Servicing my college football addiction

Finally, the first week of college football. And the first week of servicing my addiction. Here is the plan for this year:

* In person attendance at games: We’ll make the November Penn State and Michigan games at Ohio Stadium. 4 tickets to each game at $70/pop comes to $560, we are able to easily sell the unused portion of our season ticket books. Oh of course to get the rights to buy 4 tickets and a parking pass, we had to join the “Buckeye Club”:http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=17300&ATCLID=1398165 at the appropriate level, and make ongoing scholarship donations which qualify us to join the “President’s Club”:http://giveto.osu.edu/donorsocieties/presidentsclub/index.html. But we will pretend those aren’t related — in fact we would donate the scholarship money anyway, to help Marion County students with demonstrated need make it through Ohio State. Oh and we will ignore the travel expense to Ohio as well, since we are going to be there primarily to visit family. Oh and I may sneak to a USC or UW game in addition but we will see. And depending on how the Buckeyes do, we may go the bowl game, count on another $2500 for tickets/travel/accommodations in Glendale (hey, go big or go home!).

* Watching all other weekends on TV: Sports, and particularly college football, are at least 50% of the driver for our cable/dish subscriptions. We subscribe to enough of a tier on cable to get ESPN, Fox Sports, and the Big-10 network in HD. And since we are splitting time between Seattle and Ohio this fall, we have to maintain subscriptions in both locations since cable and dish subscriptions are not portable. We’ve tried a variety of ways to get around this, but there are no quality solutions — ESPN3 is low quality, the various pirated feeds are even worse, slingbox doesn’t really work for HD content. So say half a cable bill monthly in two locations is attributable to football, that is $50/month * 2 locations * 6 months == $600.

* Tracking on the PC/iPad. When I’m at home watching game A, I want to track other games on a medium sized screen. ESPN, ESPN3, and SI are the best of a bad lot — all crammed with ads, tend to have load issues on Saturdays, tend to lag the real action, etc etc. I used to use Sportsline but investment in that site seems to be trending down. I’m not going to allocate any of our internet costs to sports, we would have the same connection if sports didn’t exist.

* Tracking on the iPhone. A real weak spot. The ESPN app is the best score tracker — customizable for just my teams, reasonable UI. But massive load issues on Saturdays, something has clearly been engineered poorly in the transaction model for this app, since it is way more load-sensitive than the web site which makes no sense at all. Backup are the websites for SI and ESPN. Twitter also critical since every major sportswriter/sportsblogger is active on twitter. Of course everyone of these data services fails totally when at a live game, as 100K people all try to hit the same cell tower at once. Google SMS is the fallback of last resort, it can sometimes work when the 3G/Edge networks are failing. You can certainly allocate half my cell phone data plan to sports for the 6 months of college football, so let’s say another $300. Yes I would look harder at a different data plan if I didn’t track sports. Overall the lack of a great app to track sports teams on the iPhone is a little surprising.

OK so $3100 in costs to attend games and bowl, $900 in telecom costs, so $4K in direct costs a year to watch college football. Plus the opportunity cost of time — at least 16 weekends, 8 hours of time, 128 hours. And I am probably not being honest with myself about that time commitment. But eternally hopeful that the Buckeyes will win the national championship, thereby justifying all of it!