It continues. Scott Raab and I talk about it continually in our Monday morning podcasts, but the finger-pointing in the media about the lack of attendance continues. I really don’t want to pick on anyone specifically, but when you’re spending your pre-game counting the fans in the bleachers in order to tell everyone that there are only 278 people in the bleachers as Jason Lloyd did last night, you’re trying really hard to poke the bear. That kind of conversation lacks nuance that is needed when talking about a complex topic.
Instead, it seems like many of the Twitter conversations I see devolve into trash talking about other teams in town and why they draw fans. Yes, we know Cleveland is a football town with a Browns bias. Nobody really argues that point. I would also argue that the United States is a country with a football bias. I really think in many ways it has become overstated. I put a spreadsheet together taking the 2012 attendance figures 1 the reported average ticket prices for each team and then looked at a ham-handed estimate of annual ticket revenue for each Cleveland team.
|2012||Total Attendance||Average Ticket Price||Estimated Ticket Revenue|
So, yes, the Cleveland Indians are in last place with $27,627,831 in estimated overall spent by the market, but look at those actual attendance numbers. When you’re talking about such disparities on the supply side, it’s really difficult to make comparisons. And yes, we know the Browns have been bad since 1999. We know they’ve had one playoff game since returning. All that Browns bias led to a disparity of $1.26 million. 2
And while I see the Browns get dragged into the mud over being more popular than the Indians, how about your 24-win Cleveland Cavaliers? They out-earned the Tribe by over $3.6 million by my facile estimates. Isn’t it odd that nobody talks about that part of it?
I don’t think they should, of course. The NBA and the Cavaliers are just different. I think the NBA has done a really good job of creating a modern NBA fan. The Cavaliers fan-base is really nice, but the NBA (much to my chagrin) has succeeded in making all its marquee stars into draws on the road. So even if the Cavaliers are historically bad, if Kobe’s coming to town there’s a good chance the team is going to sell lots of tickets. Baseball doesn’t have that kind of star power most of the time. There are certain teams that do well all over the country, but in the NBA each team can be capable of having that one guy that everyone wants to watch. Think about Blake Griffin before Chris Paul showed up.
Back to the point at hand though, we need to stop trying to fix our issues by coming at each other with hammers. The media needs to stop rubbing it in the fans’ faces and instead continue to press the Cleveland Indians for what they’re doing so that they add more season ticket holders this off-season. As I’ve argued continually, we need to stop getting caught up in the micro conversation about a single season and looking from series to series from an attendance standpoint. Attendance is something that’s built year-over-year. The Indians reportedly grew that number last year. Will they be able to do it again? How are they going to try and do it? These are the things that reporters can focus on. Hold the Indians accountable rather than the fans who “aren’t buying enough tickets.”
You can easily make the argument that the Indians were smart to make the trades they did over the past five years. Making trades isn’t the issue. Missing on those and in the draft and in free agency is the problem. It’s not one thing. It’s everything. And when the Indians are just barely holding on in what should have been the peak of a new contention window, I have a really tough time blaming fans for not believing. I hope the media stops.
I thought I was going to say all I had to say on this topic earlier in the year when I compared the Indians to the Detroit Tigers. In that post I showed that while I didn’t think the Indians could ever return to the brand new Jacobs Field glory days of attendance, that I did think they could get back to attendance respectability. With the right combination of free agency, trades, drafting and roster development that leads to wins and more frequent playoff appearances, it’s possible to strike a healthy balance. No, the Indians won’t approach 3.5 million fans as they did in the late 90′s, but they should be able to reset their range to fluctuate closer to the 2.5 million fan range. In 2007 the Indians did 2.275 million fans. Imagine if they’d followed that up with back-to-back playoff appearances? And I believe that 2007 Indians payroll was around $61 million.
This isn’t a story of necessary misery. The Indians can get this job done if they do things better in the forthcoming years than they have done in the past five. If they do, I believe the fans will come back. Oh yeah, and the Browns won’t have anything to do with it.
- I believe NFL and NBA would call them the 2013 figures because their season span 2012 into 2013. Here in Cleveland, we’ll just call them “last year.” [back]
- Scott from WFNY pointed out on twitter that merchandise surely skews the Browns’ way as well, but I think the point remains. [back]