Reading Ron Lieber‘s best-seller entitled The opposite of spoiled: Raising kids who are grounded, generous, and smart about money (Harper Business, 2015) is quite an eye-opener. He is a personal finance columnist for the New York Times. When I present its synopsis on Friday morning at the Park City Club, I am sure many parents will feel as I do – we should have read this book many years ago, even before we had children!
There are many important points in the book, and you need to attend the First Friday Book Synopsis this week to hear about them. However, one key element surfaces in several different ways, and that is the distinction between “wants” and “needs.”
So, here I am at a deadline I face. I must pay for the right to renew my SMU men’s basketball tickets today, or I will lose my season ticket seat. Note that this is not the fee for the ticket. It is the fee to pay for the right to have the seat to pay for the ticket. There are no tickets included.
It has been a terrific two seasons for me with this seat at the renovated Moody Coliseum on the SMU campus. These two seasons were filled with excitement, but both ending in disappointment. Last year, the team did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. This year, it exited in a first-round loss to UCLA on a controversial goal-tending call. The competition in the new American Athletic Conference was outstanding, including visits from Louisville last year, and the defending NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies this year, as well as last. And, I watched every road game on television this year, including national broadcasts at Gonzaga, Michigan, and Connecticut.
I never went to SMU. My brother went there, and he was in the Mustang band. But, I listened to SMU men’s basketball games on the radio before I was a teenager. I remember heroics from Charles Beasley and Denny Holman, among others. I was a faculty member at TCU in the mid-’80’s, but I followed Coach Dave Bliss and his # 2 ranked Mustangs much more, listening to games called by Brad Sham and Ira Terrell, who was a standout at SMU, and a colleague with me at 7UP. The star of that team was John Koncak, and they had a runaway train type player in Carl Wright. I remember going to a home game when they defeated Louisville, coached by Denny Crum. That season, they beat North Carolina on the road, and lost to North Carolina State in overtime, and were later eliminated in the NCAA tournament. The last two years with stars such as Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, have been joys to watch as they developed and dominated the opposition.
Success on the court begets success at the gate. For many years, I would go to Moody to see SMU play, but only against top-ranked opponents, such as Kansas. Most of the fans were not for SMU, and even then, crowds of only about 1,600 were in attendance. I remember going to Coach Larry Brown‘s first game – about 5,100 showed up mostly to watch him coach, as well as chant his name toward the end of the game. The first few games in the 2013-14 season were close to my home in Garland at the Culwell Center, while the school waited on the completion of the renovations at Moody. When I walked in to the new-look coliseum for the first time, I could tell it was going to be magic. It was bright, intimate, and loud. The arena had a new floor, new scoreboards, and new seats, including suites. The games sold out, and all the tickets for the entire season were gone. The games were truly “escapes” for me from the everyday routines I faced.
I bought mine before all that happened. I had one seat behind the SMU bench at the corner of the court, with a great view of everything, including the SMU dancers. A view from my seat is to the left. I sat directly behind an alumnus, Patrick Downs. We provided everyone around us “expert” commentary. I have a picture of us to the right. He was really funny.
So, back to the book by Ron Lieber. When things are this tight, and expenses outrank income, you make different choices. Oh, I could find a way to pay for this seat. It’s not that I couldn’t find the money. But, after reading this book, what message does that send to my child, who is about to start college? Is this something that I need, or just want? How can I get by without going to these games? Before I finished this book, this would have been a hard choice. After reading it, there is no choice at all.
I will just figure it out. I won’t be renewing this seat. There are other way more important things to spend my money on.
And, I am sure I will get by. This is a want – not a need. These two years added to the great memories of being a fan there. I don’t have to miss the games, but watching on television is a poor substitute for going in person. My friend, Rich Phillips, calls the games on 770 AM with former Mavericks broadcaster Allen Stone. They are a great team.
I can tell my child, “if I can do it, you can do it.” This is the right thing to do.