Several times throughout this saga, we've discussed a pretty important core principle: while we outsiders can't pin down the degree to which the divorce is affecting team spending (if at all), the most direct way it could affect operations is if people stop showing up. In the past, I've guessed that such a thing just wouldn't happen; people care about the Dodgers first and foremost. If the team's winning, people will come. Steve Dilbeck, blogging at the aptly-named Dodgers Blog for the LA Times, speculates about a potential shift of the tides. Noticing what he perceives to be more empty seats than usual, Dilbeck asks some questions:
So if true, the question becomes why? Too much hyper interest in the Lakers? Too many unattractive teams early in the home schedule? Too many conflicts with school still in session?
Or could it possibly be a rebellion against ownership?
Whether it’s over their extravagant lifestyle, not paying taxes for six years, a shrinking team payroll or just their nasty divorce, many have seemingly turned against Frank and Jamie McCourt.
And the only way for people to ultimately protest is to stay away. To punish the McCourts by withholding funds.
Now, I haven't been to a game at Dodger Stadium this season, but I have watched many on television or online. Yes, there have been lots of empty seats. As Dilbeck notes, though, Dodger Stadium is now the largest stadium in the majors by capacity. Recalling my experience at the Stadium, mid-week games often feature patches of empty seats. Unless a name opponent is in town, the mid-week games are the least desirable; LA traffic is so dismal and people have busy lives. Growing up in Palos Verdes and San Pedro, going to a mid-week game was really a five-to-six hour commitment.
Of course, that factors in significant time spent walking the Stadium after the game, searching for leftover trinkets and generally just seeing the place from a different perspective. Still, getting out takes so darned long that if you're not going to leave in the 8th, you might as well stick around a while. And even the traffic problems around the Stadium come back to just how well-attended the games have been. I know I'm wandering around a little here, but that's what happens when I tap my nostalgia reserves.
Getting back to the attendance-as-revenge angle, I'm not sure I see it. As Dilbeck ably discusses, even most of the empty seats have been purchased, so a consumer choosing to use his absence as a weapon is winning something of a Pyrrhic victory. You're paying Frank McCourt and the Dodgers to punish him. Yes, concessions and merchandise are big revenue drivers, and that all matters. But are we really at the point that we would burn paid-for tickets just to avoid giving Frank and the club money for beer, Dodger Dogs, and ice cream in a toy helmet?
I want you to tell me. I've changed the comment settings so that you can weigh in without an account of some sort. The question before you is: have you made a decision to attend a game based on your personal feelings toward ownership? Would you?