Friday, July 20, 2012

Attendance: The Underlying Fever Pitch

Vacation is one of those things when you do stuff like soul searching and attempt to get a tan or something. Me, on the other hand, will read the sports columns and burn due to my fair skin (or what I call "albino characteristics"). When it comes to freelance writing, I guess you never truly get a vacation from that.

After watching ESPN First Take and reading articles on the Internet, I came across something that I hadn't really realized before reading/watching. Statistics have been showing that attendance figures for major sports around the United States have been decreasing over the past year. Why is that? The first couple of arguments that come to mind are the recession, the extreme weather as of late, and a more obvious choice--the team's record and popularity. When all else fails and those three factors come into play, there are a few options that can eliminate all stress and work.

Hellooooooo technology!

If there's a capability to go to a bar or a restaurant or a friend's house or your own comfy couch, then you have the capability to view the action of a sporting event through a magical box they call a television. What's so great about that?




...among other things. Sometimes people will admit to being bored being at a sporting event because of the lack of numerous camera angles and loud and charismatic announcers telling you every single thing going on as well as some anecdote to spice it up. Let's be frank about this: It's just easier and much more efficient if you're pinching pennies and don't want to go out and face the elements. Plus, it might actually be more fun to watch stuff at a bar. Why? I don't know, just start drawing some suggestions here and they'll more than likely make sense here.

In all seriousness, in the different realms of sports, you have to look at each aspect and think about why they might actually be suffering. Low attendance figures means lower revenue, and lower revenue is never a good sign for sports franchises. Oh yeah, and don't forget about how ridiculous the concession stands may be. Sure, you can tailgate if you're daring enough, but I'm sorry, I don't feel like spending more than $5.00 on a bottle of water. That's just highway robbery. Anyway, let's take a look on how it's affecting each sport and explore a conclusion of the American Big 4 as a whole. I won't mention soccer in the States...that's an entirely different animal with really ridiculously faithful fans.


Ah, yes, what was once known as "America's sport" is having a ridiculous time getting good attendance figures in some cities. Considering where you may live, you may have to deal with extreme heat and rain unless your team plays under a dome (which is cheating, in my opinion, except in Arizona where it's totally necessary). Another issue is that teams have more than 80 home games, which, if there is a maximum seated capacity of 40,000 or so, requires you to sell at least one million tickets if you want to have a half decent attendance figure at the end of the year. In cities like The Bronx, Boston, and Philadelphia, these guys have no problem selling out every home game. Team performance may help, but in cities like that, going to a ballgame at night is part of a lifestyle for people. If you look at places like Oakland and Houston, they don't have a big enough fan base in their proximity, and on top of that, teams like these are either sandwiched or near another team doing significantly better than them. I guess you can say that they're stealing the fans and the thunder. When there's 162 games for all 30 teams, you kind of wonder where all of the people are actually getting the money to spill into these ballpark seats.


EHHHHHHHYY! In Canada, you don't really have to worry about filling up the seats. Hockey is a religion there. However, I'm talking about the well-being of AMURRKA. It's sad, but attendance figures in hockey have gotten so bad in certain parts of the United States that your team might have to come from behind in everything and surprisingly win the Stanley Cup to save your financial issues of the team. The one thing I (along with my younger brother) never understood is this: Why are there hockey teams in cities with a climate that is the polar opposite of the ideal hockey weather? Don't get me wrong, I bet Nashville has a good fan base, but what about Dallas and Phoenix and Florida; how can places that have other attractions on top of other leagues playing simultaneously with the hockey team survive? You do feel bad for the teams that keep the bandwagon running after a good postseason run until they have the chances of dropping in the standings. Plus, I have been told that in certain cities that the ticket prices are unusually high and people are somehow still paying the prices for these games. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't blow $35 on nosebleed seats for even the worst of hockey teams in this country. That's just sickening. At any rate, it's nice to see that there are more than faithful hockey fans around the country that are beating the odds and filling up the seats in the world of ice.


This is where we get to the not-so-bad as far as attendance figures goes, shockingly enough. In some cases, figures could either be really really good or really really lousy. I don't think I have to start naming cities, but certain teams barely get 10,000 people at a game, and then there are hardcore basketball cities that can double that almost every single home game. It does make sense that there were issues getting fan bases back after the lockout, but when franchises are upping prices to compensate for lost time is not the smartest thing in the world to do. Before that hullabaloo, the financial options were much kinder to get the people back into the seats and remaining engaged. For example, the Sixers (until their playoff run this year) had a rough 2-3 years getting decent attendances. Tickets were as low as $15 unless if it were a big team like the Lakers or the Spurs. It got so bad that a college student like me actually processed a thought that I could go to a Sixers game because I could actually afford it. I give mad props to these marketing crews to keep people coming along. In my opinion, I really think it depends on where you live to see where the real interest is in basketball. I, for one, don't think that Who Dat Nation is a good place for that (for starters).

FOOTBALL America's new "America's sport." With dwindling attendance figures from over the past four years or so, you can't really tell that in certain stadiums. Due to a significantly shorter season compared to the previous three sports leagues I've mentioned, tickets are much higher, concessions are ridiculously high, and it can get super cold outside (unless if you're in Texas or Minnesota or somewhere like that). You would be surprised after seeing so many crazy people with face paint and costumes that there are other cities that might actually have problems filling up the seats in places like Oakland (I see a trend here) and Cincinnati. Also, there is something called the "Blackout Rule" incorporated by the NFL which states: "a game cannot be televised locally if not sold out within 72 hours of the game. The rule is designed to entice fans to the stadiums with the threat of not being able to see the games" [Thanks, BusinessInsider!]. People can be royally screwed over if they can't buy tickets to the games. If people are in the same position as you, guess who's going to be struggling to find an online outlet to watch the football game? It's a screwy rule that can really hurt fans and can actually lead to a lack of fans. Ahh--who am I kidding? Football won't die, it's just that colorful stadiums might die.

In conclusion, this is just society's way of saying that we're stepping more and more into a futuristic lifestyle where we actually don't have to be at the event to see what's going on. I tend to be against this, because sometimes you actually have to be there to fully experience something. For example, I've never been to a football game (SUE ME) but I would love to sit at one just to see how crowds react to plays and how they cheer teams on. Personally, that's why I enjoy going to soccer games because that's just a completely different atmosphere compared to baseball and hockey. However, if you're someone like me who barely has money due to unemployment, you can't experience those things on a consistent basis, ergo my previous statement on how the poor economy is a driving force in the need to use more technology to keep up-to-date with sporting events.

I do feel a bit of sympathy for a lot of these sports franchises because they half-expected the economy to affect them but they didn't expect their cases and issues to be as much of a trainwreck as it has been.  Like a lot of people say, it's going to get worse before it starts to get better. It could possibly go up from here, but then again, the unforgiving economy might not have dropped rock-bottom yet. I guess it's just a waiting game at this point. For now, we might as well just get the recliner all warmed up to watch the next sporting event on TV.

[The Olympics.]


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