A few years ago I started to get really good at guessing the attendance at CBP. The four options displayed on the scoreboard were always some variation of a sellout: A) 44,628 B) 44,011 C) 45,564 D) 45,208.
Easy. It was D. There was an attendance of 45,208 on this mythical 2011 night.
See how good I am?
Besides my instincts, I have two real talents: guessing attendance and not letting things drop.* But something tells me that practicing my craft at Phils games this year will prove quite difficult. You used to be able to gauge the strength of a sellout by how long the beer lines were, how overcrowded the Bud Light Rooftop Sponsored Because Bud Light Has to Sponsor Everything Bleachers were, and the standing room availability at railings behind sections in the infield of the second level. I had real simple metrics for this, and I was damn good at it. Most nights I could get within 200 of the paid attendance before the options even came up on the scoreboard. But now… how do you possibly count 20,000 empty seats and come up with an accurate number?
The Phillies’ attendance last night was 25,492, the lowest since 2007. And it was the third game. According to Pat Gallen (@PatGallen_975), the Phils’ lowest attendance in 2013 was 28,862. It was 40,394 in 2012, 25,831 in 2008 and 23,526 in 2007.
Nick Kayal (who I think is one of the best young sports talk guys in the city**) made a good point on 97.5 last night. He observed that 40-, 50- and 60-something Phillies fans may have four or five entertainment options that they really like (the Phillies, a couple TV shows, a good book), meaning they’ll stick with a bad team and continue watching and attending games longer than young fans, in their 20s and 30s, who not only have more of a social life and a myriad bars, restaurants and other establishments to choose from, but also many more entertainment options natively available to them (us)– iPads, Netflix, 200 cable channels, YouTube, social media and pretty much anything online. I agree with Nick. It’s not about being a bad fan, it’s just that young people, today, have many, many more entertainment options than our fathers and mothers did when they were, say, 25 or 31. We have a quicker trigger. Hell, I do this for a living and I’ve already reached the point with the Phillies – nine games into the season – where I think, you know, I have a lot of binging I could be doing… why am I watching a 9-4 baseball game? That’s the problem with the Phillies (and baseball in general) now. Citizens Bank Park and Phillies games were a destination and appointment viewing from 2008 to 2012. Everywhere you went when a game was being played, you looked for a TV or obsessively checked the score. CBP was where weekend nights started. The TV automatically tuned to CSN at 7 p.m. And even before 2008, there weren’t as many entertainment options to distract young people. Phillies games certainly weren’t the event they were the last few years, but they were one of the more attractive entertainment options and certainly one of just a handful of adequate viewing options, especially during the summer.
We’ve come full-circle, though. Back to the dark ages. Only now the Phillies can truly disappear into the darkness if they continue to be really bad. People aren’t going to sit through a 72-win season. They’re going to tune out. It’s already happening.
And as for estimating the attendance? I guess I’ll have to start counting the empty rows on the baselines. E. None of the above. 25,492. The Phillies and Brewers thank you.
*Nothing falls in my presence. For instance, if I knock something off a counter, my body goes into save mode and I contort my thighs and feet in such a way to trap the object against a cabinet. Hell, the other night I even caught spilled beer – not the bottle… the actual beer – in my hand. I caught liquid… in my hand. I scare myself sometimes.
**Nick really knows his stuff. He comes prepared with facts as well as anyone on local sports talk radio. I sit on Twitter all day and see most of the factoids and anecdotes that pop up, and every night, Kayal has them ready to go. He seamlessly weaves Twitter and online reports into his discussion and still hits on the all-important hot-button issues to generate calls. There’s a bit of sports geekery in some opinions, but most observations, like his one about Phils fans last night, are interesting and supported with facts and anecdotes.