Earlier this week, David Price and Evan Longoria expressed their feelings that an insufficient number of hometown fans in the Tampa area come to see their games. The reaction to those comments has largely been negative. The players have been characterized as “out of touch” with the economic realities of fans and “unskilled” in the art of communications between players/franchises and their potential customers. As usual, I would prefer to see this situation differently. I think the players are spot on with their comments and more people should be taking note here.
The Tampa Bay Rays enter the final weekend of the baseball season with the best record in the AL – - albeit by only half a game. The Rays play an exciting brand of baseball using highly aggressive base running. They are fun to watch.
Now for the data… Let us look at average attendance for the teams in the playoffs as of this morning:
NY Yankees: 46,449 – - up 573 from 2009
Minnesota: 39,783 – - up 11,397 from 2009
Texas: 30,357 – - up 4,079 from 2009
Philly: 44,968 – - up 515 from 2009
Cincy: 25,304 – - up 3,560 from 2009
San Fran: 37,303 – - up 1,753 from 2009
Atlanta: 30,155 – - up 976 from 2009
Tampa: 23,025 – - down 123 from 2009.
Let me start with the unarguable points here. The Rays have the lowest attendance of all the playoff teams as of this morning. Moreover, the Rays are the only team on that list whose attendance has declined this year compared to last year.
Granted Tampa/St. Pete is a small market; it simply cannot turn out fans at the same rate that New York or Philly turn out fans. At the same time, Cincinnati and Minneapolis are hardly megalopolises… Even Atlanta – - notoriously blasé about pro sports – - plays to 31% bigger crowds than the ones that show up in Tampa.
The Rays rank 22nd in average attendance in MLB. Of the eight teams that play to smaller home crowds than the Rays, five of those teams have less than 70 wins on this final weekend of the season while the Rays have 94 wins.
The conclusion I draw here is that MLB made a significant error in judgment when it put an expansion franchise in Tampa/St. Pete starting in 1995. If fans will not support a team when it is in danger of having the best record in its league, there is a fundamental question that needs an answer:
Why the Hell is that team still in that location?
Let me hang up and you can answer that on the air…
The University of California – Berkley announced that it will cut four of its varsity sports programs and demote its rugby team from varsity status to club status. The stated reason is – - money. Sports being cut are baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse. The school said that its athletic department had been running in the red to the tune of about $10 – 13M per year for the last several years, so this had to be done – - even though they say it is only going to save $4M per year. Are more cuts coming? Or, is a $6-9M per year deficit acceptable while a $10-13M per year deficit outrageous? Whatever…
The problem with all four of those sports – - and rugby too – - is that they generate next to no revenue to offset their costs. I don’t know what the counting rules are here such that these four teams account for $4M per year in expenses, but the option does not exist for these sports to get into some kind of promotional frenzy and generate an additional $4M per year to keep their individual accounts out of the red.
Next time you hear anyone moaning about how football and men’s basketball programs get all the benefits at a school, remember this situation. Those are the sports that generate the revenue that allow these other programs to exist in the first place. Without football and men’s basketball, no athletic department in the country could possibly break even on the rest of its sports.
There has been immense focus this week on Donovan McNabb’s return to Philly as the QB for the Washington Redskins. There has been a tsunami of opinion on whether or not he will be cheered or booed and what McNabb really feels about Philly fans and the way he was treated there. I do not want to add to that hypothesizing.
Nonetheless, I do want to observe that the NFL schedule makers missed an opportunity that would have allowed fans in another NFL city to see how they might measure up against Philly’s notorious boo-birds. The Eagles play the Falcons this year; they meet on October 17th. However, the scheduling czar put the game in Philly and not in Atlanta. I wonder how Michael Vick would be welcomed there… Alas, we shall not find out.
Penn State is “Linebacker U”. The moniker is well-earned with graduates including Jack Ham, Brandon Short, LaVar Arrington, Dennis Onkotz, Shane Conlan, Andre Collins, Dan Connor and Paul Pozluszny – - off the top of my head. And, there were others… Perhaps now is the time to consider a similar label for another school.
Maybe Purdue should be “Quarterback U” on the basis that three Purdue grads have won Super Bowl championships. In chronological order, they are:
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret Morning News:
“The New York Times is reporting a high percentage of people have been committing crimes while wearing Yankees apparel.
“And that’s not even including those front office types who are charging $1,000 for a seat against the Red Sox.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…