For the hundreds of players competing to make a National Football League roster, the NFL’s four-game exhibition season is the most important thing in the world.
But the same sense of urgency isn’t shared by most fans, who tend to stay away from preseason games. That will be particularly true tonight, August 29, and tomorrow, August 30, when the NFL concludes its exhibition schedule with 16 games spread out over the two evenings.
The big names who usually play no more than a half in any of the first three preseason games won’t be seen at all in the finale as teams look to keep their stars healthy and audition little-known players for the final few backup spots on the roster. Such an equation isn’t all that appealing to fans who are asked to pay regular season prices for exhibition games. The cheapest ticket to see the Philadelphia Eagles host the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday, August 30 is $79.70 — the exact same price for the most inexpensive seat at the Eagles’ regular season home opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, September 16.
“Everyone’s gearing up for Opening Day and they know that they’re not going to see [Eagles stars] Michael Vick…DeSean Jackson [or] LeSean McCoy,” Jeremi Conaway, the vice president of Philadelphia-based Wanamaker Ticket Office, told TicketNews. “You’re not going to see the superstars [Thursday].”
It doesn’t help fans that they often have to pay regular season prices just to park the car: The Jets charged $50 for parking for each of their two preseason games at MetLife Stadium. Nor does that count the nearly $30 in tolls fans from Long Island would have to pay to get over the bridges between the Island and East Rutherford, New Jersey.
So it’s no surprise MetLife was just about empty around 11 p.m. Sunday, August 26 as Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow barked out signals with the Jets trailing the Carolina Panthers by five points with two seconds to play and the ball at the Panthers’ 27-yard-line.
Such a scene in the regular season would have been accompanied by 70,000-plus screaming people, but there was little reaction when Tebow’s pass sailed beyond the grasp of tight end Hayden Smith in the end zone as the Jets lost, 17-12, to fall to 0-3.
And while the Jets’ offensive ineptitude — they are the first team since 1977 to fail to score a touchdown in its first three preseason games — has many in the New York area predicting doom and gloom for the green and white, the truth is fans also avoid preseason games because they aren’t much of an indicator of regular season success.
In 1992, the Jets went 5-0 in the preseason before going 4-12 in the regular season. More recently, the Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the preseason in 2008, right before they endured the NFL’s first 0-16 regular season.
Still, while the results don’t really count and there aren’t many sightings of superstars, the preseason does provide opportunities to find bargains on the secondary market for fans who are passionate about football and families who want to see the NFL at a discounted price.
Conaway said Wanamaker sells plenty of tickets below face value and that the premium seats between the 30-yard-lines can go for list price or a little more to fans who want the chance to see an NFL game — even an exhibition one — up close.
“It’s a really good time for fans that have never seen the stadium, for kids that haven’t been to that stadium to get to go and experience the full NFL experience without paying the inflated prices,” Conaway said.