MLB’s Attendance Problem Is Fine…It’s Image Proble Is Horrendous!

Posted: October 8, 2010 in MLB

…so I was watching ESPN SportsCenter last week Monday, and the highlights come on, and it’s very easy to watch MLB highlights in September and laugh at the sport. “God, the stadiums are empty, nobody cares about baseball!” But Cincinnati was at Milwaukee and the attendance was 30,000 people. It’s a Monday, school is well underway, and if I had kids I’m not taking them out on a Monday night when school has started. The Brewers have been out of the pennant race for two months now. Outside of a Joey Votto, not a lot of big name award winning players in that game. Shouldn’t we be astonished that 30,000 people showed up, in Milwaukee on a Monday where school has started? That’s unbelievable!!

And I went to the Major League standings the following morning and looked at the box scores. Kansas City in Detroit, that is a dreadful match up. I would rather watch paint dry for 4 hours…it had 24,000 people, bad economy, it’s in Detroit, tickets aren’t cheap, and both teams are out of the playoff race. Texas at Anaheim, Anaheim’s is out of the playoff race…41,000 in attendance. St. Louis at Florida, its Miami….there is a million other things to do there and its eighty eight degrees, 21,000 people. White Sox’s at the A’s…10,000, laugh! Would you go to an A’s game on a Monday night in Oakland, school is well underway in this economy? But what has happened – it’s much easier, let’s be honest here, to fill a football stadium. One game a week, a lot of urgency, teams can stay or look like they are in a playoff race much longer. In baseball, disparity and payroll…you can be out of a playoff race and there is still 3 ½ – 4 months left in the season.

So relative to the NFL, baseball looks weak, baseball looks listless, passionless. But I was thinking about this…that on any given Monday in US/Canada, its September and school well underway, mostly un-interesting games are on, playoffs are already locked up, and yet 600,000 people on average go to baseball games every night in this economy.

But here is baseball’s problem. There is this theory I have; it’s called the “Crowded Bar” theory. 12 people in a big bar, looks dead. 12 people in a small bar…it’s the place to be! Baseball has got an image problem. If the sport had stadiums mostly the size of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, you’d be like “man, you gotta go to the game tonight, that place is a party!!” Everyone wants to go to a good party, parents want to go, the kids want to go, and who doesn’t want to go to a fun place?

It is interesting because baseball feels like its dead, yet look at the attendance figures from last week Monday for all these terrible games, its baseball in September on a Monday night, with no pennant race, and no star players. And other than keeping like a Yankee stadium or maybe Anaheim, the problem with baseball is that its television image is dreadful.

Listen, I got news for you. Buffalo is going to have 20,000 empty seats real soon in the NFL. But the NFL’s image is “every stadium is full”. And you know, don’t forget this, when you watch the Oscar’s on television. It looks like there are 3,000 people in attendance, when in fact there really are about 340. Image – be it at bars, restaurants or stadiums – change the way we think about venues and think about sports.

Baseball does not have an attendance problem, oh it’s down a little, but the NFL is going to be down as well. Baseball has got a horrible image problem. If you go look at the box scores from last week and see how many people actually went to the game, it’s fairly remarkable.

Never forget how important staging is. Lindsay Lohan, if she’s got a big movie coming out, she looks hot! She gets busted; she always looks like Nick Nolty. Cindy Crawford, in the wrong lighting in the National Inquire looks like an old hag. Cindy Crawford on the infomercial, the best looking human being you’ve ever seen. There is a lot of different ways to stage things, there are a lot of images for the same things and I would argue, as I was looking over the baseball attendance last week Tuesday, the sport is doing fine to some degree, but God its image is awful in North America relative to the NFL.

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