Blaming the fans

KANSAS CITY – Some years ago, guess it’s been almost 20 years by now, I wrote one of those columns that I suspect just about every young columnist writes … and later regrets. I’ve written many of those kinds of columns, of course — I believe that comes with the territory of always trying to be as honest as you can. This particular column happened in Cincinnati back in 1995. The Reds had reached the postseason. And those October games were not sold out. There were thousands of empty seats.

So, I ripped the fans.

I mean I ripped the fans good. How could they not sell out an October baseball game? This was supposed to be a baseball town? How could this happen? I don’t remember much of the column because I have repressed it, but I do remember the gist of the ending. It was something charming like, “Cincinnati is where professional baseball began. That’s good because it died here last night.”

The reaction from Cincinnati people was measured in the way that the townspeople reaction to the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” was measured. I remember when I got to the ballpark the next day, my friend Marty Brennaman came up to me and said, “I read what you wrote. I’m going to take a piece of your hide on the radio.” I assume he did. Calls poured in. Letters so hot they burned at the touch showed up. I was a new columnist then, and I thought I understood the reaction. I thought people were angry because I had criticized them. Hey, I caused a reaction, right? It couldn’t have been too bad.

But, like I say, a lot of years have gone by. And I realize now that it was bad. It was not my criticism that sparked their anger. It was the brazen stupidity and incoherence of what I had written. I had missed the whole point.

I think about this today because Tuesday night, Royals manager Ned Yost – in the moments after what was perhaps Kansas City’s signature baseball victory in 20 years – decided to unload on Royals fans for not showing up.  You can go to the most excellent Sam Mellinger to get a full recap of Yost’s blundering nonsense, but I think the essence can be condensed into his sarcastic, “I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game?” opening shot. He then celebrated Atlanta baseball fans for their loyalty in 1991 when the team finally got good. And finally this:  “We’ve been working on trying to build this team for the last three or four years to put ourselves in a position where we can contend for a championship … It’s really, really important we have our fans behind us at the stadium.”

Well, every year we’ll get two or three of these blunders from managers or players. It’s early morning on Wednesday, so the fallout has not yet come but it’s obvious how it will go. First, the statement will be widely discussed – fans lambasting Yost, a few fans will counter that he has a point and Kansas City fans must represent, other fans will lambaste those fans – and before the day’s out we’ll have Yost backtracking from the statement, probably saying he was speaking emotionally, and it was misunderstood and he loves the Kansas City fans and just wants them to be a part of things.

But I’m not sure he will get, even then, why what he said was so insulting and stupid. I didn’t get it for a long time.

First, there are the obvious things. One, you can’t win a few games and expect people to just stop their lives for you. This was one of my big mistakes in 1995. I saw things through a telescope, missing all that was around me. That was the year after the strike, and I would argue that no city in America was hit as hard by the baseball strike as Cincinnati. That’s a working class city, and the strike happened with the Reds in first place, and you bet there was lingering bitterness. You can’t kick a customer in the face like that and then get angry when they don’t come back. Tickets are expensive. Families make plans. School night is school night. The real question I should have been asking in 1995 was not why there were empty seats but why anyone had shown up at all. Marty was right. I deserved to have a piece of my hide taken on the air.

Yostnoy’s complaint, if possible, was even more illogical. It showed a fundamental misunderstanding how baseball tickets are sold.

1. A large percentage of tickets sold are season tickets – those were sold way back in the offseason and are unaffected by the Royals recent surge.

2. A large percentage of tickets sold are bought well in advance – that’s why certain nights of the week do way better than other nights. Tuesday night games tend to be some of the smallest crowds of the week for obvious reasons. Bill James, years ago, wrote about the myth that Nolan Ryan drew significantly more fans to the ballpark. People, for the most part, don’t say  “Hey, Nolan Ryan’s pitching tomorrow night, let’s all go out.” They say, “Hey, we’re free next Friday night, let’s go to the game.”

