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Can You Make Rent (or Mortgage Payments) While Taking In Toronto Major League Sporting Events?

Can You Make Rent (or Mortgage Payments) While Taking In Toronto Major League Sporting Events?

Posted by Dalton Higgins on April 21, 2014

I’m a hardcore basketball fanatic. After playing on a series of City of Toronto championship teams while at Oakwood Collegiate back in the stone ages, I hung up the high tops and exchanged them for track spikes – to accommodate my other Jah-given talents (sprinting) and now aliases (Usain Dalt).  

I always tell people that my ultimate life aim, next to y’know being a good father, husband and all that other traditional scripted stuff is to mutate into a sideline super fanatic a la Jack Nicholson (Los Angeles Lakers), or Spike Lee (New York Knicks). Sports are the world’s greatest unscripted dramas, where the outcomes of games are just not as predictable as say Hollywood film outcomes, or reality TV plot lines.

However, after recently attending a Toronto Raptors playoff game, it dawned on me that attending high profile sports games in the city is truly a luxury. Simply put, the average cost of Toronto Raptor playoff ticket is about $370.63 – the most expensive in the NBA – according to a Forbes magazine report. Forget trying to bring a family of four (thankfully, my buddy Owen hooked me up with a seat). 

During the first game, when I scanned the stands, the demographic profile of the audience tended to look quite the opposite of what Toronto is supposed to represent – diversity. In the lower bowl, the sheer number of non-diverse Suits found rocking gratis Northern Uprising tees courtesy of Drake’s OVO brand made large chunks of the venue feel like it was singularly set up to serve the needs of the status quo. At a few hundred dollars a pop for Raps playoff tickets, clearly these rates appeal much more to members of the upper crust. But upon further inspection, this crust was starting to get a bit flaky. Why?

Firstly, fully knowing that one can get comparable yet cheaper seats to watch perennial champs and contenders like the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder must leave a strange taste in the mouth of Toronto residents forking out such vast amounts of cash to see Raptors Center Jonas Valanciunas? Valanciunas was arguably the most consistent Raptor on the floor during game one, but he’s no Lebron James, Chris Paul or Kevin Durrant.

Secondly, knowing that some families of four could have shelled out over $1200+ to see the Raptors lose to an aging Brooklyn squad made one hark back to memories of a season that might’ve been, for a similarly costly live sports experience courtesy of the underachieving Toronto Maple Leafs. The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup championship since Jesus, and their last post season win was in 2003-04 when people still cared about rappers Chingy and Lil Kim. This years end of year collapse (once losing straight games during one stretch) can only be compared to last year’s playoff meltdown where when they lost 5-4 to the Boston Bruins in the first round, holding the distinction of being losers in “the first Game 7 in NHL playoff history in which a team trailing by three goals in the third period went on to win” the series clinching game. Despite all of that losing, Leafs season tickets routinely sell out – despite the team boasting by far the highest average ticket price ($124.69), more than double the NHL (National Hockey League) average – and the franchise’s valuation at $1.15 billion is the highest in the NHL. Are we gluttons for punishment? And soon-to-be broke ones, at that, as the gap between the have and have-nots widens according to every research study that matters?

Lastly, for those who attend Raptors playoff games with a pulse and a fondness for race and class analysis might find fascinating just how much the venue’s audiences look nothing like the players on the court. In the NBA, around 80 percent of the players are black. Both the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets full roster of 15 active players, both have 10 black players each, alongside a few Latin American players like the injured Nets’ Brook Lopez and the Raptors’ Greivis Vasquez who play significant roles on their respective squads. Do some homework and you will also find out that the vast majority of these racialized players come from working poor origins and/or disenfranchised homes. So then it’s always a strange dichotomy to see few sprinklings of black faces in the building in the Upper Bowl (nosebleeds) as a result of charitable giveaways, though these charities and the select ACC Suite donors that provide seats to those who aren’t independently wealthy is a great thing.

Should playoff game attendance be treated as a singular pursuit for the independently wealthy, or are the median $370.63 ticket prices the new normal, just another blip on the screen for Greater Toronto Area residents? Should working class Torontonians be outraged over this, turn their attention to other more pressing concerns like the forthcoming municipal elections featuring Mayor Rob Ford? Either way, I’m sincerely hoping that all of this “We The North” sloganeering I witnessed on banners at the game and on Raptor advertisement campaigns also includes a strategy to accommodate some of the have-not’s, in a real genuine way. 

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