29 April 2008

It's Not The Economy, Stupid

The Diamondbacks surmounted a seemingly insurmountable lead Wednesday to win (or tie) their ninth consecutive series, but truthfully, I'm kinda glad the Astros left town. They wear brick red one day, we don their red the next. It's confusing, and an embarrassment.

Speaking of which, the 'Stros (who drew 95,885 here for a series last May) bottomed out this time at 61,628. To be fair, the former was a Thu-Sun series, but back then Arizona wasnt defending NL West champs playing the best baseball in the majors either. Remember how "winning" was supposed to cure all of this? Remember how Derrick Hall boasted that season ticket sales were "strong" and retention broke previous marks? But so far, "winning", even historic winning, has been anything but the promised attendance panacea. Expect the online chorus of front office apologists to shift attention from this embarrassing fact with their new favorite deflective device: the soft economy. People may not be able to afford tickets, but according to these bleaters, it's not the team's fault. It's the economy, stupid.

It's certainly true the economy is hurting local attendance, but attendance is down nationwide, and it needs to be documented that, as of May 1st, the high flying, defending NL West champ Diamondbacks rank 13th of 16 NL teams in average draw. That ranking will surely rise some as the season unfolds. They'll get a nice bump this weekend hosting the Mets, and later in May with the Tigers in town. The real question is how much it will rise, given comparisons to 2004, when a truly horrible local team ranked 8th in NL attendance, or 2003 when they ranked fifth averaging 34.6K in a post 9/11 economy. It's well past time to stop blaming the Dbacks' recent lethargic attendance, relative to other winning teams, on the economy or on the people of Phoenix, and start pointing the finger at new pricing and policies that have alienated a sizable portion of one of the continent's fastest growing metropolitan areas.

In smaller news, Daron and Mark hinted at a new "discounted" cheering section during Monday's telecast. Grace wants to call it "Sut's Hut", similar to Grace's Place, only lower down. ( Let's hope it's cheaper than Grace's upper deck version, where nosebleeds went for $50 - ostensibly for the "privilege" of interacting with Phoenix fans' harshest and least informed critic). No new location was specified, but it sounds like something might be unveiled soon - maybe after school's out - which in Phoenix is mid May. Discounted seats are always a good thing, plus Daron's extended come on, at least so far, bears vague resemblance to my high level proposal to Derrick Hall - so it'll be fun to see what, if anything, they finally implement.

4 comments:

Russell said...

Actually a sports team is very similar to a political party in that it has it's core of supporters who will follow it no matter what. The rest it has to get on board by doing things to attract them, such as tax holidays, invading foreign countries etc.
The D-Backs seem to be struggling to win over the "undecided" in Phoenix.

Jeff said...

Interesting how teams have their own stock excuses. The White Sox' excuse is: "We've had bad weather."

Yeah, well, April usually brings bad weather (30 degree highs followed by 80 degree highs followed by thunderstorms, hail, snow, wind, earthquakes) in Chicago.

No news there.

What is a 'tax holiday'? I don't think US Americans have those.

Russell said...

I meant to write "gas tax holiday".

Matt said...

Russell,

Interesting analogy.

The D-Backs seem to be struggling to win over the "undecided" in Phoenix.

True. That's where I think they really messed up on the rebranding. Fanboys say it only hurts if you have an old, established brand, but abandoning a successful identity in a new market may be even worse, because it undermines newly formed allegiances, which by definition may be more tenuous. The had a recognizable brand to build on, an anchor of civic pride, and chose to obliterate it, degrading the brand into an amorphous "product" instead.

Interesting how teams have their own stock excuses.

It really is, Jeff. Teams that dont draw will say almost anything to deflect from pricing.