SBD/March 10, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Sally Jenkins Discusses Rising Cost Of NFL Games, Lance Armstrong In Extensive Q&A

Jenkins criticizes rising cost of attending NFL games
Washington Post columnist SALLY JENKINS recently participated in a wide-ranging Q&A with C-SPAN's Brian Lamb, touching on topics ranging from LANCE ARMSTRONG to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium. Lamb asked Jenkins about a column following this year's Super Bowl in which she wrote, in part, "The Dallas Super Bowl was a bender, but now that the confetti has fallen, it looks like litter." Jenkins responded, "I found what happened at that Super Bowl to be unseemly. Two thousand fans were left out in the cold. ... Arlington, Texas passed a bond issue to give JERRY JONES $300 million, free and clear, to build his Taj Mahal. It's a beautiful stadium. It's clean, it's safe, it's gorgeous. And it's highly expensive, and the reason he built it was so that he could charge higher ticket prices and more expensive meals and drinks and parking. And you know it's a spiral -- financial spiral that they're hitting the fans with on both ends, not just in the stadium at concessions or ticket prices, but frankly as taxpayers." Jenkins added, "What I think we need to do is ask tougher questions about what the right, seemly levels of that spending are. There's a lot of hidden cost to taxpayers and to ticket buyers that they aren't -- they aren't always alert to. And so my thing is not so much we shouldn't spend any public money on sports in this country. My thing is let's explain to people what we're really spending, what we're really doing here. When Arlington, Texas builds -- helps build the Taj Mahal of football stadiums to the tune of $1.1 billion, well, something else doesn't get built." The following are additional excerpts from the interview:

Q: What kind of column gets the most attention back to you?
Jenkins: Well, the Super Bowl column, the Jerry Jones Taj Mahal Super Bowl column was about as much response as I've ever had on a column. And I was surprised by it, but I think the reason that it got so much response was because the fan is starting to get a little fed up with being leaned on financially by the league. The expense now for going to an NFL game for a family of four is just astronomical. It's -- the NFL is almost pricing the average fan out of the game day experience. You know it's gotten to be -- it's a $700 to $900 proposition, depending on where you want to go see the game, to take yourself and your spouse and your two children to see an NFL game. And so a lot of the response that I got from that column was about fans feeling abused by the NFL.

Q: Should government try to stop those increases?
Jenkins: I think that owners should examine their responsibility to the community. You know they're barons. They act like barons. They live basically in the back room of the Palm Restaurant. I find more and more the behavior of professional sports owners to be unseemly in the sense that they want hundreds of millions of dollars from their communities, and yet they don't really participate in the problems of those communities. And so you know I think that one of the things we can do is ask these people you know to really live in their cities.

Q: Will they talk to you when you call them?
Jenkins: I've had exactly two conversations with DAN SNYDER. I've requested the owner of the Washington Redskins. I've requested others and been turned down. We don't have a great relationship. I'm a very tough critic of his in town. You know other owners I've spoken with. I've met and spoken with Jerry Jones. I like him. ... I guess my main point about some of these owners is you know they can be very good people. But I think they live in a bubble sometimes. I think that they are genuinely out of touch, particularly lately in the NFL, with the average fan, with the average fan experience and with the problems of their communities.

: What's your take on (Lance Armstrong's) steroid controversy?
Jenkins: He's my friend, and so I believe him when he says he's clean, which is what you do with friends. We've talked about it. I've asked him point blank. He says he hasn't performance enhanced, and I believe him, yes.

Q: What's your favorite sport to write about?
Jenkins: You know it changes year-to-year. There have been some years when figure skating was the greatest sport in the world. ... There's some years when the NFL seems like the greatest sport in the world. There were some fabulous years when golf, I mean a Ryder Cup year, if the match is close, can be -- you think golf is the greatest sport on earth. It changes, the characters change it.

Q: What's your opinion of when you see those men sitting at the table, you probably know them all. How do they do -- I know this is a broad question -- representing their different sports to the federal government?
Jenkins: Oh, I think they do a good job. You know ROGER GOODELL is an incredibly intelligent man. DAVID STERN is a smart guy and is personable. ... I don't know (GARYBETTMAN, but he seems to be a very strong leader for his sport. ... I'm not a big fan of (BUD) SELIG's ... just because I don't know him. I've never met him. But his public statements have been kind of wishy-washy, you know? I think he could have managed the whole steroids in baseball thing better (C-SPAN, 3/6).
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