3. Families build their plans around their children’s schedules – and school started this week. I wouldn’t take my kids to a night ballgame on the first week of school if Lou Gehrig and Satchel Paige came back to play. Well, MAYBE if Lou Gehrig and Satchel Paige came back – but for a late August Royals-Twins game? Are you bleepin’ kidding me? Again, the question was not why there were empty seats. The question was why anyone at all showed up.

There were other problems with Yost’s statements. He talked being there the extraordinary loyalty of 1991 Braves fans when that team came out of nowhere and jumped into first place. Well, I was there too – the fans DID get excited about the Braves. In September. In late August, for a Montreal series that ended up putting the Braves in first place, there were back-to-back nights of 12,000 and 15,000.

What’s more, I was at their first home World Series game – the first EVER in Atlanta – and that game went into extra innings. Fans POURED out of that stadium before the end. I mean there were so many people leaving before the game was decided that I finally left the press box and just watched the march to the parking lot. It was like Godzilla had attacked the stadium. And this was, again, at the first World Series game in Atlanta history. And the game was tied at the time.

My thought then was, “Wow, Atlanta fans are not the best.” But that’s because I was young. And this, finally, gets to the heart of what’s wrong with blaming fans for anything: The fans are right. I don’t mean they are right in the “customer’s always right” sense, though that’s true too. What I mean is that fans aren’t a PART of spectator sports. Fans are the REASON for spectator sports.

Let’s see if I can get this concept down right because I admit it’s somewhat blurry: Every year people moan about the choices the fans make for the All-Star Game. I don’t anymore. Why? Because it occurs to me that whoever the fans choose is the right choice. The fans, by definition, cannot be wrong about the game they define. I might think another player has a better case to start in the All-Star Game, but that is a different argument. The fans are never wrong about who will start in the All-Star Game. I’m wrong.

Let’s try again: If more fans buy one book than any other, it goes to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. If more fans go to a movie than any other, it becomes the No. 1 grossing movie. If more fans buy one song than any other, it shoots to the top of the ITunes list. People can and do complain about the choices of these lists and what they say about society, but what they’re not complaining about the lists themselves. The lists are reflections of the fans wishes. The fans define those lists. They cannot be wrong. A director who moans that more people should have watched his or her movie is not just ludicrous, he’s by definition wrong. Exactly as many fans watched the movie as watched the movie.

When 13,000 or so fans showed up for the Royals game Tuesday night, that was what the Royals had wrought. They had not engaged more fans. They had not played well enough to draw a bigger crowd. They had not done a good enough job making the product good enough to draw a bigger crowd. They had not inspired enough hope. They had schedule a game on a Tuesday night after school started.

The fans have no responsibility here – the fans are the whole point of the game. You want more fans, try lowering ticket prices. You want more fans, try being a bit more active in the community. You want more fans, try getting into first place more once once or twice every quarter century. You want more fans, go get a job in a bigger market. You want more fans, make the game more interesting or don’t play on Tuesday nights or show Guardians of the Galaxy between innings. These things might work, they might not, but the point is that to think of fans as anything other than the defining purpose of all this is to misunderstand the game. How many people you draw to a game is not a reflection on the people. It’s a reflection, entirely, on you.

A sales person cannot blame people when he falls short of his quarterly quota. A writer cannot blame people for not buying her book. A president cannot blame people for losing hope. The very JOB is those people.

That’s what I did not understand when I was young and in Cincinnati. That’s what Ned Yost did not understand Tuesday night. Heck, a lot of fans might not have shown up Tuesday night because they have no faith  that Yost can pilot this team to a division title, and they don’t want to have their hearts stomped on again. Look inward, Ned. In any case, I suspect a lot of people will take a piece of his hide for this. That’s OK. It taught me.

101 thoughts on “Blaming the fans

    1. Daniel

      Would Boston, St. Louis, New York, Detroit fans think the same thing because the Twins were in town? Do we want a winning baseball team or don’t we?

      Reply
      1. Paul

        The big difference between the Royals and those four teams is history. All four have been to the playoffs in the last few years. The Royals not only haven’t been, but they haven’t come close. Time and success will change this, and fans will come back.

