Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Am Legend

I was at Fenway Park with my brother tonight (and saw Tim C on the Orange Line). The ballpark was at 75% capacity. Completely serious. It ended up being a pretty good game. Actually, I'm going to have to devote the next paragraph to the game, the actual game, when it matters.

Matsuzaka has the ability to be a good pitcher. It's clear just looking at the way he pitches against bad teams. He started pretty poorly today but then was unhittable. He was attacking the strike zone. He was executing a better Jason Donald game plan (i.e. "strike him out") than Armando Galarraga. He was inspiring awkward ground outs to Bill Hall and poorly-judged fly outs to Ryan Kalish. He was awesome. I am very curious how Matsuzaka would pitch if he didn't have a single game plan or a single scouting report and just pitched to everyone like he pitched to the A's and the Indians this year. And the Adrian Beltre home run was completely predictable. Big spot, Youkilis on the DL, Beltre's obviously going to crush one 450. Look, it kinda sucks that the team is pretty much out of playoff contention, but it is still fun to watch Beltre and make fun of the fact that 46 can only get on base by catcher's interference.

Okay, back to the 2010 fan experience. This is my first time at Fenway since the Coco Crisp series, when the team was climbing back into contention. The team had not essentially fallen out of contention earlier than they had any year this millenium. It didn't rain like a mofo in the afternoon. But it was the same as it has been since 2003: A lot of people there just to be seen and sing creepy songs about 11-year-old girls. Lots of packed seats because they economy was bad.

Tonight, I really thought my brother and I were in the movie I Am Legend. There was nobody there. The green line train, despite humid weather, was never unbearably crowded with sweaty people with B.O. It was no different from a Friday night going to the Dude The Bars Dude district. There was no evacuation-style clamoring out of the Kenmore station. There were few people to dodge on Brookline Avenue. The line to the turnstiles was literally five people long, and the line for food was even shorter than that.

My brother and I got to the ballpark at 6:30, forty minutes before the game. Pretty much peak hours to get to any baseball game. Yankee Stadium was freaking packed when I showed up there forty minutes before. The subway was also jammed with people, most notably airheaded female Yankee fans.

Oh, and one more thing. The guy passing out the Jesus literature wasn't even there. We had never seen anything like this before.

From our seats, we saw that one of the bleacher sections was 25% empty. Section 29 in the LF grandstands was half empty. After working in minor league ticket ops, I know that when the place is jammed, there are still quite a few empty seats. But it was notably empty even to an untamped eye.

When the stupid Neil Diamond song about the 11-year-old girl came on, less than half of the remaining attendees were fist pumping with the song. So not only are people no longer showing up to Red Sox games, but the ones who are showing up aren't the pink hatted yahoos. It was unbelievable.

Bottom line is the following two points:
-The Red Sox' sellout streak, as this Bloomberg Business article explains, is completely artificial because the team sells its remaining tickets to a third party. These tickets are counted as sold. And the third party very well may go out of business (originally my dad's idea) because I feel nobody is buying Red Sox tickets. This team is not selling tickets anymore, but they have still made money off of it and they are still maintaining a gimmick as artificial as baseball players. Both are good for business, of course. Judging by the T rides to the game, home from the game, and the crowds (there was nobody in the hot dog line in the third inning - literally zero people), I doubt more than 20,000 people (which is usually "announced" as 25,000 or more) were there to watch Game 11.
-The people who got excited after Game 2 of the 2003 ALCS are going back to watching Minute to Win It, America's Next Top Model, and Jersey Shore. The Pink Hat era of Red Sox baseball is possibly over. Even with its centerpiece 46 back in the lineup, they've completely lost interest because the team sucks again. It's kind of a shame, because there are compelling parts of this team. Watching the minor leaguers and Adrian Beltre keep this team close for so long is compelling. Much more likable than the 2009 team, I tell you that. But Red Sox fans, whom I have long told to go back to their shanties, have done exactly that. Sure, there are more than your fair share of obnoxious people all over the ballpark, but it will not be long until Sully from Medford and Murph from Lynn are able to get tickets again.

It was like I'm back in the nineties again. And while it might not be good for revenue (I'll use the typical sports fan excuse of "it's not my money"), tonight's Fenway Park excursion was the least inconvenience excursion to that place in over a decade. I'd stop short of saying I love it, because it means the team is playing poorly. But it is actually kind of a relief.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

The bottom line is that fans aren't going to watch a team that isn't winning. And while this team is technically "winning" because they have a winning record, they have fallen far enough back this season in the standings that they realistically don't have a chance to win when it really matters--the postseason.

I can't speak for all Sox fans. And I suspect that you and I feel differently about this, but I don't want to go back to the 1990's. The Sox sucked then. They made the playoffs four times, were swept twice, never made the World Series, and watched the Yankees win three themselves. How is that a good thing? If winning means obnoxious fans and overexposure, then so be it. That what winning breeds. It's natural.

Go take a look at some of those crappy indie bands that everyone in college likes. They're cute and fun and their fans are proud that only a small group of people follow the band. But here's the real question--Are those bands making any money? Are they selling gold records? No and no. I want the Red Sox to be Van Halen or Bruce Springsteen. I don't want them to be The Band That Nobody's Heard Of But Is Well-Liked By It's Tiny Fan Base. The Sox had those days. It was called 1919-2003. I want the Sox to make a ton of money, spend a ton of money, and most importantly, win.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Absolutely fair. It was a little nostalgic, however, to not have to deal with a large volume of obnoxious fans. But if it's the choice between losing and dealing with a small volume of fans who actually want to watch baseball instead of sing about 11-year-old girls riding horses...and winning with pink hats all over the place, the former might be nice for a change, but the latter is probably better in the long haul.

TimC said...

Gunn, funny you mention Bruce because I think he had a big problem with how his success was affecting his fan base. I don't know a whole lot about it but I do recall reading that a lot of his original fans had felt that he would never do something like a Superbowl halftime show. I think a lot of it had to do with how he preferred to do shows in smaller venues rather than stadiums, arenas, etc., early on in his career.

The difference with music and sports, unfortunately for DV, is that it is far easier to interact with "pink hat" music fans than it is to interact with "pink hat" baseball fans. Music fans, generally, tend to know their place in their respective band's fandom. For example, although I like U2 a lot, have listened to many of their albums, and have done a lot of viewing of live songs on youtube, I would not consider myself a really massive U2 fan. Certainly, I would not think that I was a U2 fan on the level of someone who goes to shows, has been buying the albums for decades, and can talk about some of the band's low points.

Baseball fans, on the other hand, rarely understand their place. They go into games, buy a bunch of miscolored shit, and talk about the good old days when Pee Wee Reese hit an inside the park homer and wore the same sunglasses that this particular fan bought at the pro shot with a helmet ice cream. Please. As we all know, some fans are here to stay, some are not. Unfortunately, when it comes to concerts and ballparks, these fans do not see their own place in the same way.

TimC said...

Oh, final point, Bill Simmons is a massive joke. His column today was a joke and his column last week about the Sox was, at best, poorly labeled. He should stick to podcasts and maybe try to host some kind of sports late-night show, but in my opinion his column just doesn't work anymore.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

Bill Simmons is occasionally funny but at this point he's basically a poor man's Peter Gammons. And that's not a good thing.