By Jason Notte
Another NFL season, another year of beer-drinking football fans being sacked for a loss.
NFL fans who actually leave their flatscreens, sofas and DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket behind to attend games this year will find themselves blitzed from all sides. The league's average ticket price jumped 2.5 percent, to more than $78, according to Team Marketing Report. The average cost to take a family of four to a game, park, have a beer, hot dog and soda and go home with a program and a cap jumped 4 percent, to $443.93. That includes beer prices that jumped from an average of 42 cents an ounce last year to 43 cents an ounce this year.
If you live outside of Ohio and Tampa, Fla. -- where beer prices at home games of the Cleveland Browns ($5 for 16 ounces), Cincinnati Bengals ($5 for 12 ounces) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($5.75 for 16 ounces) rank among the lowest in the league -- be prepared to pay a minimum of $6 per beer at the stadium this year. With help from NFL concessionaires Aramark, Delaware North and Centerplate and Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index, we found the top beer prices in the league and the teams hosing their fans for suds:
Price of small draft beer: $8 for 20 ounces. Price per ounce: 40 cents.
When beer's as much a part of the city's heritage as it is in St. Louis, it can serve as a direct route to citizens' hearts and minds. Since the Rams haven't made the playoffs since 2004, haven't had a winning record since 2003 and have had three wins or less in four of the past five seasons, its demand that the city pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a promised stadium can seem a bit insensitive. Dropping average ticket prices by 2 percent and dropping the price of beer by a buck without shrinking the size of the cup are savvy PR moves by a team that clearly knows its key demographic.
The Ravens, meanwhile, were a dropped touchdown pass away from the Super Bowl last year and have hiked the price of a beer at M&T Bank Stadium by 25 cents since. You can do that when you make the playoffs in six of the past 10 years, make the AFC Championship game twice in that span and have a fiercely loyal following as a result.
Price of small draft beer: $8.50 for 20 ounces.
Price per ounce: 42 cents.
You have to hand it to the Lions: If you're going to raise beer prices by a buck, it's probably best to do it after your first winning season since 1997 and your first playoff appearance since the Clinton administration. Stacked with talent such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, the Lions are trying their best to erase memories of winless seasons and blacked-out games. Jacking up beer prices and asking 8 percent more for tickets at Ford Field may be a tough test of equity in a cash-strapped market, but more winning will minimize the blow a bit.
Price of a small draft beer: $9 for 20 ounces.
Price per ounce: 45 cents.
It takes a pair of something buffalo-sized to raise the price of beer by 50 cents when your team hasn't had a winning record or a playoff appearance since the turn of the century, plays one home game a year in Toronto and blacks out local television broadcasts when its fan base fails to fill a stadium considerably smaller than the Bears' home in Chicago. Did we mention that Bills ownership is also looking to local taxpayers to foot the bill for stadium improvements with no guarantee that the team will stick around? With the small-market team charging big-market prices for beer, how do fans say no?
Price of a small draft beer: $7.75 for 16 ounces.
Price per ounce: 48 cents.
They play in one of the most expensive cities in the country and had a team that was a flub away from going to the Super Bowl last year. Of course they have high beer prices. The question is: After the team's first playoff appearance since 2002, how aren't those beer prices higher? Let's just say it's a touchy subject. The 49ers are playing out their last seasons in San Francisco before moving to a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014. Ground has been broken, steel has been driven and bitterly impassioned speeches have been made by San Francisco politicos. It's likely the reason neither ticket prices nor beer prices have budged within the last year. The team still needs to draw some of those unconvinced faithful at Candlestick Park to Silicon Valley. It's a whole lot easier to do that as the line-holding game-day nice guys than as money grabbers moving the team in the dead of night.
Price of small draft beer: $8 for 16 ounces in Seattle, $7 for 14 ounces in Oakland. Price per ounce: 50 cents.
The last time Seattle made the playoffs, it did so with a losing record. This season, it handed the ball to a rookie quarterback and watched as an Arizona Cardinals QB considered one of the shakiest in the league handed the team its first loss. How do you justify charging one of the highest beer prices in the league armed with that information? Simple: Seahawks fans are unflaggingly loyal. The "12th Man" has its own flag at CenturyLink Field. It registered on the Richter scale when running back Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown in the playoffs two years ago. It cheers at nearly 140 decibels, or roughly as loud as one of Boeing's jet engines. Does it make that beer price fair? No. Will that price preclude Seahawks fans from coming out and luring opponents into false starts and offsides penalties? Absolutely not.
It's a bit of a different story in Oakland. Never mind the fact that the Raiders have spent much of their time in Oakland losing and having home games blacked out on local TV. Never mind that the team's last two 8-8 seasons are considered a dramatic improvement. Never mind that their home stadium -- O.Co Coliseum -- is the last in the country to host both a football and baseball team and is roundly despised by the latter. It's still close enough to Silicon Valley and its money to charge what it does for beer and even entertain offers to move to the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, where beer prices will undoubtedly be much higher.
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