Paul Daugherty's take
Baseball knows fans will return
If the ballplayers walk Aug. 30, you're right behind them. They'll never get another nickel outta you, those overpaid millionaires and their civic-blackmailing owners. This time, you mean it.
We'd love to have that power. It might force the two sides to consider their customers, which would be different. Only, we don't have the stomach for it. Never have. If everyone who said in 1994 they'd never go to another game actually followed through, the average crowd today would fit in a VW bus.
Baseball fans are the angry parent who threatens to kick a miscreant teen-ager out of the house the next time they bust curfew. They are the bully on the playground who draws the line in the dirt, then re-draws it every time it's crossed.
Here's the reality behind the rhetoric. Here is what baseball has banked on, literally, for the last 30 years:
If you're a fan, you won't go away. Not for good. You always come back.
Reds fans wearing their colors are Alex Wamsley, 14 (left) and Michael Purdy, 16, from Wheelersburg, Ohio.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
A recent study authored by two college professors addressed the effects of the 1981 and '94 walkouts. David Berri and Martin Schmidt write, “Neither strike has had a lasting effect on attendance ... Recovery occurs almost immediately.”
You always come back. It might take longer in some places, Cincinnati being one. The Reds averaged 31,628 in 60 games before the '94 strike; in '95, they got 25,882. But in 2000, they drew more people than in any year but 1976.
This isn't to say baseball doesn't have issues. But fan revolt owing to labor unrest isn't one of them. Fans are sheep. I say that as a fan.
We put up with anything: strikes, lockouts, new-stadium blackmail, decades of losing, $54 tickets for football games in August. We condone all sorts of behavior: drug use, spouse abuse, steroids, grade-fixing. Whatever. Just entertain us.
Baseball depends on our ability to take a punch. Baseball has never considered the impact its labor actions have on fans because it's never had to. We always come back.
We can't even organize a decent one-day boycott. Just this month, two national efforts promoting a single-game stay-away flopped. Even with attendance down 6 percent, there is no shortage of people paying to watch baseball. On Saturday, 40,658 bitter people watched the A's in Oakland. More than 46,000 fans, no doubt equally miserable, filled Safeco Field in Seattle.
Minnesota had 36,000 in the Metrodome to watch Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox, even as another 40,000 people attended the PGA Championship in nearby Chaska.
A strike won't kill baseball. Soccer might. Baseball's at-a-crawl pace might. Its past-our-bedtime postseason might. Its insistence on godding-up its past at the expense of its never-better present could do it. So could its chronic pessimism and the absolute rule of King George in New York. Those knives have cut the game for years.
But a walkout won't occasion the apocalypse. We'll come back when they do.
I believe he just called us sheep! ..... and you know what? He's probably right! Even I admit, I can't stay angry for long.