I swear that I intended for yesterday’s post on attendance to be my last word on the issue so that this space could re-focus itself on the ballclub.
I worked up quite an angry sweat on the treadmill this morning while reading the opinions of Price and Longo. I was prepared to point out the ignorance of athletes demanding blind loyalty from fans without pledging their loyalty to the fans in return. I was even prepared to promise to buy season tickets just as soon as Price and Longo signed lifetime contracts with the Rays whose salary was gauged to economic conditions and not on-field performance.
But, the more I thought about it, the more my anger abated. Longoria and Price are children. Not children in age (although they are both young) but children in life experience. They have been pampered through an athlete-centric culture that has protected them from the realities of the outside world, in particular the business world.
This is not a critique of athlete-worship. I am merely pointing out that we insulate our athletes so they keep the bright-eyed innocence of children. All they have to think about is the game. That is part of the reason we turn to sports for entertainment. It is an escape from reality.
That escape, however, can rear its ugly head when the folks living inside the bubble attempt to analyze things outside the white lines. (See Schilling, Curt).
The fact of the matter is, neither Longoria nor Price have any reason to know the reality of sports business. They cannot comprehend that fans won’t come to the yard to see them play because they only equate on-field performance with attendance. I would guess that neither Longoria nor Price has bought a ticket to anything. For that matter, I’d bet that neither Longoria nor Price has ever sold anything.
Their complaints, of course, are naive. It is the equivalent of a restaurant complaining that customers are not filling tables even though the cook has been making great food. Eating out, like going to the ballgame, is not a necessity. Companies in the entertainment world need to find the right incentives to convince consumers to spend money they do not otherwise have to spend. The Rays are currently failing at this.
Instead of blaming management for poor business strategy, or looking to factors outside anyone’s control — like the economy, the children in the clubhouse blame the customers. That is understandable. Price, Longoria, and the rest of the Rays derive a significant portion of their own self-worth from the blind adoration of fans. Of course it feels personal to them. Someone needs to take them aside and explain, it’s not personal, it’s just business.