Sports Take a Hit in Economic Crisis

Often a Diversion From Reality, Some Sports Brace for a Taste of the Real World

Americans have always turned to sports for emotional release during tough times. Community sports flourished during the Great Depression and in the 1930s, baseball – “America’s pastime” – served as an inexpensive diversion from the nation’s financial woes.

But in those times, admission to games cost less than a dollar. Today the average price for a ticket is $25.40 .

As the country plummets into a recession and we are constantly reminded that the economic situation could become as bad as it was during the Great Depression, people have begun to cut expendable costs out of their budgets.

But while it is yet to be seen the effect that job loss and a money crunch will have on season ticket sales, we have already seen the impact that large corporations’ struggles can have on professional sports players, franchises and leagues.

Although President Bush approved a bailout of the U.S. auto industry Friday, the sports world had already felt the pinch of the money problems facing the Big Three auto companies.

Perhaps most affected by the auto industry’s woes is stock car racing. Not only do many of NASCAR’s drivers race American cars, the auto companies also provide technical support and sponsorship.

Earlier this month, NASCAR CEO Brian France, realizing that a crumbling auto industry may bring about the demise of his league, asked Congress to support the Big Three’s wishes for federal financial help.

But even with the bailout money, auto executives will have to take a careful look at where they spend this taxpayer money. As plants for American auto companies around the world begin to shut down during the holiday season, it’s pretty safe to say that NASCAR will not be at the top of the list of priorities.

Cadillac, a branch of General Motors, already cut its partnership with The Masters golf tournament and it’s Buick brand discontinued its $7 million deal with Tiger Woods. Likewise, sponsorship of sporting events and stadium naming rights have also taken a hit from the Big Three and other corporations.

To have a company’s name atop an arena or stadium costs major bucks. Citigroup bought the naming rights of the New York Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field for $400 million over 20 years before they received a bailout from the government.

But as the Dallas Cowboys end an era at Texas Stadium, they still have not secured naming rights for their new arena, which is scheduled to host its first game in just eight months. The same goes for the new Giants-Jets stadium in the Meadowlands.

Even the Super Bowl, the biggest event in American sports, has taken a hit, with some companies pulling sponsorship and vowing not to spend money on those hot-ticket television advertisement spots.

This recession could easily have a dramatic impact on the future of American sports. And while the public looks for a way to divert its attention from falling stock prices and layoffs, we can only hope that there will be a world of professional sports to turn to.