I sold tickets on Stubhub, and even after attending 13 games, I made back $2,850 of the $3,000 season ticket cost on the resale market. 13 games for an average $6 per ticket was a steal.  But for this past season, I’ve only made back $2,500 on the resale market while attending or giving away tickets to 11 games.  This happened even after the switch to NBA Ticket Exchange, which yields higher payouts for the seller as compared to StubHub.  Unlike the previous season, I went to none of the top-ten marquee games, and found myself unable to attend, sell, or give away tickets on five different occasions.  The $50/ticket for game attended I’ve paid this year was higher than the season ticket price, and an even worse deal considering how much I would have saved by buying the same tickets on the resale market.  The rising season ticket price only makes the deal worse.  Below is the summary of what I’ve done with  season tickets thus far this year.

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It is clear that no matter how many Wizards games you envision yourself attending, it is always better to buy your tickets on an individual game basis.  Even though you’ll save money on the big-ticket games, those savings will be offset by all the games that the market determines are worth only a fraction of the season ticket prices.  For the amount of money I spent on Wizards tickets this year, by buying on resale tickets I could have seen the Wizards take on the Cavs, Warriors, Clippers, Spurs, Bulls, Cavs again, Clippers, Thunder, Kobe Bryant, and the Raptors.  That’s an incredible lineup of games considering the games that I actually went to.

Playoff Tickets: The biggest perk of being a DC 12 Club member is that you are guaranteed tickets to all playoff games at a very reasonable price (My lower level tickets were about $50/game for each seat.)  Obviously, playoff tickets go for much more on the resale market, and this can yield a lot of value whether you resell your tickets or decide to attend the games.  The farther the team goes, the more value you accrue as a ticket holder.  Admittedly, this was the major selling point for me when I first purchased season tickets.  As an optimistic fan, I foresaw deep playoff runs and huge resale values for my tickets.  However, the Wizards are currently outside looking in on the playoff picture, and there is a very real chance that purchasing season tickets will return zero playoff tickets.  Even if we (hopefully) squeeze into the last spot, we’ll have a matchup with the Cavaliers that will surely end our season.  The Cavs yield the highest return on tickets of any Eastern Conference foe, and lower level tickets will likely fetch $300 for a pair on the resale market.  Still, this means that the best possible return on playoff tickets is $600, hardly enough to validate buying a season’s worth of tickets.

Free Swag: Another supposed perk of being a DC 12 Club member is that you get awesome and exclusive Wizards swag.  I’ll admit that I love both the Wizards warm-up jacket and gym bag that I received in my two years as a season ticket holder.  But besides those once-a-season gifts, being a ticket holder doesn’t get you much.  You can redeem Monumental Rewards points for gifts and you get 20% off at the Wizards Store at the Verizon Center.  Personally, I can only use so many Wizards bobbleheads or water bottles and I’ve found many options for buying cheaper team apparel and jerseys.  Monumental also offers different opportunities for fan experiences, such as writing your name on the court or allowing you to shoot free throws on post-game.  These opportunities are limited to specific games and are limited in their availability.  In my two seasons as a season ticket holder, I’ve never been able to take advantage of one of these perks because either I was not attending that game, the opportunity was booked, or I was simply was not interested.

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KD2DC?: Buying season tickets could be a good idea if you believe that Kevin Durant will sign with the Wizards this summer, igniting interest in the team and causing resale values to surge.  Obviously, this is a far-fetched proposal at the present time.  Kevin is extremely unlikely to leave a title contender to come to a team that is struggling to make the playoffs.  His last appearance at the Verizon Center surely didn’t help our cause.  Even if KD does shock the world and come home, more than likely you’ll still have a chance to get in on Wizards season tickets.  From last season to this one, many season ticket holders have opted not to renew, and more are likely to do so this year with the higher ticket prices and underachieving team.  This means that when the time comes for Durant to make his decision, there will still be a fair amount of season tickets available and you’ll have a chance to delay your purchase decision until that time.

