Saturday, May 27, 2017

Deadspin's Barry Petchesky figures out fan behavior

Last week, Deadspin writer/editor Barry Petchesky wrote an article about the attendance problems of the Ottawa Senators. According to Petchesky, the Senators failed to sell-out an NHL playoff game because of the following reasons:
  • stadium is far from the center of population
  • stadium is nowhere near downtown
  • expensive tickets
  • disliked owner
The entire article is a good defense of a maligned fanbase. In one of the best paragraphs, Petchesky writes,
I’d also urge everyone to stop thinking of fandom as something quantifiable, or of attendance as any sort of effective measure. If a fan does not want to pay to attend a game, that fan is 100 percent not at fault—there are no obligations here, or for any fan of any team at any time. If a company isn’t providing a product or service that fans are willing to pay for, the failing is on the company and its executives—the NHL and Melnyk, here—and it’s up to them to figure out where they went wrong.
Sounds familiar, right? Outside of expensive tickets, much of the article could also be a defense of the Tampa Bay Rays fanbase.

But there is one BIG concern.

In September 2013, Petchesky wrote an article on Deadspin criticizing Rays fans for not going to Tropicana Field to see a winning team.
The Rays are one of the great baseball tragedies of the free agency era. A team that somehow manages to stay competitive year after year despite financial restraints, and a fan base that doesn't reward them.
Then there is this amazing quote:
there's no evidence to suggest that outdated and inconvenient Tropicana Field is what's keeping the fans away
There is a common tactic in political "conversation" - I use that term lightly now, as it is rarely a conversation anymore - where people accuse others of being flip-floppers on issues and point to contradicting statements in order to bash or cast someone negatively.

"He used to be for taxes, now he is against taxes. He is a hypocrite! Booo!"

I am not trying to do that here. Maybe Petchesky has read this website or others like it that discuss the real problems behind getting people to stadiums. Maybe he has learned since his 2013 article on Rays fans.

From the limited reading I have done, it seems the Rays have many of the same problems the Ottawa Senators do. The stadium is far away from downtown, the people don't live near the stadium, and the owner is not particularly liked.

It would be unfair for me to bash Petchesky now that he is correct about fan behavior. This is a good thing and I encourage him to keep this in mind whenever he writes about other fanbases, such as the Rays, the Marlins, the Indians, the A's, or other teams in other sports.

Every fanbase and team relationship is different. Some teams have been around for 100 years, have generational loyalty, have great downtown stadiums, have great owners, have waiting lists for season tickets, and many other qualifiers that make for a great business.

If however, Petchesky thinks his defense of fanbases only applies to Ottawa and not to the Rays or any other struggling sports business, then we have to look at why he has a pro-Ottawa fan bias. Because these situations are the same.