Sunday, February 10, 2013

The price we pay to play

A few months ago I sat in front of my computer, poised to register for my second Ironman triathlon, my cursor hovering over the “Register Now” button. I was just one click away from paying a sizeable chunk of change for the privilege of sweating and suffering alongside two thousand fellow triathletes over the course of 140.6 miles.   

This is insane, I thought. Why am I doing this? There is plenty of fodder on the internet poking fun at those of us who pay to do this crazy thing called Ironman. But the reasons I do it are many and varied—for the thrill and adventure; for the challenge and sense of accomplishment; to see how far I can push myself; and, simply, to pursue my passion. And, no matter what your hobby or passion is—be it motocross, scrapbooking, boating or snow skiing—you are sure to feel it in your pocketbook. So I swallowed my guilt, clicked register, and forked over the money.

Fast forward to January and a man who has won tickets to see the Ravens play San Francisco in the Superbowl is front-page news. Upon reading further, I learned that the man had not won the tickets but, rather, won a lottery for the opportunity to purchase tickets—for the astronomical price of $850 each! A single ticket to spectate at the Superbowl is nearly $200 more than the cost to participate in an Ironman, an event that can last up to seventeen hours as opposed to a three-hour football game. People interviewed on television by a local news reporter joked that if it came down to paying the mortgage or going to the Superbowl they’d go to the Superbowl—a sentiment I couldn’t quite relate to, though I suddenly felt far less guilt over the money I’d plunked down for the Ironman.

Although I realize the Superbowl is the crown jewel of the season and that the ritual tailgating and the halftime show are part of the experience, I can’t fathom paying that much to see a game, despite being practically raised on the sport. My dad coached, my brother played and I, possessing a pretty decent spiral, wanted to play too, though, lacking girls’ teams at the time, I was relegated to the sidelines. Nonetheless, Sunday football was a cornerstone of my childhood, with my entire extended family, hailing from Anne Arundel County and the DC suburbs, convening every weekend to watch the Redskins.  

But somewhere along the way I became disenchanted with fandom. I enjoyed watching my fellow high school and college classmates play the game, but felt indifferent toward the strangers on television earning big paychecks. And I no longer wanted to stand on the sidelines; I wanted to be in on the action, with blood, sweat and tears to call my own. 

But no matter what path you travel to pursue your passions, be it training for an Ironman or traveling to New Orleans to be part of the roaring crowd at the Superdome, there is a price to pay to play. The important part is to make sure that, whatever the cost, it is worth every penny.   

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