Bottom Line: In case the above points were not clear enough, let me sum up the morale of this blog post in one sentence: under no circumstances should you purchase Washington Wizards ticket for the 2016-2017 NBA season.  No matter how many games you plan on attending or what your budget is for NBA games, buying individual game tickets on the resale market is always a better financial decision.  Personally, I’ll plan on paying $750-$1,000 for tickets over the course of the season, and try to attend a nice mix of marquee and cheap games.  Weekday games against unpopular teams can be had at great prices, and I’ll likely look to attend 8-10 of these.  That will leave money for a few games against the likes of the Cavs, Warriors, and Spurs, as well as room in the budget to attend some playoff games.

I hope the Wizards are indeed in line for a deep playoff push this season, as well as the addition of the kid from PG.  Even if they are, and especially if they’re not, the simple finances of a being a Wizards season ticket holder dictate that being such for the upcoming season is a very poor financial decision.

 

(Not So) Bold Prediction: Wizards Are Going to the Eastern Conference Finals

Originally Posted 3/3/2016

Part of the fun of being a sports fan is making bold predictions.  You envision the best-case scenario for your team, the one that could happen if absolutely everything breaks right for your squad, and then you rationalize why it will happen.  Convincing yourself is easy- for a passionate sports fan this takes mere minutes- but it requires considerable time and thought to make sound arguments that you can defend to your buddies.  Most of the time, your fantasies will never be realized.  But making these types of guesses are great for giving yourself something to dream about, which is worth any hit you might take to your credibility as a sports guru.  And in those rare occasions when your sports dreams turn into reality… well, the only thing better than your team surpassing expectations is being able to say you called it from the beginning.

Earlier this week, I was going through my annual playoff-preparation process of making bold predictions for my Washington Wizards.  While rationalizing my arguments, what began as a hope-generating exercise quickly morphed into an epiphany.  The revelation: the Washington Wizards are going to the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals!  Before you dismiss this as the delusions of a DC enthusiast, bear with me and listen to the rationale.  Because while the odds of the WizKids winning the East is 40/1, the more you think about it, the more obvious it is that this team reaching the third round of the playoffs is the most plausible outcome.

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<> at Barclays Center on December 18, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

End of Regular Season: Just a couple weeks ago, before the All-Star break, it felt like a reach to argue that the Wizards were going to make the playoffs at all.  But after last night’s win against the Wolves, the team only sits ½ games behind the 8th spot in the East and only 2 ½ games out of 5th place.  The team is finally finding some reliable depth, as Alan Anderson and Markeef Morris are proving to be leaps and bounds above the replaced Dejuan Blair and Kris Humphries in terms of basketball skills.  Factor in Bradley Beal getting his legs back underneath him and Nene making timely contributions, and the Wizards are sure to make strong improvements over the first half of the season.  No longer are we relying on John Wall to put the team on his back game in and game out.  These developments, plus a manageable schedule and fading competition for the final playoff spots, will allow the team to move back into and upwards in the playoff picture.  At their best, the Wizards could contend for the 5th playoff or even 4th playoff seed.  However, once you consider the inevitable disappointing losses and #soWizards moments, it’s more likely they end up 6th, behind the Hawks and Heat, and ahead of the Pistons, Hornets, Pacers, and Bulls.  This will put the Wizards in line for a first round matchup with the 3 seeded Boston Celtics.

First-Round Series: At first glance, a series against the Celtics is a horrible matchup for the Wizards, who have gone a dismal 0-4 against Boston in the regular season.  However, a look at recent DC playoff history reveals that this is exactly the matchup our fans should be rooting for.  First, in the NBA playoffs, talent routinely trumps intangibles such as hustle and determination, as the game slows down, players increase their focus, and wins come down to big players making big plays.  Player for player, the Wizards’ roster is better than the Celtics’, and the playoff atmosphere will prove that.  John Wall has numerous physical advantages over his counterpart Isiah Thomas, and we’ve already seen that win-or-go home situations transform Bradley Beal into a clutch, superstar caliber player.  Add to that increased contributions during the playoffs from Nene and the aforementioned additions to the DC squad, and the Wizards will clearly have an upper hand to the home-court advantaged Celtics.  Sure, during the regular season, Brad Stevens has outclassed and out maneuvered Wizards coach Randy Wittman.  But as we’ve seen the past two seasons, playoff basketball turns Randy into a different animal, a master strategist who can make effective in-game adjustments and outwit opposing coaches who’ve previously bewildered him.  Moreover, Randy and his squad have a history of being road warriors, swiping away home-court advantage in their last four playoff series.  This matchup will prove no different, and the Wizards will wipe the floor with the Celtics, easily taking the first two games on the road and winning the series in five games.

