What do Bears think of fans? A 3-13 season, a ticket-price hike
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This might be my favorite euphemism of all time. In the second paragraph of their press release announcing extensive ticket-price increases for the 2017 season – after going 3-13 in 2016 – the Bears referred to the changes as “price adjustments.” They could say this because the cost of 2,000 seats at 61,500-seat Soldier Field reportedly will decrease next season.
If what the franchise is doing is a price adjustment, then war is a peace modification, world hunger is a food correction and my lifelong inability to jump high is a celebration of gravity.
The Bears are not tone-deaf. They do hear you, the fans. They simply don’t care what you are saying. Anybody in his or her right mind would understand that coming off a miserable three-victory season would be the absolute worst time to raise ticket prices. The mere prospect of raising prices should have led somebody, anybody at Halas Hall to bang a shoe on a table and say, “We can’t afford to alienate our fan base any more than three straight losing seasons and one playoff appearance in the last 10 years already have!’’
But we’re not dealing with people who can discern smart from not smart, and they can’t even use concussions as an excuse for a lack of good sense.
The McCaskeys talk glowingly about their appreciation for Bears fans’ loyalty, even as they’re ritually preparing the shafts. Here’s what team president Ted Phillips said Wednesday to season-ticket holders in a letter announcing the price increase:
“Thank you for your support in 2016. It was a challenging and disappointing season. One we will not repeat. We shared your frustration and do not take your passion and loyalty for granted. We are humbled by your dedication to the Bears and know we must be better.”
Ted, baby, sweetheart: How about you and the Bears get better on your own dime? Why is the financial burden on the fans for the weak product that the franchise has ladled out like gruel for so long?
The truth is that the Bears absolutely take the fans’ passion and loyalty for granted. The proof is in the “price adjustment.’’ If they were worried that Bears fans would turn their backs on the team because of a price increase, they wouldn’t have dared to add to the cost of watching a game at Soldier Field. If they had anything resembling a conscience, they wouldn’t have considered a price hike.
If you believe the arrow is pointing up for the Bears, that’s wonderful. They’re selling youth, what a lot of other sports franchises are selling these days. But it takes massive amounts of gall to attach a more expensive price tag to hope. And that’s really all Bears fans have right now. When the Cubs were bad, they at least could point to Kris Bryant in the minors and say, “See?’’ The Bears shrug and point in the general direction of the horizon.
“We are positioned for an exciting offseason with the third overall pick in the draft and one of the best salary cap situations in the NFL heading into free agency,’’ Phillips said in his letter to season-ticket holders. “We will take advantage of these assets to bring in more talent to strengthen the foundation we have in place.”
I keep waiting for the bogus assertion that the money from the price increase will be used to sign better players. Sports franchises use it all the time to justify their actions. We’re led to believe that if there isn’t a price increase, the team won’t be able to pay top free agents. Haven’t the Bears been studying their How to Fool the Fans handbook?
The franchise hadn’t raised ticket prices since 2014. There seemed to be a good reason for that: They hadn’t fielded teams that merited more expensive tickets. That’s what makes Wednesday’s news so bizarre. The Bears are coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history. This is how you thank your fans? If chairman George McCaskey had a gambling problem, I think I’d actually feel better about everything.
McCaskey talks often about the team’s devotion to winning, but very little in the family’s actions backs that up. The root of the problem wasn’t in acquiring Jay Cutler, though that was bad, or even in giving him a contract extension, which was terrible. It’s that the McCaskeys can’t seem to hire the right people to make those sorts of decisions. There’s no one to tell them the right road to take.
There’s no one to say: “A ticket-price increase after a 3-13 season? Are you out of your mind?’’
There’s only someone to write to season-ticket holders, “Full payment is due on March 31.’’