        Reply
        1. S.R. Dipaling

          I have to correct you a little on this: they’ve been INCHING closer to contention in the very last few years, particularly last year. Yes, it’s A LOT slower than fans would like but the progress has been there. And fans ACTUALLY DO show up for these games. Maybe it’s more so on weekends(does this REALLY surprise anyone), but they still are showing. I can recall going to a Tuesday night game against the Tigers in 2000 where, if there were more than my Dad and me, it wasn’t much more. I’d say 5,000, 8 G TOPS. They were both fighting to get out of last and the temps were unseasonably cold, too. There’s a “Black and White” prism that people are viewing this that Yost is also viewing it through and, as such, is doing himself and his team NO favors speaking about off-the-cuff.

          Reply
      2. Dustin

        So you are comparing the Royals to Boston, St. Louis, Yankees, and Tigers fans?? You’re comparing a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in over 28 years to teams that have won 9 World Series titles since 1998. Right that makes perfect sense.

        Reply
      3. S.R. Dipaling

        Don’t think the fans “don’t want” a winning team at all. I think it’s as simple as this: late August, Tuesday and a non-contender in town. Instead of excoriating those who didn’t show, I think Ned should be PRAISING those who DID. While at that, THEN should he make a loud beseeching of the locals to get out to the K.

        Reply
    2. pdinop

      And the Twins draw 5000 more per game at home than the Royals and 400 more on the road.. So who’s a terrible draw?

      Reply
  1. Jake Bucsko

    Interesting take. I don’t think this is 100% right…why do TB Rays not get more fans? That team has been a consistent winner for some small while now. Also, it still seems wrong to me that Transformers and Amazing Spider-Man 2 were big hits at the box office while Snowpiercer and Boyhood made fractions of what those first two made.

    And as a Pittsburgh native and Atlanta resident, yeah…Atlanta fans are not the best.

    Reply
    1. section 34

      The Rays play in an awful stadium in a location that’s bad for most of the area, closer to fish than the residents of Tampa.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        They built the stadium on the cheap and you get what you pay for. I do recall that the stadium is out a ways, but right off the freeway. I’m not sure how traffic is, but if not too heavy it’s probably only like 15-20 minutes out of Tampa and less than that from St. Pete. I just think that the area hasn’t bought into the Rays like they have the Bucs. I don’t know all of the reasons, but the fans don’t seem to be there. Lots of work to do there to bring the fans in.

        Reply
        1. Tampa Mike

          Actually the stadium is more like 45 minutes-1 hour from Tampa. Possibly more depending on traffic. Probably about the same from Clearwater. They built the stadium at the end of a peninsula and 90% of people come in from the same direction.

          That and the Trop is more an airplane hanger than baseball stadium…

          Reply
          1. aaron

            45 minutes to an 1 hour from Tampa? What, by bicycle? Two problems for my Rays. First, the economy in the area took a big hit, and has not recovered. Second, every home game is on TV. Everything else is just an excuse or secondary. As for the stadium, I like it. Is it the best in baseball? No. But the minor league park for the Indians here in Indianapolis is nicer than some of the big league parks I have been to. Traffic in and out of the stadium? Piece of cake. But why get in a hurry to leave? Downtown St. Pete has several nice bars and restaurants. So move them to an outdoor stadium over in Tampa. Then you can sit on some blistering aluminum on a Wednesday afternoon in August with 100% humidity. With 8,000 other people.

        2. aaron

          Oddly, I see more Rays hats, shirts, bumper stickers than I do Bucs, Yankees or Red Sox stuff. The Florida sports crowds I am around would rather watch the Dolphins than the Bucs.

          Reply
          1. Tampa Mike

            I live in Carrollwood and it takes me 45 minutes with light traffic, let alone trying to go to a game in rush hour traffic during the week.

      2. thoughtsandsox

        I don’t remember what year it was I think 05 but I went to a daytime getaway game in KC and it was 102 and the humidity was super high plus I sat right behind the duggout in the sun. I’m not sure what the heat index was but it felt like a million. The next weekend I was in Tampa on vacation and went to Tropicana. My first thought was back to sitting in the sun and how great it was to be in an air conditioned dome.

