Economy Dragging You Down? Save Money On Sports

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know about our economic crisis. Let me rephrase. Even if you have been living in a cave, you know about our economic crisis, because the value of your cave has plummeted in the past few months and the cave-lending association is threatening cave-foreclosure. Even cave-dwellers are feeling the pinch.

A story in today's Sports Illustrated highlights the ways this ugly mess is affecting sports fans, and it's a pretty simple point: Stadiums are getting bigger, and tickets are getting more expensive. Which kind of screws sports fans who, you know, need to eat.

Still, there are ways to enjoy sports in Chicago without losing your cave-shirt. Below, a list -- a few serious and not-so-serious ideas for the belt-tightening Chicago sports fan:

-- The Blackhawks. I really can't stress how crucial this could be over the next few months. Bears tickets are exorbitant and Bulls tickets aren't much cheaper. But the Blackhawks, thanks to a just-revived franchise and a young team, can offer both athletic excitement and inexpensive digs. Last year, upper-bowl tickets for regular season games were $15. That's about the price of one beer at Soldier Field. Or you could go with a nine-game Hull season ticket package. Get a few friends, pool your money, and bam: Live sports and an on-time mortgage payment. Win-win.

-- Video games. Hear me out here -- if you've got a video game system already, $60 gets you, say, Madden 09. For $60, the amount of time you'll wring out of the Madden disc will far eclipse the three hours you spend at Soldier Field on Sunday. It won't even be close.

-- Recreational leagues. So you like sports. You'll probably also like recreational leagues, which allow to play, and not do. Most entry fees are relatively manageable, and they provide once-a-week exercise and entertainment. Plus, you won't be fat anymore, if that matters to you.

-- The Cubs lose. If you bought tickets to the NLCS, and the Cubs lost, congratulations! You are the winner of $200 in Cubbie-guaranteed returned money. Sure is a good thing the Cubs did so poorly in the postseason. Ha, ha ... On second thought ...

-- ... sell all of your Cubs crap. Really. You won't miss it.

-- Go to Northwestern basketball games. Just kidding! Don't do this! No cash savings is worth the emotional malaise brough on by sitting in Welsh-Ryan for two hours. Avoid this like you avoid that former Lehman Brothers banker who keeps asking for change every morning.  

-- High school hoops. If you're really hankering for live hoops, Chicago's high school prep scene is one of, if not the, best in the entire country. And tickets are like $6. (Are they $6? It's been a while since I was in high school.)

-- Watch them on TV. Duh.

-- The Internet. Want to get rid of your high-def cable? First of all, Homer Simpson is incredibly disappointed in you. Second of all, good idea, because you can get just about all the sports information you want right here on the series of tubes, and for far less money. You can also watch things like SopCast and TVAnts when you want to see the games live.

So, a few ideas. You may not have qualified for them, but I was still happy to loan them to you. Ha! Get it! It's funny because our economy is crumbling!

But really: I'm terrified.

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