Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Is Fan Loyalty, Exactly?

As I cruised through web today, I stumbled on a Bleacher Report feature judging baseball's worst fair weather fans. It's an easy story for the site, famous for slideshows and captions, to do. These can be fun to buzz through. This one, though, just doesn't hold up.

Sports is apparently the one business where the customers are castigated for not buying the product. If a movie bombs or a car doesn't sell, critics point out the deficiencies of the product. Maybe it's because teams disguise themselves as representatives of the cities they play in.

That makes it seem almost unpatriotic to not go the games. While it's easy to get wrapped in the notion, the reality is that  team owners are quick to move or threaten to move to get whatever tax breaks or new stadiums they want.

And then there's the biggest problem with the thesis of the post: Somehow it was deduced that when teams had bad years attendance dropped. And, amazingly, when teams play they sold more tickets. Sherlock Holmes would be proud.

Even the Yankees have had their problems at the gate. Back in the early '90s when George Steinbrenner was suspended by major league baseball, getting tickets to a game was not so difficult.

I remember going to see the Brewers (before they were promoted to the Senior Circuit) and literally had scalpers get into a fight over who would get to sell me a ticket. The street outside the Stadium was empty and the entrepreneurs each had a thick stack of ducats to move.

For a couple seasons, the Yanks numbers were below the A.L. average. They didn't fall off the cliff, but it does suggest that if the Bronx Bombers ever have a bad season or two that the fans will decide to keep their money or spend elsewhere. Maybe even across town if the Mets get their act together.

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