Lions in the Coliseum? The Price of Entertainment

The market value of a commodity always says something interesting about our culture. You can, for example, buy a Spanish Cava for about $15, but a bottle of French Champagne will set you back more than $50. Is the difference in taste and experience substantial enough to justify the greater expense? Let the debate begin.

There are, however, some realms of human experience where the market value of particular commodities suggests that we live in a rather troubled culture. Consider the price of an evening’s entertainment. In the next few months front row seats at a number of different performances are a possibility, provided that you are willing to pay the amounts set by various ticket brokers.

A seat in the first five rows at Vancouver’s GM Place for the upcoming Simon and Garfunkel concert will cost you about $500; a similar seat for The Eagles about $950, and for Michael Buble about $800. If you want to see Sting at our city’s Chan Centre (with the Royal Philharmonic and, again, up close and personal), expect to pay about $700, and for cellist YoYo Ma at Vancouver’s Orpheum? Well, you can have that ticket for the bargain price of $400.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to sit in the first five rows for this June’s Ultimate Fighting Competition in Vancouver, you can expect to pay about $1,500 for your evening of enjoyment. In the culture in which we live it seems that watching grown men punch and kick each other into the possibility of unconsciousness is a good deal more valuable an experience than watching any number of the world’s most talented musicians.

In fairness, however, ultimate fighting has evolved; head-butting, eye-gouging and spitting at your opponent are no longer allowed. And some rules have been put in place, just to ensure that your evening will not be “boring” — “It is against the rules to be timid in the octagon. Fighters get penalized for running from an opponent. Fighters cannot fake an injury or purposely spit our their mouthpiece….you can’t just give up fighting because you have had enough”.

How far removed are we from the days of bloodsport as entertainment — lions and gladiators at the Roman Coliseum? Not very far, if at all. The market confirms Pogo’s aphorism: we have seen the enemy and they is us.

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