You can't get away from it: Radio, television and newspaper stories are filled with doom and gloom. Even commercials are constant reminders of the state of our economy.
It follows us everywhere, providing a harsh reality check when we have an urge to open the pocketbook. At this time, cutting back is a way of life we're all adjusting to. Hopefully it won't last forever.
Splurging on entertainment has become a dicey proposition for many, with most people now having to make choices on where to spend their cash. Disposable income has been reduced, while prices have stayed the same.
Sports have always been a staple for providing entertainment. Our state has dozens of options for fans of just about anything: Baseball, football, soccer, basketball and hockey at the professional level are just two hours from here.
Traveling to the Twin Cities to watch baseball has always been a bit pricey. Even with special promotions, watching the Twins play can cost a couple hundred dollars for a family. At this point, that seems a bit expensive.
While it's great to see the Joe Mauers and Justin Morneaus of the world in person, such journeys are becoming more difficult to afford. With most games now televised, many are choosing to take in the action at home.
The Duluth Huskies are an outstanding alternative to all of this, providing a fan-friendly experience that doesn't empty the wallet. Now in its seventh season, the franchise has flourished into one of the best in the Northwoods League.
Some of the nation's finest college players will be playing in Duluth this summer, as the league again serves as a top-flight training ground for professional baseball. Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and Miami are some of the schools represented.
A host of former Huskies have advanced to Major League Baseball -- solid proof of a quality operation. It seems like every few weeks another former Northwoods player arrives at the game's highest level.
The style of play is especially crowd-pleasing, as hustle and hard work are common characteristics of each team. Sometimes mistakes are made, but they are rarely due to a lack of effort. A high-intensity level of play is almost guaranteed.
What I find most attractive is the pace. Games rarely extend beyond the three-hour mark, and most are finished long before that. Even with between-inning contests and announcements, the flow is remarkably efficient.
Admission is very reasonable, with top tickets at $7. Special promotions on Sundays and Tuesdays make it cheaper, allowing an even greater opportunity for those on limited budgets.
Concession prices are also a good deal, with a variety typical of most minor league stadiums. Food lines, which can get long, tend to move quickly thanks to a system that's well-organized.
Wade Stadium is a terrific venue for watching baseball, with unmatched sightlines and seats in close proximity to the field. Walking through its gates is like stepping back in time. The historic ballpark, a Duluth fixture since 1941, has never been in better condition.
Parking is ample and free, with a large adjacent lot that's ideal for tailgating. I've always been surprised at how few people take advantage of this opportunity. It's one of the great perks of attending outdoor sporting events.
In the past few years, I've been fortunate to attend games in various cities across the country. While I enjoyed visiting a lot of famous places, the amount I had to spend to see them was sometimes outrageous.
If you're looking for a great bargain, it's hard to find a better one than the Duluth Huskies. The quality of play might not be of big-league skill, but it's certainly worth the cost.
Budgeteer sports columnist Dave LeGarde is the Duluth Central basketball coach and a sports aficionado. Readers may e-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.