Lack of Home Field Advantage

Maybe I’m reeling from the Broncos loss to the Raiders on Sunday, but this article from ESPN’s Bill Simmons about the lack of Home Field Advantage in New Stadiums got me thinking.  Simmons is pretty articulate, so here’s the reader’s digest version:

Teams with new (or significantly remodeled) stadiums in the last 10 years have compiled poor records against point spreads.  In 2008, the (spread) record for these teams are 29-44 this season.  In fact, the teams with new stadiums have fallen below .500 in beating-the-spread numbers 5 of the last 7 years.  The conclusion: SOTAS (state-of-the-art stadium) teams have watched their home-field advantage evaporate in a pile of money.

At first glance this seems coincidental, but when you think about how new stadium have changed the experience of going to NFL games, it’s pretty easy to understand why home field advantage isn’t what it used to be for these SOTAS teams.  Simmons tells a pretty good story of the Foxboro  gameday experience in his column, and it’s pretty similar to ours’.

Each Broncos home game, we make our way down to Denver with our tailgating gear in tow about 4-5 hours before game time.  Going to Broncos games does take the better part out of our day.  We leave the house at 10 and don’t get back home until 8pm. We arrive at the stadium, set up the grill, the chairs, the awning, the ladder golf and have our pre-game celebration.  We usually eat and drink pretty well before the game, and gluttony is still a fraction of the cost of the food & beer in the stadium.  We then take the 20 minute walk to the stadium and usually get to our seats right after kick-off. 

Our seats, while in the nosebleed levels, are great seats when it comes to watching the plays develop and being with fans that make true financial sacrifices to support their team.  As Simmons points out though, the NFL’s actions – both negligent and intentional – have diminished the role of the everyday fan at these games.  I never went to a game at the old Mile High, but I definitely heard the stories: stories of how loud that stadium got, and also stories of people who had season tickets during the stadium transition and got screwed out of great seats.  As Simmons points out, people who used to scream at the field are now sitting in the upper levels where they scream towards the sky. 

Simmons also makes a great point about the length of the games:

Throw in the dirty secret that it isn’t really fun to attend an NFL game in the 21st century — the routine of "kickoff, TV timeout, three plays, punt, TV timeout, five plays, field goal, TV timeout, kickoff, TV timeout, someone gets hurt on first down, prolonged TV timeout, three more plays, touchdown, extra point, TV timeout, kickoff, TV timeout" gets old after about 25 minutes

-Not to mention that during those TV timeouts, you’re subjected to ads there in the stadium. Everything has become sponsored by someone.  I thought it was Eddie Royal that brought us that first down – not Lowes.

I’ve been lucky enough to sit down in the 4th row from the field before, and while heckling the visiting bench is fun, most of the people down there really don’t give a damn about football – at least when compared to the people in the upper levels.  Bethany and I have sat in the club level when she got tickets from work and the people around us seemed annoyed when we made noise for the defense.

While I do consider myself lucky and blessed that I have the opportunity to go to the games, I can’t help but wonder about the comment Simmons made:

“The bad news is that, with just a few exceptions, it’s now more entertaining to invite your friends over, tailgate in your backyard and watch your favorite team on TV. You get the replays. You get HD. You have your own bathroom. You’re saving money. You can stand up if you want. You don’t have a commute. If you have the NFL package, you can flip around to other games during commercials. What’s the downside? You got me. I had 10 times more fun watching the Pats-Jets game at a New York City bar last week than I would have had at the actual game. And the sad thing was, I knew that would be the case.”

Playing at Mile High used to be a lock for Denver, but we’ve now dropped 3 games in-a-row at home.  I understand that the Broncos have a lot of other problems, but one can’t wonder if the Mile High Magic has diminished at Invesco and other brand new stadiums.