        Reply
    2. bellweather22

      Atlanta fans were really great, in fact, when the Braves were exciting and winning. Did they sell out every playoff game. No, but almost, and that was owing to a retrofitted Olympic Stadium that holds 53,000 fans. It’s a hard stadium to sell out. Note that the new Braves stadium will hold 42,000 making playoff sellout a certainty. Also, Atlanta has two other things against them. They have to grab fan attention by the All Star break, or slightly after, because school starts in early August (laying waste to mid week game attendance), and when Labor Day hits, their real passion college football fires up. But Friday and Saturday night games still have nearly full stadiums, while Sunday day games are too hot to be comfortable, so Sundays draw poorly. Sunday night games would look a lot like a mid week game to families and would be rough for the team if they travelled for a Monday game. So…. Fans have made the decision that they will primarily see games on Friday or Saturday nights when school is in. It makes all the sense in the world.

      Reply
    3. Thomas Charles

      Baseball history and loyalty mean a lot.

      Even five good years following a dozen in the gutter will not engender the sort of loyalty for the Rays that teams like the Reds or Pirates or even the Royals can command.

      Not one adult ever became a fan because his grandfather took him out to see his first ball game at the Trop.

      Not one adult ever grew up cheering with his family while watching the Rays on TV.

      Not one adult has ever spent hours bouncing a ball against a wall dreaming that one day he would become good enough to play shortstop for the home town Rays.

      Those are the sorts of things that turn people from casual fans of the sport into committed fans of a team.

      Judging a baseball team’s fans before giving the team at least a generation to grow it’s own reveals a lack of insight into the human psyche.

      Reply
  2. Austin Rhodes

    I am a Steelers fan. I have attended games in every conceivable weather extreme that the league will allow play in. Even a hurricane delayed game (Big Ben’s first start) in Miami that saw 5 inches of rain fall from kickoff to final whistle. I have watched them in 3/4ths of the stadiums in the league, and plan to see them all. I have travelled to Toronto and London to see them play.

    My affection for the team began in 1972, as I heard (from across the street) my father and grandfather react to the Immaculate Reception. I have been with them for 42 years. Good times, bad times, and Bubby Brister.

    While I have been mad, angry, upset, and disappointed with them over the years, I consider the team an extension of my own family, in the sense that I would no more “sit out” games than I would skip my children’s school play, or 3rd grade Spring recital in an effort to “punish” them.

    It is my belief that if you have the ability to get to a game, you do it, if you can’t, it is something that is beyond your control.

    But hey…I am a fan. Most people really are not.

    Reply
    1. Anon21

      “But hey…I am a fan. Most people really are not.”

      Wrong. Most people are not the type of fan that you are. That doesn’t make them “not fans.”

      Reply
    2. Brian

      My guess would be that the 13,000 fans last night fell pretty much in your camp. To compare Steeler’s fans to Royals fans is worse than apples to oranges though. Your team has regularly been in, or close to, playoff/super bowl contention since the ’70′s. Most Royals fans today have never seen their team in post-season. There is no hope in their view, just wishing that elimination from contention will go a little deeper into the season. Under those circumstances, it is hard to give too much of your heart to the Royals.

      I have been a fan since the early 70′s and remember the good times and full stadiums. Those fans are still there, but there are only about 13,000 of them left. New fans must have hope and the Royals have yet to genuinely provide that.

      Reply
      1. NevadaMark

        To say nothing of the fact that the Steelers had FORTY years before then to build a large, loyal fanbase, which they did.

        Reply
    3. bellweather22

      You can’t compare football to baseball. One game a week, eight times a year is not difficult to make. Even road trips, once in a while aren’t difficult, but unless it’s a short drive away, most fans still won’t so that. Baseball has 81 home games 5-6 times a week when they are home. You have to make baseball your priority to get to every game, and I’d say you’d have your priorities wrong if you even attempted that. I had NFL season tickets for 10 years. I rarely missed a game. 8 Sundays over 3 months, almost all at 1:00 on Sunday. It certainly didn’t make me a “real fan” that pounded my own chest for carving out 4 hours one day a week.

