US Open ticket practice shows enjoying sports growing more difficult, costly

Homer Simpson once declared, upon winning an award for gaining the most weight since high school, it was because he “discovered a meal between breakfast and brunch.”

With that in mind, quotes, notes and anecdotes for a Sunday morning repast:

Tennis’ U.S. Open now annually reminds me of the Broadway show “Oliver!” Based on Charles Dickens’ 1833 novel “Oliver Twist,” it’s about a ragged kid forced to hustle a meal or a tuppence in an impoverished section of London.

If they were to bring “Oliver!” back to Broadway today, tickets would cost a fortune, clearly aimed for purchase by the wealthy, thus the play’s theme and the entry fee would be at stark odds.

Same goes for the pricing for the U.S. Open — where a sandwich costs $23, a soda nine bucks, and tickets are attached to such obscene price tags that the box office refuses to deliver the news.

A call or email to the Open’s box office to inquire about the cost of tickets to the 2023 tournament is returned with the words, “We do not share our pricing,” followed by, “We hope to see you at the 2023 U.S. Open!”


While not revealing ticket prices, these communiques suggest that prospective purchasers contact Ticketmaster, infamous for marking up prices with tack-on “convenience fee” charges — with Ticketmaster’s take hidden within a non-itemized total price, charges that provide only convenience (and profit) for the sellers, not the buyers.

As always, tickets to popular events carry the stench of fleecing well above face value. There is an inescapable aroma of negotiated demand-driven pricing. The Open is allowing an outside entity, Ticketmaster, to establish its ticket-pricing. That is not just absurd, it’s malodorous.

Novak Djokovic waves to the crowd as he walks on court for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Getty Images

Yet, the Open, of late, has been steeped in social messaging about racial inclusion, gender equity and treating fellow humans with greater respect — despite increased misconduct by both players and patrons.

But it’s another “Oliver!” — primarily aimed for consumption by the wealthy.

A song from “Oliver!” is “Food, Glorious Food.” It’s sung by a chorus of poor kids longing for a special treat — “Hot sausage and mustard.” Hot sausage and mustard at the U.S. Open? Don’t ask.

Among the consequences of more than 22 Yankees games this season hidden behind streaming paywalls is the renewal of the reliance on radio, last known to be prevalent in the early 1960s.

To that end, John Sterling’s road games sub, Justin Shackil, has seized this season to become a reliably good surrogate for our eyes.

Novak Djokovic interacts with fans at the U.S. Open.
Novak Djokovic interacts with fans at the U.S. Open.

Fans cheer during a match between Beatriz Haddad Maia, of Brazil, and Sloane Stephens, of the United States in the first round. 
Fans cheer during a match between Beatriz Haddad Maia, of Brazil, and Sloane Stephens, of the United States in the first round. 

He’s a strong adherent to good, old-fashioned, but significant, nuts and bolts. He describes balls and strikes and even gives the names of both teams when giving the score at the close of half innings.

And, at 36, the Fordham grad has an applicable sense of Yankees history as well as what’s going on around the majors.

I listened to him all of last weekend when the Yankees played at the Rays, and not once did he fail to tell me something I wanted or needed to know.

No better ideas, continued:

As a Jets wide receiver from 1996-99, Keyshawn Johnson was an all-about-me braggart who was so self-absorbed that he belittled the overachievements of 5-foot-9 teammate and fellow receiver Wayne Chrebet. Johnson made himself difficult to indulge.

Of course, that made him, after he retired in 2007, a must-hire for ESPN — which sustained him despite his reliance on making unsupportable, attention-hogging noise. Finally, ESPN found him to be what viewers long ago knew: expendable.

Now, as another matter of course, he has landed on the Fox Sports 1 show “Undisputed” as a semi-regular with host Skip Bayless — a master of inconsequential, time-killing debate. Johnson provides another reason to skip Bayless in favor of whatever else might be on, including magic elixirs that grow hair and eliminate facial wrinkles.

Robert Griffin III is the double-standard antithesis of Doug Adler. Griffin’s ESPN employment was sustained though he spoke, on air, an unmistakably vile slur for blacks; Adler was fired over a fabricated claim of on-air racism.

Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson from the sideline during a game against the New York Giants in 1996.
Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson from the sideline during a game against the New York Giants in 1996.
Getty Images

Griffin recently checked in on the 49ers’ decision to trade QB Trey Lance, the third-overall pick in the 2021 draft, to Dallas for a fourth-round pick.

Via social media, Griffin wrote: “It’s official. The 49ers decision to give up three first-round picks to move up and draft Trey Lance is THE WORST DRAFT DAY MOVE OF ALL TIME.”

Interesting. Griffin, the 2012 Heisman winner, started two years at QB for Washington before flaming out and being released in 2015. He became a four-year backup, first with Cleveland then Baltimore.

Griffin was the second-overall pick in the 2012 draft. Perhaps it takes one to know one.

Funny, I saw Harrison Bader as among the least of the Yankees’ self-inflicted troubles.

All these college basketball and football “graduate transfers,” and still not once has anyone on any telecast identified the course of study in which they’re pursuing their masters or doctorate. Don’t they have to enroll for something other than completing their eligibility in a sport, something to do with college as in student-athlete? Just another con, I suppose.

HBO has eliminated the position held, for nearly 25 years, by Patrick Byrne, a willing and able director of sports and other media relations. Thanks for your help, Patrick.

What’s in your wallet? Update: The teams that opened the season with the three largest payrolls — in order, the Mets, Yankees and Padres — were, as of Friday, 188-215. All rank in the bottom third of MLB in batting average.

New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler during a spring training workout in Florida.
New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler during a spring training workout in Florida.
Newsday via Getty Images

Juan Soto, who signed with San Diego for a guaranteed $23 million just for this year, has struck out 114 times in 471 at-bats — 25 percent. Matt Carpenter, signed on the cheap — $6.3 million per to be the Padres’ DH — is batting .174, striking out in 35 percent of his ABs.

But for about $300, the Padres, who raised ticket prices for the third straight season, will sell you two good tickets to watch very bad baseball.

Dior Johnson, a basketball star from Saugerties, N.Y., who was recruited to Pittsburgh after enrolling in 10 high schools in six states (New York, Florida, Nevada, Virginia, Arizona, California) then committed to Syracuse, then to Oregon, is no longer at Pitt. Last year, he was charged with aggravated assault against a Pittsburgh woman. In other words, he’s available.

No Mets or Yankees game on Labor Day, one of the last days before many start school. Typical MLB “marketing” under Rob “Paywall” Manfred, for whom team owners recently voted a contract extension through 2028.

Pro athletes are remarkable as they continue to suffer from “flu-like symptoms” but never the flu. Ever hear a doctor say you have “bad back-like symptoms” or “headache-like symptoms”?

When I grow up, I wanna be an ACC college president. They now have the ability and power to vote on shifting major universities — Stanford and Cal — from the West Coast to the East Coast.

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