For the first time in as long as I can remember, I won a prize in one of those charity raffles a couple of weeks ago. It was two tickets to the Golden State Warriors—New Jersey Nets basketball game.
    "Where are the seats?" I asked as I triumphantly walked to the podium to collect my prize. "I’m not sitting in any stinkin’ nosebleed seats."
    So gracious. But I wasn’t about to drive all the way to the Oakland Coliseum Arena just so I could watch a game with binoculars. I wanted to be up close where I could read the tattoos on the players.
    I was handed the envelope with the tickets and I let out a whoop of joy. $150 each, baby! Sideline Club! Looks like I’d be sitting next to Coach Nelson, giving him a little advice here and there.
    Next I had to pick someone to go with me. I considered my wife, but quickly remembered the last time she attended a sporting event with the best seats in the house. She spent her time reading a magazine. She was out, and she was very happy to hear so.
    In the end, I chose my 16-year-old son, primarily because he was the only kid available. But he was pretty excited. He’d never sat in a $150 seat before.
    The game was last Wednesday night. After a 40-minute drive, we arrived at the Arena. Getting into the parking lot was a hassle, of course, but after ten minutes of waiting with the common people who were about to pay $15 for parking, I flashed our VIP parking pass and was waved into the VIP lot. $150 seats obviously got you all kinds of privileges.
    We entered the Arena with about ten minutes to go until tip-off, just enough time to get some food and offer Coach Nelson some thoughts on a starting lineup.
    My son chose a hot dog and fries. I countered with a hot dog and a salt pretzel. We each had a soft drink. The nice woman at the register said the total was $30.50.
    I looked at my son’s French fries. There were about 17 of them. My pretzel was as hard as the counter I was bouncing it on. The hot dogs looked as though they barely survived into their second season. Only the drinks seemed enticing.
    "Free refills?" I asked.
    For the first time, I wondered about our $150 VIP Sideline Club status. Maybe we wouldn’t be sitting within Coach Nelson’s earshot. We might be five or six rows off the floor. The idea of value for your money was getting a little hazy.
    We entered the Arena at about 50 rows up from the court, and looked down to spot our seats. I handed my ticket to an usher, who immediately turned and walked the wrong way---up.
    "You’ve got to be kidding," I cried. "These are $150 seats. They’re Sideline Club!!"
    "Yes, sir," he calmly replied, pointing to our position near the middle of the court. "And you’re on the sideline."
    We sat down, our pathetic food resting on our pathetic laps in our pathetic seats. We not only couldn’t read the tattoos on the players, we couldn’t even see which ones had the tattoos.
    Apparently, there was another more expensive section beneath us, called Courtside Club. Pay $250 and you can get a seat within heckling distance. And for that seat on the actual court, where Coach Nelson can ignore your advice---try shelling out $1500.
    I looked around me. The place was packed. In fact, we weren’t even in the last row of the $150 section. There were knuckleheads behind me, paying almost $400 for two (including food and parking) to be 200 feet away from a game that is televised in the wonderful comfort of their home.
    I didn’t get it. The game moved listlessly through the first three quarters, the crowd mostly silent. My legs were cramping from the tight seating, and I was dying of thirst from the two bites of the salt pretzel that I managed to get down my throat. I thought about getting an $8.00 Budweiser, but I sent my son to get me a bottled water instead.
    I gave him a fiver and told him to give me the change. He returned a few minutes later with the water and handed me 50 cents.
    Yep, $4.50 for a bottled water. I slumped down in my $150 seat and drank it very, very slowly.

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