Friday, September 18, 2009

learning from the nfl

It's the opening of football season, and watching this silly sport has made me think about lessons we could learn from them; after all, if you turn the step back, turn down the volume, and actually watch the game being played, it's not just surprising that it's a ratings and revenue juggernaut -- it's a freaking miracle.

I am an unashamed baseball partisan; as George Carlin pointed out well, the differences between the two couldn't be more pronounced. The biggest thing is quantity of product: while baseball is a summer-long slog, with a season formed over hundreds of games, football is a sprint: there are very few games to begin with, and if any given team's venue isn't sold out, the game is locally blacked out from broadcast. In short, the National Football League puts many hurdles between the product and its potential audience. The result? High ticket prices, high attendance, and the high valuation of football as entertainment -- much higher than its actual worth, I might add.

Producers of live theater who work under the Equity showcase code are restricted to 16 performances and a ticket price cap of $18. Moreover, no videotaping of your show is permitted. In their latest concession to an overwhelming outcry on the part of theater companies for reform, Equity raised the budget cap and increased the limit on rehearsal time, but kept the performance and admission caps. Those of us who work with union actors are restricted to a very narrow window during which we can attempt to attract an audience. And once it's over, it's over.

But looking at football this week, I'm wondering if we're looking at this the wrong way. Yes, there are arbitrary limits on when an audience is allowed to see our work, and once it's over, it's gone forever. But perhaps we need to look to football -- treat performances as a rare commodity that audiences would be privileged to witness rather than a product with which we're desperate to saturate the market, if only we were allowed.

Being allowed to charge hundreds of dollars for a ticket would help, too.

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