The baseball team that plays in Anaheim but calls Los Angeles home drops into the Trop today and we all know what is going to happen…a lot of fans are going to come dressed as empty blue seats.
That will, of course, create a cacophony of national media members chastising us for not appreciating our
ballclub. Hell, the manager or leftfielder may even chime in to note their disappointment. There is no topic more popular than critiquing the number of people hitting the turnstiles at Tropicana Field. (Sidenote: We need to bring back the turnstiles. The ladies that scan the tickets are very nice, but the turnstiles just seem like they belong in baseball).
Look, a discussion about attendance is legitimately newsworthy. The best two teams in baseball have not often played a September series with first place on the line and had empty seats watch the game. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has even done a study showing that home attendance can be worth late inning runs — something the Rays obviously could have used Tuesday night.
What’s weird is that almost every media member that has opined on the Rays attendance concludes that low attendance numbers are caused exclusively by indifference to Major League Baseball in our community. I have already written — convincingly in my humble opinion — that this IS a baseball town. But that really isn’t the point.
How can anyone write or talk about attendance at an entertainment event in this area without mentioning the local economic conditions? The Tampa Bay Business Journal had a nice piece yesterday on the decline in Total Personal Income in this market. That shouldn’t be news to anyone. Central Florida was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn. A huge portion of our economy was built on the housing market and another portion built on collecting the discretionary income of folks that don’t live here — not the most reliable sources of income since 2007. Even worse, unemployment is higher in the Rays’ market than other places in the country (the Labor Department is expected to announce that it high 11.5% today, up from last quarter).
So, spare me your platitudes about the importance of filling the Trop. People are struggling to feed themselves and their families. It is distasteful, at best, to chastise those people for not dropping $100 on a night at the ballpark.