You may recall that fans in Tampa want to organize a fan walkout as a protest regarding the less-than-competitive team they have had on the field for
the entire incarnation of the team that is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Of course, attendance in Tampa is so low that if everyone bolted for the door at
the same time there would only be a 45 second delay in getting them to the parking lot, so that doesn't seem as if it would be particularly effective
So another version of the protest might be that all the fans in attendance that evening will leave their seats and go stand in the concourses for half
an inning leaving the seats empty for that half inning. Once again, you may have to be very observant to notice the difference. And there is another
problem here. While milling about in the concourse, some of those fans are likely to purchase a beer or a soda or perhaps something to eat. It's
actually possible that concession sales might go up for that evening. That would be an effective protest!
I spent the last weekend in Chicago and happened to catch a few innings of a couple of White Sox/Orioles games on TV. Unless there is an error in my
morning paper, the White Sox have the best record in MLB and the Orioles have the second best record in the AL - and are tied for the second best
record in MLB. Watching the games, I saw a significant number of empty seats in Chicago for these games. The one on Friday seemed to be only about 75%
full. Look, I understand that the Cubs are the big draw in Chicago and the White Sox are the poor relatives, but when the White Sox are as good as
they have been this year - and simultaneously the Cubs are decidedly mediocre - baseball fans need to focus a bit of their attention on the team that
is actually playing well.
The Orioles have left Chicago and the Texas Rangers arrive today. The Rangers are only a game and a half behind the Angels in the AL West. You would
think that this series should attract about 30,000 per game; it will be interesting to see what the numbers are...
Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals attendance is settling into a pattern. When the Cubs were in town, the team played to capacity houses - most of
them being Cubs' fans. When a team with a less enthusiastic following is in town, the Nationals play to about 50% capacity. So much for the pent-up
demand for baseball in Washington. In addition, check to see how the Nationals draw on the road. The answer is - - not all that well.
Another thing that people have argued about for the last dozen years or so is the level of support that the Orioles drew from the Washington DC area
and its suburbs. Peter Angelos said it was 25%; groups that wanted baseball in Washington commissioned studies to show that it was less than 5%. Both
figures are skewed because the people offering up both figures have axes to grind and want to use the numbers they put forth as a way to bolster their
arguments. However, Peter Angelos - unlovable and prickly as he is - looks like he was far closer to correct on this one. The Orioles attendance is
down significantly this season (more than 5,000 per game) even though the Orioles are in first place in the AL East. Even more telling, the Orioles
have played to the three smallest crowds ever in the history of Camden Yards. Yes, it is possible that the Orioles fans in Hagerstown have become so
enamored of their minor league team that they no longer travel along I-70 to Baltimore to see the Orioles but I think the better explanation is that
the folks in DC and the Maryland suburbs of DC are now going to see the Nationals and not driving on the perennially congested I-95 to get to Camden
Yards. You'll wait a long time before you hear someone like Tom Boswell say that Peter Angelos was right about this and that the Washington baseball
people were the bigger propagandists in that hot-air exchange.
Out in San Francisco, attendance is down this year by what seems to be a relatively small number given that Barry Bonds has not played yet and the
team is a geriatric collection of hamstring muscles on the brink of tearing. However, when I see the Giants on TV, I see a lot of empty seats in the
stadium - far more than I remember seeing in the past couple of years. So, the Giants must be reporting steady ticket sales while the TV is
demonstrating that lots of folks are just staying home and can't give their tickets away to people who will actually make the trip to the ballpark.
This is the kind of accounting that makes David Stern's heart go pitter-patter.
Attendance woes are not commonplace in the NFL, but they do happen. And when attendance woes are combined with a stadium that is not full of high
priced suites to generate revenues, that makes for owners who might want to leave town. Such is the case at the moment with the New Orleans Saints who
are rumored to be "in play". At the end of the 2005 season, the Saints have a 90-day window in their lease that would allow them to leave New Orleans
by paying an $81M fee. If they let that 90-day window close, they are bound to New Orleans and the lease on the Superdome until after the 2010 season.
Los Angeles is the city that most people project to be the new home of the Saints although that may be a difficult thing for the "beautiful people"
there to accommodate. After all, who wants to go to a football game with a bag on your head if you are one of the "beautiful people"? According to the
LA Times the city still wants to do some renovation work on the Coliseum as the venue for an NFL team in town but even if work started in the next two
hours, there is no way that stadium could be fixed up and ready for a new NFL resident by the beginning of next year. So, I'm not sure how this
scenario might play out. The NFL has been pretty clear in the past that it really - REALLY - would prefer a new stadium in a nicer part of town than
the Coliseum as the home for a new franchise, but the city fathers in LA have not taken the bait. Of course, there could always be a stadium built in
Anaheim and the team could be the "Los Angeles Saints of Greater Southern California To Include Anaheim But Not San Diego". Whatever.
Another New Orleans Saints "destination" might be San Antonio - according to Charlie Walters' column in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Evidently, current
Vikings' owner, Red McCombs, and Saints' owner, Tom Benson, are close and if McCombs sells the Vikes soon, the rumor is that he will help Benson move
the Saints to his home town of San Antonio. There was a USFL team in San Antonio so there is some kind of a stadium there but I have no idea if it is
"NFL-worthy" at the moment.
Neither of these two scenarios is without some aspects that require large leaps of faith to embrace them. Obviously, the NFL would like a team in LA
but unlike MLB with its anti-trust exemption, the NFL does not have nearly the power to control franchise movements, as does MLB. So, this might be an
interesting soap opera to keep an eye on in the coming six to nine months...
Finally, Charlie Walters also had a note in the Saint Paul Pioneer-Press about the assistant baseball coach at a local high school named Otto "Snap"
Leitner. Somehow, I would have guessed that someone nicknamed "Snap" would be an offensive line coach in football, no?
But don't get me wrong, I love sports...
Copyright The Sports Curmudgeon