      Reply
    4. Tim Zim

      Please, just stop. I am a Steelers fan myself and this is the type of crap that makes everyone hate Steelers fans. People don’t hate the Steelers and their fans because the team is good; people hate them because they peddle the “play the right way” and “best fans in the world” BS.

      You aren’t a better fan than anyone else because you prioritize a game over comfort/your children/other facets of your life. You aren’t a better fan because you travel around the world to watch your team. You were just blessed with the means and apathy toward your family to follow your team that closely. Other people aren’t like that. Does it make them less of a fan/not a real fan? No. Claiming that just makes you an a**hole.

      So thanks for making us Steelers fans look more like a**holes.

      Reply
    5. Thomas Charles

      “My affection for the team began in 1972, as I heard (from across the street) my father and grandfather react to the Immaculate Reception.”

      Key Words: “…my father and grandfather…”

      Exactly the point I made above.

      Reply
  3. David Strauss

    Sorry, unless someone’s life is at stake, you do NOT leave a World Series game early. Period.

    I’ve sat through some rough playoff games over the years. Game one of the 1986 World Series, sitting in the upper deck at Shea on a coooooold night, watching a game the Mets lost 1-0 on a ground ball that went through Tim Tuefel’s glove. One of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had at a sporting event, and we didn’t leave, because it was the FREAKING WORLD SERIES.

    The Royals want more fans to show up? WIN. A month’s hot streak doesn’t make up for 20 years of mediocrity.

    Reply
    1. Paul Zummo

      Only writing to say that I was in that upper deck with you that night – and yes, brrr, although game three of the 1988 NLCS may have been even colder.

      And hell no we didn’t leave early.

      Reply
    2. bellweather22

      When my wife and I go to games, we go to see the whole game. Leaving early, for us, is like leaving church early. We just don’t do it. But, I understand completely that people have other things to do like going to sleep so they can get up early to go to work and get the kids ready for school. Judging people to be poor fans because they are being responsible workers and parents is completely misguided.

      Reply
    3. KHAZAD

      I wouldn’t call it mediocrity. The Royals have won an average of 69 games a year the last 19 full seasons. They have had twice as many 100 loss seasons as they have winning seasons, and are over 400 games below .500 since the strike. That is a far cry from mediocrity.

      Reply
      1. NevadaMark

        We would have KILLED for a bit of mediocrity back then. At least mediocre teams occasionally get lucky and make the playoffs.

        Reply
  4. Daniel B

    Showing Guardians of the Galaxy between innings is a brilliant idea! Making the ballpark experience better than or at least equal to watching it on TV, with more replays and such, would help a lot. After 30 years of losing, there’s a lot of heart-broken Royals fans that are afraid to go all in…just yet.

    Reply
    1. BigSteve

      It’s a literary reference. “Yostnoy’s complaint” is meant to invoke Philip Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint.

      Reply
  5. BigSteve

    Yost is a cranky guy. It’s who he is. I can relate, because I’m a cranky guy too. If he had done what the so-called fans had been screaming at him to do, none of the guys who are winning Royals games right now would even be on the team anymore. He’s not going to gush about being in first place now, and don’t hold your breath waiting for him to change into someone else.

    Also I think the idea that a 2-1 win over the last place Twins is “perhaps Kansas City’s signature baseball victory in 20 years” is ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. KHAZAD

      Please let me know then, what do you consider the signature win? Hopefully, the Royals will continue their surge and there will be signature September wins and playoff games that will leave this one to pale in comparison, but right now this was it. It might be sad, but it is also true.

      As a Royals fan for more than 40 years, I can tell you that the last 20 years of late August have been largely bereft of important games with a big swing. There was August 28, 2003 when the Royals won an extra inning game to stay in first place one more day. (We ended up a distant third)

      But this game felt huge. The Tigers had won their third in a row, and it looked like the Royals were going to lose their third in a row with the inability to score runs re-rearing it’s ugly head. It felt like the end of the run. A bloop and a blast and we had a win just a few pitches later. I know it was only one game, but it felt like a 5 game swing.