Conference Semi-Finals:  After earning a few days of rest as a result of a quick playoff win against the Celtics, the Washington Wizards will head up to Toronto for a rematch from last year’s first round series against the Raptors.  Most likely, the Raptors will be coming off a longer, tougher series against the Bulls or Pacers, where they will have faced both scrutiny and self-doubt.  Though the team from the North will be a harder matchup for the kids from the nation’s capital than Boston, the WizKids will still have several critical advantages.  One that shouldn’t be underestimated is the anxiety that the Raptors will encounter from playing the team that swept them just a year ago.  Paul Pierce is no longer around to “call game,” but Toronto will surely still have demons to exercise from getting blown out at the hands of John Wall and Co. twelve months ago.  They’ll be pressing, making uncharacteristic mistakes, and the Wizards will be able to capitalize and take advantage.  It’s also important to note teams generally don’t win at important stages until they’ve been there before and learned the needed lessons that come from disappointment.  Everywhere in sports, from Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to Lebron’s Miami Heat to the Peyton’s Denver Broncos, we’ve seen that champions are forged through fire.  In recent history, only the Golden State Warriors have come out of nowhere to advance far in their championship pursuit without previously facing adversity and failure.  The Wizards have been two games away from the Conference Finals the past two seasons, while the Raptors haven’t made it out of the first round.  Consequently, the Wizards, and not the Raptors, will have the mental fortitude and required tenacity to advance to the next round.  Expect this series to end in Game 6 at the Verizon Center, where Wizards fans will actually turn out and give their team a much needed home-court advantage.

Eastern Conference Finals: After dispatching of the Raptors, the Wizards will finally move on to the next phase in winning an NBA championship: the Eastern Conference Finals.  Of course, this will be a matchup against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  I’ll wait until this occurs to make a case for how and why the WizKids will prevail, though this will be much harder to convince myself of.  But just getting here will be a rewarding experience and certainly the pinnacle to-date of every Wizards supporter’s fandom.

I acknowledge I haven’t ruled out the possibility that I’m blinded by my rabid loyalty to my home team and hopes for basketball glory in DC.  Still, at worst I’ll be out the $20 I’m wagering on the team to make the Conference Finals and at risk of being branded a Wizards fanatic.  But according to intuition and (reasonably) sound logic, the more likely result is that I’ll have some extra cash and be rooting for John Wall to end Lebron’s streak of consecutive NBA Finals appearances.  In either case, believing that the our team can achieve such a lofty goal gives our fans something to hope for and makes watching Wizards basketball all the more engaging and fascinating.  And when the Wizards do beat the Raptors to advance to a series against the Cavaliers, just remember that you heard it here first!

#WizKids #WizardsTalk #DCrising

Follow me at @WizzzKidd21 for more Wizards fan content

John Wall Frustration: Why Doesn’t the Wallstar Get More Love in DC?

Originally Posted 2/27/2016

Anyone who watches Washington Wizards basketball knows that John Wall is the franchise.  The guy does everything for this team: score, set up his teammates, rebound, swat shots, win dunk contests, etc.  He has superstar talent and there is arguably no other player that is depended upon as much as John Wall.  And yet, the Wallstar gets very little recognition nationally or even in the District.  Through his interviews and his body language during home losses, you can tell this is becoming a little frustrating for him.

