Apr 17, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; A stadium usher wipes off seats before a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Tackling the Attendance Issue... Again

Alright, it’s time to talk attendance. Again.

Believe me, I don’t like talking about the continued issue with the attendance and you probably don’t enjoy reading about it at this point either. But, thanks to statements made by Michael Bourn last week the issue has reared its ugly head once again.

In case you missed it, Bourn made the following comments to reporters following the Indians’ 6-2 loss at the hands of James Shields and the Royals on the afternoon of September 11 in which a little over 12,000 fans attended:

“We would like to be supported a little bit more if we could. We’re two games out at the most. We’re fighting for the second wild card. Last year they didn’t make it to this point. The extra man is a good thing to have. It gets your blood flowing a little bit. I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t believe in us. This is a totally different team, totally different atmosphere in the clubhouse. I think we deserve it. I think we deserve that chance until the last day of the season is over.  Hopefully, they come out and support us during the week or the weekend. We know the Browns play on Sunday. We’ll give them their time on Sunday morning. All the other days, they’re at practice. Come on out and watch us play. That’s all we want.  We’re just asking for them to come out and support us … that’s it. We’ll try to give them a good show every time they come out. The last four games have been kind of disappointing to us in here. We’re still going to play, no doubt about it. But you want that atmosphere to be rocking like they had in the 1990′s. I know they were the team at that time, but we’re trying to work to be a good team.”

When taken at face value, in this instance in written form on bird cage liner a website, it can come across as another player, making millions of dollars, complaining that the average Joe living paycheck to paycheck isn’t coming to watch him play.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not the case here. This isn’t a redux of the Chris Perez comments from the 2012 season when he put the fan base on blast for its lack of support.

First off, when you listen to the audio from Bourn’s comments you can tell that he is making a point, but also doing it in an honest and almost playful manner. He’s not being harsh or combative. He almost chuckles a few times during said “rant.” He also does a fairly decent job of tiptoeing around the giant elephant in the room that so many others tend to avoid, especially within the local media.

Of course, I’m talking about the Cleveland Browns.

Bourn’s point is both honest and valid. The Browns play on Sunday’s and spend the other six days of the week practicing, watching film, and game planning. There is no excuse for why attendance should be as bad as it is on days when the Browns are not playing a game. Even then, you have to wonder about the rationale of attending a Browns game over an Indians game at this stage of the season and with the stakes that are at play.

There are two truths at play here:

1. The Indians are in contention. Regardless of what you may think or supposedly “know” about them, they are a half game of a playoff spot. That qualifies as contending.

2. The Browns are going to go 4-12 or 5-11, at best. They do it every year. This is not going to be the year where that changes. Stop lying to yourselves about this.

It is these two truths that lead to so much confusion.

The argument against the Indians year in and year out is that until the Dolans put a winning product on the field many fans will refuse to attend. They feel as if they have a personal vendetta against the Dolans and will stop at nothing to make this point known. It is this spite that leads to a once proud fan base that sold out 455 straight games in the mid-90′s refusing to attend games.

And now that the Indians have been at or near the top of the AL Central all season, guaranteed themselves of a winning record, and possibly a playoff spot, what has that gotten them? The second worst overall attendance in baseball. As it stands today, the Indians have drawn 1.43-million fans. That’s slightly better than Tampa’s 1.37-million. In terms of average attendance the Indians are third worst at 19,435 per game. Only Miami and Tampa are worse at 19,267 and 18,638 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Browns continue to churn out losing season after losing season with no end to the vicious cycle in sight. But, does that deter the fans from attending? Not one bit. Fans continue to pack First Energy Stadium year after year to watch boring, crap football while the Indians put an entertaining product on the field that actually wins games but plays to crickets. In 2012 the Browns ranked 18th out of 32 in overall attendance and came in at 15th in average attendance.

Somehow this probably makes sense to someone, but as a fan of both teams I’m unable to comprehend the logic behind watching the Browns over the Indians at the moment. In the 1980′s sure, but not now.

The point I’m trying to make, and that Michael Bourn was trying to make, is that the Indians have done everything people have asked of them. They spent money, they have played hard, they have won more games than they have lost, and they are on the brink of a playoff berth. What more do the Indians need to do before everyone realizes that they should have the attention that is deserved of a team that could possibly win 90 games?

Everyone is so afraid of being heartbroken “when they collapse” that fans would rather ignore the Indians and wait until they are a sure thing. But in life and sports there aren’t very many for sure things. Why be afraid of the potential pitfalls of being a fan? If you ask me, I would be more afraid of missing out on something special.

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Tags: Attendance Chris Perez Cleveland Browns Cleveland Indians Michael Bourn

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