Saturday, April 25, 2009

On the Joseph V. Paterno Cost of Living Index

Because I have agreed to bequeath both my kidney and my first-born child to the Penn State Alumni Association, I recently received an e-mail alert that Joe Paterno is giving a number of speeches in various cities in upcoming weeks. I assume this is something he has done in the past, and my assumption is that the bulk of the money goes toward the university's athletic department, and given Paterno's relatively modest* salary, I will also presume that there is a noble purpose behind these appearances. But I find this confounding:

On May 5, he will speak in Washington, D.C. And the cost, per person, is $35.

On April 30, he will speak in New York City. And the cost, per person, is $150.

Now, last month, I took my girlfriend to see Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden. Our seats were not ideal--they were, in fact, located in that cheap and tawdry netherworld behind the stage,** where we were surrounded by NYU students dressed up like Stevie Nicks and several dozen overbearing and intoxicated women from Massapequa. But I suppose we went because there was a certain cache to seeing Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden, even if they are 32 years past their prime, even if Chrstine McVie long ago thought better of this idea, even if Mick Fleetwood is now indistinguishable from Animal of the Muppets.

My point is this: My ticket to see Fleetwood Mac at the Garden, even after the Ticketmaster mugging, cost half of what it would cost me to go to the Plaza Hotel to see Joe Paterno tell stories about Matt Millen and Milt Plum and Virgil's Aeneid and life in colonial Williamsburg. And perhaps I am biased, because I grew up in a town where we'd see Joe Paterno at the supermarket, and while I respect his achievements and would most likely defend him against his detractors, I find this price point*** utterly absurd. For this kind of money, I could buy a ticket on the Amtrak Acela, ride down to D.C., listen to the same stories, and have money left over to buy a pair of Nationals season tickets. (In some neighborhoods, I could probably also buy a studio apartment.) For this price, I am hoping that Paterno will sing a duet of "Second-Hand News" with LaVar Arrington. In Central Park. Atop a Clydesdale.

Because that is something I would pay to see.

Not 150 dollars, of course. But perhaps 35.

*In relation to other major college coaches, that is. Not in relation to, say, a professor.
**I spare no expense.
***I am assuming I have used the term "price-point" correctly here, though I can't be sure, since I learned this term by watching The Apprentice.

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