Let’s Use the 12th Man Mania for the Greater Good

By Neva Knott

Seattle_Seahawks_Vector_Logo.svg

Seattle Seahawks logo, courtesy of Wiki commons.

I live in Olympia, Washington, just a hour south of Seahawk central. Every Friday across this region is some sort of fan celebration day–bank tellers, coworkers, grocery checkers, people on the street are regaled in blue and green–jerseys, cupcakes, gee-haws. In my research for this piece, I’ve been unable to find exact statistics on fan expenditure, but I did find that Forbes magazine tallied the annual expenditure of tailgating at $10 to $20 billion per year across the nation. Fan spending is big business, so much so that KING 5 News ran a clip the day before the Superbowl entitled, “Fans Pack Apparel Stores to Buy New Seahawks Shirts.” Another piece by Forbes gives the average of $33 per fan spending at a Seahawks home game. In addition to these team-rah-rah related expenditures, each fan–each 12th man–spends, in my observation, a day or more per week supporting the team.

This year was the Seahawks’ second in a row as a Superbowl contender. The money that flows because of this event is astounding. US News reports an estimate of $14.31 billion in consumer spending for the Superbowl. Let’s say half of that was by Seahawks fans–$7.15 billion. Forbes reports that $360 million comes from TV revenue, tickets cost $500- $1900 for a total of $6.3 million in sales, and the top player, Russell Okung, makes $8,760,000 a year, while Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll pulls in $8 million. If these ticket prices seem extreme, get this–US News reported that, three days before the game the last few tickets available from the NFL sold for $10,000 plus.

Football fever clearly opens the wallets of many. I wonder, how can the time and money spent on Seahawks fandom be put to use in the off-season? What if, just imagine what if, the seven billion dollars Seahawks fans spent last Sunday, or on a smaller scale the $33 per person per stadium attended game, were spent on community service? Stewardship of the environment?

I did imagine, and I researched some numbers. Here’s what I found:

Washington State Parks will operate on $107 million dollars during the 2013-2015 biennium, a decrease from the pre-recession budget of $134.4 million for the 2007-2009 budget cycle

According to the Office of Financial Management:

  • The total budget for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission for the 2013-2015 biennium is $132,415
  • The total budget for the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board for the same budget cycle is $10,174
  • …for the Puget Sound Partnership, $19,005
  • …for the Department of Natural Resources, $432,780

According to the National Park Service, the Olympic National Park’s budget for 2014 was set at $12.9 million, but was cut by $640,000 due to “five percent sequestration.”

Looking at a broader context:

The Nature Conservancy’s total annual budget (including programs outside of Washington state) for cost of programs for 2014 was $401,429

Surfrider Foundation ran all of its programs in 2013 on $5,731,720

While reading about Surfrider’s programs, I learned that President Obama has proposed, for the 2015 fiscal year, zero funding for the EPA BEACH Act grant program.

These statistics elucidate the sharp contrast between sports money and environmental funding and philanthropy. For example, the Olympic National Park budget is $4 million less that the combined salaries of the Seahawks’ top-paid player, Okung, and his coach, Pete Carroll. Money follows values; what I am proposing is a shift in off-season values and expenditures, from entertainment and participation in the collective consciousness of the fan base to civic duty and participation in promoting sustainability, whether it be environmental or social. Don’t care about plastics in the ocean? Never use state or national parks here in Washington? Fine; shift your jersey dollars and time to a soup kitchen, to a reading program at your local library, to volunteering at the zoo.

Budget deficits at the government level are part of the post-recession economy. Just as Seahawks fans pay for their own blue and green cupcakes, game tickets, woot-woot noise-makers and team shirts, we as citizens and park visitors, beach goers, need to pick up the tab, both in terms of money and time, to keep our common spaces functioning and to sustain social safety-net programs.

Next Sunday, what will you do, with no game on the screen?

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