Friday, April 27, 2007

Why So Many Empty Seats?

The Indians continued their torrid streak with a 5-4, comeback win against Baltimore tonight. Apparently someone forgot to tell the fans that their baseball team is good this year. Honest, they could win some games. So why is the Jake so empty every game?

The Browns (who have had one winning season since 1999) pack the house every week, but the Tribe can't even average 20,000 a game at home? What does it take to draw a crowd these days? I could understand if the team was playing bad baseball, but they currently own the second best record in the Majors and are on a 5 game winning streak.

It's pretty sad that this team can't draw a crowd like it used to. Yeah, I know the Browns and Lebron are the top draws in Northeast Ohio now, but are there really that few dedicated baseball fans in Cleveland? I just have a hard time buying into football or basketball drawing away that many fans from the Jake. A fan is a fan, you don't just stop following baseball when basketball or football season starts.

One could argue that I'm minimizing the economic factors that contributed to 455 consecutive sellouts at the Jake, but my point is, the baseball fanbase didn't just pack up and leave during the rebuilding years. What makes it even more annoying is I don't even have the privilege of going to games on a regular basis, since I don't live in Ohio.

Playing in front of a big, noisy, excited crowd helps motivate the players, improve the team's revenue stream (albeit marginally), and brings integrity to the team. What kind of message does so many empty seats communicate to the players and other fans?

My theory is the fans are hesitant to invest as much time, money, and energy into the team as they once were, due to the disappointment of missing the playoffs the last two seasons. Is the benchmark set by the powerhouse teams of the 1990's negatively influencing the fans' perception of the current team?

If so that's a shame, because the Indians are contending again, whether the city cares or not.

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