Reform at No Cost to Rich (or Thin!) People: A ‘Fan Tax’ on Stuff-Your-Face Tix

Every time a new tax is floated to fund health-care reform, the targeted groups and their message-minions fire back with an exclamatory three-word question: How dare you?
It’s as though the real “death panels” of any proposed legislation will be the congressional committees that decide how to pay for the programs. (And what about taxing health-care benefits for more affluent Americans? How dare you!)

Yet a recent Associated Press dispatch offers a new constituency to consider exploiting to raise at least a portion of the needed revenue.

Apparently, a mushrooming and profitable sector in professional sports attendance involves the occupancy of what are called “All You Can Eat” seats. For a princely sum, a fan can buy a ticket for an event that also includes the consumption of as much junk food as a person can stomach during the contest.

The incongruity alone deserves recognition in the Whopper class of any sport’s Hall of Fame. A spectator is now able to bulk up and clog his arteries while watching paragons of physical prowess (either real or drug-assisted, as we now know) go about their sweaty competitive work. It’s the head-shaking convergence of the field of dreams and the all-you-can-eat buffet at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to avoid alarming reportage about the nation’s obesity epidemic.
Although the AP article focuses solely on what we learn are “stuff-your-face tickets” being sold by Major League Baseball teams — one true fan of the game is quoted as saying “We’re just here to pig out” — further research reveals that this form of gamey gastronomy extends to the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association and NASCAR tracks.

This season, the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (and winless last season) will inaugurate “All You Can Eat” sections, too, dedicating 5,500 seats to the program. Promoting these tickets, the Lions — the only team to achieve a 0-16 record in NFL history and eager (one assumes) to draw attention away from what’s happening on the gridiron — promises unlimited hot dogs, bratwurst, nachos with cheese, chips, popcorn and soft drinks. Also included (in tickets that range from $73 to $87 per person) is an official “Detroit Lions Barf Bag.”

Instead of seeking a so-called “Fat Tax” on high-caloric fast food and sugary beverages, what about instituting a “Fan Tax” at spectator contests where gluttony itself is becoming a participant sport? Why not a surcharge of $10 or $15 per ticket that’s earmarked specifically to help underwrite health-care reform?
Even such a modest proposal might prompt food fights in stadiums across the land, but it’s clear we’ve got to start somewhere.
Robert Schmuhl is Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair of American Studies and Journalism at the University of Notre Dame, where he directs the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.


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