erik lundegaard

Where Rob Neyer is Wrong on Baseball's Declining Attendance

A bit of an odd post from Rob Neyer today. The headline asks “Does MLB Have an Attendance Problem?,” to which Neyer answers, “No.” But it's the way he answers no.

He's reacting to a Sports Biz post by Darren Rovell, who saw empty seats all over the league and concluded that attendance was a disaster. Then he crunched the numbers and relayed his findings:

If you average every team’s attendance so far and compare it to that exact amount of games last year, Major League Baseball is only averaging 304 fans fewer per game than last year. While that 1 percent drop is significant, it’s not as much as I would have thought from some of the pictures I’ve seen.

Rovell goes on to say that the situation is still worrisome since MLB attendance has decreased every year, and 8 percent overall, from its record high in 2007. But Neyer didn't seem to read that far down. In his post, Neyer writes:

[The one-percent drop is] worth mentioning, but certainly might be attributed to lousy weather or a particular team's issues.

Lousy weather I'll buy. But a particular team's issues? There are only two issues with baseball teams, winning and losing, so there's always parity there. As one team begins to lose (and attendance drops), another team begins to win (and attendance rises).

Then Neyer writes something worthy of Bud Selig:

But I'm highly confident that ticket prices increased by more than one percent this season, and for that and many other reasons I'm extremely confident that MLB's revenues will be up once again. Which is most of the thing, really. If revenues are up, everybody's happy and nobody's agitating for some idiotic stance in the labor negotiations.

Which is most of the thing? Since when did Neyer start writing from a revenue perspective, which is the owner's perspective? It's clear that attendance is down because the economy's down, and has been since 2007. But it's also down because MLB's fan base isn't made up of baseball fans anymore. Look at postseason ratings, which are abyssmal. For most of the last 20 years, MLB has worked to make a day at the park a kind of sportsotainment outing, with loud music, crazy food, video races, and fuzzy mascots. That game between the lines? Whatever. Now MLB has the kinds of fans it deserves.

Real baseball fans can't abandon baseball no matter the economy. Non-fans, sportsotainment fans, can do so easily, and are doing so. To me, that's most of the thing.

Safeco Field in Seattle, 2011

No surprise: The second-biggest drop in attendance this year is in Seattle: -23%


Posted at 08:50 PM on Thu. Apr 21, 2011 in category Baseball  
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COMMENTS

Anonymous M's fan wrote:

Case in point — has anyone seen “The Pen” at Safeco Field this year? Flat-screen TVs. Upscale food choices. Cushy chairs. Paintings of former and current Mariners (stats included). Open flames. Merchandise shop. It's almost as if the marketing folks decided, “Gee, since the folks in the beer garden seldom actually watch the game, let's give them more reasons NOT to.”

The whole area belongs as its own sports-themed restaurant, not fully enclosed at a baseball park.

However, having been to 39 major-league baseball stadia, I could've almost predicted the latest change at Safeco. A lot of the newer parks cater to the casual fan more than the hardcore fan.

Personally, I've never understood why someone would go to a baseball game and not watch a baseball game, but that's what was happening at the beer garden in center field through the end of last season. It's like walking through a real-life beer commercial. No one over the age of 40. No one grossly overweight. More flannel and Aeropostale and Abercrombie hoodies than a Gorge concert.

So instead of closing down the beer garden — or setting it up for groups only — they've turned it into one of the cafeterias at Microsoft's RedWest campus.

That'll show 'em. Teach THEM not to watch the game. Here! Watch an NBA playoff game — or another baseball game (?!) on this TV! That should make you think twice about not watching a baseball game YOU PAID MONEY TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE NOT TO WATCH!

Honestly...

Comment posted on Fri. Apr 22, 2011 at 02:20 AM

Jake wrote:

Overall numbers say, baseball attendance up this year, I'm sure it felt good to waste your whole afternoon writing this

Comment posted on Wed. Sep 28, 2011 at 11:41 AM

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