Lap children need tickets? Are you kidding?

Commentary

September 08, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

You would know this only if you were a young parent who also happens to be a major Jayhawks football fan, but the University of Kansas reserves the right to rent your lap.

That's right. Kansas and a number of other major college programs insist that everyone, including the smallest of infants, have a ticket to get into their football stadiums, something that a young couple found out the hard way at Saturday's season opener. Owen and Lisa Foust were turned back at the gate and told that they would have to pony up $35 for their 3-month-old daughter to sit on their laps while they watched the Jayhawks pound hapless Northwestern State.

KU officials defended the policy in an Associated Press report as necessary to provide enough room for babies and the stuff that comes into the stadium with them. Jayhawks assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony even deflected some of the blame to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which recommends that everyone at a big sporting event have a ticket.

Of course, if safety were the only issue, KU could sell baby tickets at steeply discounted prices or even give them away free to fans who plan ahead, but we all know this has nothing to do with safety or homeland security. It's about squeezing as much money out of the football program as possible and discouraging people from bringing babies to the stadium.

There are space considerations, since you've got to have someplace to put the diaper bag, but the cynic in me thinks there's way more to it than that. People who bring infants to the game are far less likely to stand in concession lines and pound $6 beers. They are what the bean counters would call "low-revenue fans." It's sad that college athletics has come down to this, but it has, and the same kind of thing happens - in one form or another - just about everywhere.

Strangely enough, most professional football teams allow lap children, and no one has ever accused the NFL of being a charitable organization. The Ravens, for instance, do not charge for any child so small that he would not require his own seat.

The demise of the Yankees dynasty has - once again - been greatly exaggerated, though it was fun watching from afar as Pinstripe Nation agonized for a couple of months over the sudden decline of Alex Rodriguez.

Turns out, A-Rod was just in one of those slumps that every great player goes through on occasion, but keeping things in perspective has never been a New York thing.

In case you haven't noticed, the Yankees are again running away with the American League East, and the road back to the World Series winds through Baltimore this weekend. Despite injuries to cornerstone players Hideki Matsui, Mariano Rivera and Gary Sheffield, they have the second-best record in the American League and might pull alongside the Detroit Tigers by the end of the series against the reeling Orioles.

Maybe as a bonus, A-Rod will score his 100th run tonight - to go with his 31 home runs and 104 RBIs - and all those people who drove down from New York can see what they were missing all summer.

I might be reading too much into the language, but I was a little surprised at the wording of Marion Jones' statement after her "B" sample from the U.S. Track and Field Championships reportedly came back negative this week and cleared her of doping charges.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic," Jones said in a statement released by her attorneys. "I have always maintained that I have never ever taken performance-enhancing drugs, and I am pleased that the scientific process has now demonstrated that fact."

It just seems strange that in a prepared statement, which presumably was reviewed by counsel, that Jones would say "I have always maintained that I never ... " when she could simply have said "I have never ever taken performance-enhancing drugs." Too much lawyer language always gets my antennae up.

How come every college poll controversy somehow involves the Texas Longhorns? Well, at least Mack Brown didn't call Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and ask him to vote the 'Horns No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll.

Tressel said Tuesday that he had put Texas in the No. 1 slot on his ballot in advance of the showdown between the top two teams in the nation this weekend, but USA Today reported that the OSU coach had placed his own team in the top spot. Tressel did vote Texas first in the preseason poll, but an assistant submitted this week's ballot and mistakenly put Ohio State on top.

Not that it really matters. We're all going to find out who's No. 1 soon enough.

Golf prodigy Michelle Wie shot a 78 in the first round of the European Masters yesterday, which is going to make it tough to make the cut in her 10th attempt to win a men's event. Is it me, or isn't it about time she abandoned this corporate-driven quest to establish herself as a transcendent figure in golf and concentrate on winning LPGA events first? peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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