By Ivan G. Goldman
As we look toward the Timothy Bradley-Manny Pacquiao rematch in Las Vegas Saturday, I’m reminded that one of the biggest secrets in sports can be how much it will cost viewers to purchase any given pay-per-view fight.
I finally did learn the price, but getting it was a worthy mission for an aspiring intelligence operative. Finding the President’s cell phone number might be an easier chore.
It reminds me of a creative newspaper columnist who as a test once got the CEO of an airline on the phone quicker than he could find a human being to answer his question on the customer service line of that same airline.
Ferreting out a pay-per-view price for any particular boxing telecast is like trying to find a cop when you need one. Fight purveyors work hard to keep the actual sums fenced off from the public until the very last moment, before viewers finally press the fateful purchase button.
Let’s face it — all the hush-hush acrobatics is a huge tip-off that the sellers don’t think the price is quite right. If they believed it was a great deal, the price would be just about the first thing they’d tell you, which is what the proprietors of a Dollar Store do. See the difference in attitude?
Clearly these pay-per-view impresarios are not only ripping us off, but they’re very much aware of it. The truth is, there’s absolutely no direct cause-and-effect relationship between the cost of a pay-per-view telecast and the value of the product. Most of the greatest TV fights aren’t on pay-per-view, period. Hence the pricing secrecy.
This week we’ll get the latest statements from the fighters and trainers about why this fight is so incredibly meaningful. We can watch video and read statements by promoter Bob Arum and various HBO executives informing us that if we don’t buy this lollapalooza of a battle we might as well slit our throats because we’ll never, ever forgive ourselves.
We can watch hours of HBO reality programming in which the fighters speak lovingly of their wives and children and let us know how amazingly well their camps are going. We can listen to their trainers tell us why the other guy is really screwed this time.
We might even hear Arum tell us that Tecate is offering a terrific rebate so if we buy lots and lots of beer and fill out the correct form we can get the telecast for practically nothing, at least in principle.
Arum also thinks it’s a fine idea to throw a huge TV party and turn your house into a sardine can filled with freeloaders. Or if you’re the more assertive type you can pass the word that they’re all supposed to chip in. I recall him once using his own nonsensical math to claim that the TV price is less than you’d pay for a movie ticket. I guess maybe in his neighborhood movie tickets cost upwards of $76.
In two seconds a Google search will tell you the dates of the Peloponnesian War, but the cost of a pay-per-view fight? Not so fast. As a fight writer I routinely get bunches of promotional propaganda in my inbox designed to stir up excitement for the match at hand, but invariably none of it provides you know what.
What we always know about the price is that it will end in either 95 or 99 cents – a dumb but persistent con job on the senses. We also know that the stated price will be for a low-def broadcast that no one wants to buy because what the hell, as long as you make the splurge, you might as well put up the extra ten bucks and go high-def.
Anyway, after an exhaustive search, using all the resources at my disposal, I did learn the cost, of the TV card on Saturday night — approximately seventy bucks, high def. There, I said it.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.