[Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post that I commissioned from Kosmo at The Soap Boxers. I think it is an interesting look at how one person’s hobby can fit into a frugal lifestyle.]
My third grade teacher got me interested in baseball. I quickly become addicted and am resistant to any intervention attempts.
How addicted am I? I’m writing this on February 21, and I’m planning to take a late lunch at Hardees (free WiFi) so I can catch the first game of the spring – the Boston Red Sox playing an exhibition against Northeastern University. I’m not even a Red Sox fan. Yeah, I’ll be the guy watching an iPhone with headphones plugged in.
When I was a kid, my baseball addiction was very cheap. I’d wiggle the antenna on my radio and pull in WGN radio. Once in a blue moon, the Cubs would be on the local broadcast TV station and I’d get to watch a game.
Today, though, it’s a far more expensive hobby. I live in Iowa but am a fan of the Colorado Rockies. This means that there is really no (legal) low-cost way to watch games, since the team is not in my local market. A few years ago, I bit the bullet and ponied up $200 per year for a subscription to MLB Extra Innings. Now I could watch almost every Rockies game (except for games in which they played any of the five teams that are blacked out here).
In the last year, there has been a proliferation in the number of streaming devices in the house. This has allowed me to make the jump to MLB.TV. This will allow me to watch games on either of the two normal sized TVs in the house (via a Roku or WiFi-enabled Blu-ray Disc Player), computer, or my wiPhone (my wife’s old iPhone which I used as a WiFi-only device because I’m cheap).
So, how much does my baseball addiction cost me?
The basic cost of MLB.TV is $109.99. That buys streaming on computers. It costs an extra $20 to stream to “connected devices”. Then there is the upsell to buy the minor league package. $20 for the year. I’d get a chance to see how fast Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is (very fast) and watch the talented, but raw, prospects at the lower levels. All for the cost of an Andrew Jackson? Yes, please! So we’re up to $149.99 for the viewing package.
Then, of course, there is a subscription to Baseball Prospectus. For $40, I get access to premium content on the site. To slide further into geek mode, I buy Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster ($16) every year. Then there’s a preview guide to buy ($10). I currently subscribe to the print edition of Sports Weekly, but will likely let that lapse this year – the Baseball Prospectus web site has better analysis. I probably average $25 in apparel purchases per year. That’s not completely an addiction-related cost, as I do have a utilitarian need for shirts. I run a fantasy league and spend about $15 to buy a trophy and have it shipped.
We’re at $256 already, and this doesn’t include tickets to any games! I rarely see Major League games in person (not very close to any teams), and haven’t seen many minor league games in recent years, due to the presence of young kids in the house. My last minor league game was watching Mike Trout play for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2010. Let’s assume that I’ll make it to a game this year. Tickets, parking, food for my wife and I would probably run $50. Let’s estimate $25 for other baseball expenses during the year.
My baseball addiction is going to cost me $331 this year!
What does this buy me?
First of all, that is the gross cost. I made a few bucks selling this freelance article to Lazy Man, which shaves off a portion. That’s the tail wagging the dog, though – obviously, the main benefit I get is entertainment value.
This is the first time I’ve tried to estimate how much entertainment value I receive. Over the course of the year, I’ll likely watch at least a small portion of 100 or more Rockies games. Due to time zones difference (they play a lot of night games in the Pacific time zone) and the demands of the job (up at 5:45 each morning) and the aforementioned young kids, I rarely get to watch a full game. The ability to watch on the WiFi devices should help a bit. I’ll estimate 125 hours of viewing of Rockies games, and probably another 100 hours listening when I’m not able to watch (when mowing lawn, for example). I’ll probably watch at least 25 hours of minor league games, most likely in small snippets as I catch the at bats of a few prospects I want to watch. That’s 250 hours when I am actively consuming the content I pay for.
I try to watch as much of the playoffs as I can – probably another 50 hours or so.
I also spend about an hour per day during listening to baseball podcasts (better option that talk radio for the commute). That’s about 180 more hours. I also catch up on back episodes during the off-season – probably another 50 hours there.
While I’m not paying for this content, the paid content that I watch adds to my enjoyment of the free content. This also doesn’t count the time I spend reading articles or discussing baseball with friends, but it’s a good stopping point.
That’s a total of 530 hours. That brings my hourly cost down to 62.4 cents. That’s a far better deal than watching a first run movie at the theater (about $5 – $7 per hour). There’s also a qualitative aspect to the entertainment value. Baseball puts me on a six month high, even when my team isn’t going well. The boost I get from a movie fades much more quickly.
Money Beagle says
Those numbers definitely support the money you spend, but my guess is that you knew even before you crunched the numbers that your costs were well worth it to you. Even if you didn’t quantify it, the fact that you get that level of enjoyment from it is great and well worth it.
While I understand MLB has to watch out for its TV partners, it is a shame that you even have to worry about blackout rules. I spent a few years in blackout hell that made no sense – in an MLB.tv and Extra Innings blackout area for the Phillies, even though the games weren’t carried on local TV (the Orioles were carried here). When the Phillies had several great years, they finally got picked up around here.
That’s some dedication.
@ Money Beagle – Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the value of entertainment. It can reduce stress levels and make live a whole lot better. A friend of mine has bass fishing as his hobby. Much, much more expensive (start with the cost of the boat and go from there)
@ Evan – Yes, the blackout rules drive me crazy. There are some situations in Iowa where the blacked out teams are 500+ miles away. Extreme example is from the SW corner of the state to Milwaukee – a distance of 550 miles. Sorry, but I don’t think that is Brewers territory. This isn’t an issue for me except when we played the blacked out teams. It’s time for MLB to change some of these agreements with teams. Find a way to funnel some of the money I’m paying to the people who have the Brewers rights, and let me watch games.
@ Meghan – Yep, I’m a very hard core Rockies fan :)