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“The type of player I am, and person I am, character I have, I should be seen on commercials, in the nation’s eyes and the people’s eyes.  And I haven’t,” Wall told Michael Lee of The Vertical. “I was everywhere (in Kentucky),” Wall said.  “I ain’t got no billboard in DC.”  But why isn’t John Wall getting more love?  Especially in DC, where he made basketball relevant again for the first time since Agent Zero lost his mind and brought guns to the locker room.  Let’s explore some of the reasons:

Washington is Primarily a Football Town: The biggest reason is that though the DC area has been known for producing some standout basketball talent, in terms of fandom, the city is completely enamored by football.  The Redskins dominate the local sports radio, newspaper coverage, and barbershop conversations.  No matter how bad the team is, and its had a remarkable record of futility the past two decades, Skins fans always want to talk about how they’re only a player or two away from a Super Bowl run or what should be done with the third string quarterback.  The truth is that the Redskins are probably 20 years and a new owner away from ever being consequential in the NFL- but the fans will never realize that.  And as long as that’s the case, John and the Wizards will always being playing second fiddle.

John is Playing During a Golden Age for DC Sports Stars: Not only does John Wall have to compete with the Redskins mania, but he’s also playing during a time when sports superstars are plentiful in the District.  John is sharing the Verizon Center with perhaps the best hockey player in the world in Alex Ovechkin, and a few stops down on the Green Line, baseball phenom and NL MVP Bryce Harper is a must-see ticket.  When it comes to billboards and local TV spots, there’s only so many to go around.  And in the past few years, John Wall has faced stiff competition.

ESPN and TNT Won’t Broadcast Wizards Games: The Wizards aren’t the only team to experience this problem, but the national TV networks only schedule a handful of teams for the TV lineups, and Washington isn’t one them.  It’s hard to get national visibility when ESPN would rather play Kobe getting blown out by the Grizzlies for the last time than let some young stars get some shine.

DC is a Melting Pot of Other Team’s Fans:  With most federal agencies headquartered in and around DC, the area has become a collage of cultures from around the country and world.  But while this makes the area a great place to visit or live in, it makes it a horrible place to build a basketball fanbase.  Pacers, Blazers, Nuggets- No matter what team the Wizards play at the Verizon Center, there is always a strong contingent of opposing fans.  And because this is probably those fans’ one chance to see their team, they always go all out with gear, cheers, and support.  I was at a game last year, and found myself yelling to drown out Kings fans trying to turn “Let’s Go Wizards” into “Let’s Go Kings.”  And when we play a team with a large bandwagon, like we will in a few hours against the Cavs, the Verizon Center is essentially a neutral location.  Its no wonder John thinks fans are more excited about free Chickfila than a Wizards win- that’s the only thing that gets all fans on the same side!

“Wizards” Is a Horrible Name: A big part of this problem comes down to the organization’s horrible decision to name the team Wizards.  A name and accompanying logo is essentially a marketing campaign, and branding your basketball team as Wizards has to be one of the worst marketing choices in sports history.  Aside from the alliteration, what reason is there to associate your squad of supreme athletes with a fantastical being that uses sorcery?  Sure, Gandalf and Harry Potter were awesome when I was in sixth grade, but back then I was a nerdy, prepubescent boy that read more books per year than I said words to girls my age.  Swag and gear go along way toward making a particular team cool, and the image of a soothsayer twirling the ball on his finger didn’t do this team any favors in that department.  The organization has finally eliminated that horrible logo, but they need to just change the name back to Bullets if they want to connect with city residents- ones from DC- and get them backing the team’s all star.

Other Reasons: Of course, these are just a few of the reasons that John Wall isn’t better regarded in the city where he’s making basketball fun for fans again after half a decade of being the league laughingstock.  There’s the fact that he’s a distributor and play maker, rather than a flashy scorer who only tries to get buckets.  There’s also the fact that DC sports fans are conditioned to expect disappointment, and are growing reluctant to get behind a player or team until they’ve won something, so as to not be let down again.  And then there’s the fact the Ted Leonsis keeps raising ticket prices, and in doing so is pricing out the fans who would really get behind John and this team.

John is only 25 and entering into the prime of his career.  While he surely gets frustrated that he’s not getting more accolades and recognition from the basketball world, he has a fighter’s mentality and knows that he just has to keep working and improving until he does.  The front office can do a lot to cultivate the base of real WizKids fans- we do exist!- and let’s hope they do.  Making the playoffs this year will be critical to keeping momentum, and the fact is that a win or two in a series against Lebron James will put John on the map like nothing else can.  John Wall loves DC, so let’s love him back.