06 April 2009

Full Of It

The Arizona Diamondbacks are unique in several respects, and one is they have a recent history of announcing sellouts where thousands of fans come dressed as green plastic chairs.

Today's opener was announced at 48, 799 and the tiny gap between that and the park's traditionally recognized capacity (49, 033) isnt the issue here. Close enough, in my book. Maybe Derrick Hall slightly reduced capacity by shuttering handicapped areas, club seats or set aside more square footage for his myriad Circles of Success. Who knows?

The issue is, from first pitch to last, there appeared to be not hundreds, but thousands and thousands of unoccupied seats in the top dozen or so rows of the stadium's top tier. The upper deck accomodates approximately 20,000 patrons, and if a quarter of that is empty, that's what, 5000 seats?

It wasnt easy to tell on television. FSN didnt pan the nosebleeds often, and when they did it was quick enough I almost didnt believe my eyes. Not after the Diamondbacks announced five days earlier that only 3000 unsold tickets remained. I dont see all that great and thought maybe the empty seats were imagined, where there were really only TV shadows. So I asked my Sedona Red-clad son, a 14 year old with perfect vision and no axe to grind against the current administration, and he thought there were more empties than me. About a third empty, he said, more like 7000 unexplained absences, just in the one deck.

It's understood people get up to eat, walk around and go to the bathroom, but it was always the same areas that appeared empty. The bottom decks werent constantly at numerical capacity either - no section ever is - but they certainly looked full to the naked eye throughout the game. There was something distinctly empty looking, both qualitatively and quantitatively, about these upper sections.

This comes on the heels of documented and unusual patterns of ticket availability online, that begged the question of artifical supply manipulation by the host club and/or MLB.

Diamondhacks welcomes alternative rational explanations for the "sellout" that save us the unpleasant task of calling these people liars. Knowledge trumps vitriol any old day. But from hollow marketing and merchandise rationales, to underlying price structure and curious ticket practices, this is a brain trust steeped in layers of deception. Their claims, in this case based on unverifiable, propietary data, simply should not be taken at face value any more.

Not when history tells us otherwise.

Not when our eyes tell us different.

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