Every fan base in every sport will argue that they’re the best fans in the world. We do it at Camden Yards, and odds are they do it at every other sports venue in America. The Boston Red Sox take this to another level with the whole “Red Sox Nation” movement and so forth. We’re all sick of their fans coming to Camden Yards and acting like it’s their home park. That’s why these past couple of nights at Fenway have struck me so much. Anyone that’s watched the O’s and Red Sox on MASN the past two nights has noticed something that’s not normally seen at the Fens during Red Sox games: red seats.
Gary Thorne even pointed it out on MASN on Monday night. While the games are listed as sellouts because the tickets were already sold, this is a phenomenon known around sports as no-shows. The funniest thing to me is that while the Red Sox are probably destined for an early winter just like the O’s, they’re technically still in contention. That means that some people bought their tickets and decided not to come to the game(s) since they were essentially meaningless. Hmmm…is it possible that Red Sox Nation is truly no better than any other country around MLB or sports? That sounds a lot like Oriole fans not wanting to come out to the yard to see a team out of contention. The only difference s that the Red Sox have already sold the tickets so they still get the gate revenue. However they don’t collect as much concessions money, souvenir sales, etc.
Each time the Orioles have set Camden Yards all-time attendance lows, it’s generally been an early season game early in the week and early in the season where it’s been cold. However that doesn’t stop the media (ie-ESPN) from reporting the fact that the Orioles set an attendance low for an entire day. Does anyone among us think that any national media outlet is going to highlight the Red Sox no-shows? Probably not, especially seeing that the game is listed as a sellout. However anyone that watched Monday’s game heard Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer highlight how chilly it was in New England, and saw people bundled up in the stands. So apparently if you combine cold weather with a team that’s probably not going anywhere, even New Englanders might not necessarily be interested.
I’m not trying to pile on the Red Sox as much as you might think. I’ve seen the O’s at Fenway Park, and it’s one of the most amazing places in sports. Furthermore, to anyone that’s never seen a game there I’ll tell you that the Fenway Faithful are nothing like the pink hatters that come to Oriole Park to root on the Red Sox. Not only was I not taunted for wearing my Oriole cap and pullover (it was mid-April when I went in 2009 so it was cold), but many people came flying up to me to literally welcome me to their ballpark and their city. I might agree that the fans at Fenway Park are some of the best in baseball. My point is that as much as teams like the Orioles are made into laughingstocks about attendance (or lackthereof), not even the mighty Red Sox are above issues in this department.
Admittedly, the Red Sox “attendance problems” are not anything like what we see at Camden Yards. The Orioles at times struggle to put 12k people in the seats during mid-week series’. However, the premise is pretty much the same; most people don’t want to see an uncompetitive team. (I’ve been to at least twenty Oriole games thus far this year, but most casual fans won’t come out to the games unless the team’s in contention.) I take heavy umbrage when hear people say that Baltimore isn’t a very good baseball town, or that the community doesn’t support the team. The fact is that Baltimore is a baseball town, and it’s as good as any other. However the team’s fallen on lean years, which will eventually turn people away (and don’t get me wrong, a column on bandwagon fans is a whole other argument, but that’s for another day).
If the Orioles were to start winning again, I think that people would return stronger than ever. Time loves a hero, and the people of Baltimore will latch onto this team in coming years if the trend of the second half continues into 2011. I even noticed an absence of the normal “die-hard” Red Sox fans at Oriole Park when Boston was in town a few weeks ago. Similarly, when the Yankees weren’t going to the playoffs a few years ago their fans didn’t fill the yard either. (The difference was that hey did sell out continually at home because it was the last season in Yankee Stadium.) So am I trying to say that Boston Red Sox fans aren’t as good as Oriole fans? No, not in the least. But the fact is that they’re no different in that when the team’s not in contention people (casual fans) just might decide to do something else as opposed to going to the ballpark.