      Reply
  6. Greg

    Tell you what, Ned. Get Glass to slash prices on beer, food, parking to humane levels, and fans will show up. #NedCurmudgeon

    Reply
  7. Richard

    How many of the empty seats represented fans watching the game on TV? Listening to it on the radio? Following it online? While you can’t beat watching a game in person, it’s not the only way to be a Fan. A team needs to make it more cost-effective for fans to physically attend a game.

    Reply
  8. Bill

    I agree with your comments except where you referred to Mellinger as “excellent”. He is a hack who was looking for an excuse to do a hatchet job on our manager.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Charles

      Obviously, in your opinion Mellinger would be a better reporter if he did not report what “your” manager actually said.

      However, I don’t think to many people would agree with your view on journalism.

      Reply
    2. jmac

      Walk off homer in a 2-1 game and Mellinger spends deadline looking up attendance figures from 1991. Mellinger is just a poor columnist and a very bad writer.

      I read Yost’s entire comments and didn’t find them out of line at all. Sam like to cherry pick to fit his lack of prose

      Reply
      1. Thomas Charles

        Jmac, did you really think that no one else would read Mellinger’s article, so that left you free to write fictional nonsense about it?

        Mellinger did not “cherry pick” Yost’s comments, In fact, he even addressed the topic by writing this as an introduction to his quote from Yost:

        “He was asked if he expected more people at the game, and let’s include his whole answer so he can’t claim to be misquoted, or taken out of context:”

        …which was followed by four pargraphs of what Yost said, inside quote marks.

        Yet you falsely complain that Yost’s comments were cheryrypicked when, if you actually had read the article, you knew that he was quoted in full.

        It reveals to the rest of us all we need to know about the accuracy and honesty of your own “reporting,” jmac.

        Reply
        1. Don

          I suggest listening to the interview. The reality of the audio comes across very differently than Mellinger’s prefaced white hot take. It didn’t seem odd that Sam made a point about context prior to the quote? I guess everybody has their own hot take. My hot take is poor journalism. Enough with the “but I have trust issues because of past teams” BS.

          Mellinger hits below the Mendoza more than he does above it. Joe has been trying to pass the proverbial torch to him ever since he left town. Blind cronyism hasn’t and won’t help Sam’s columns find an audience. He would make an excellent blogger for the likes of Deadspin or similar tabloid sports “journalism” sites.

          Support the team because they’re actually freaking playing like a contender, or don’t. I guess it’s easier to complain about the manager than enjoy winning baseball this late in the season. I remember ’85 and have missed this kind of play for so, so long. Why waste it on misguided journalism?

          @Joe Keep up the great work but your finger hasn’t been on the KC pulse for some time. We’d definitely welcome you back, especially to The Star.

          Reply
        2. jmac

          I read the article, unfortunately. Not sure why anyone who reads Mellinger doesn’t come away with anything other than he sucks. Mellinger ‘cherry picked’ the comments to fit his narrative–and then proceeded to look up attendance figures. Not a columnist. Not a writer. Not good enough for Kansas CIty other than his apologists. Nice effort on your part though.

          Reply
          1. Tom

            I listened to Yost’s comment while reading along with the quote. I can assure you that every word was reported verbatim.

            When you keep repeating that the reporter “cherry-picked” Yost’s comment, all you do is reveal that you don’t know what cherry-picking is. When the uncut, full length answer is reported it is not cherry-picking.

            Instead of doggedly trying to make this into an issue about the reporter, you could at least acknowledge that if Yost had not chosen to say that about the fans in the first place, it would have never been reported. Right, jmac?

  9. frankschloegel

    The strange thing to me is that I have never been more interested in the Royals and more unwilling to go to a game. I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old and a wife from Brooklyn who thinks sports are stupid. There is no way I am going to a ballgame for the next 3 years (maybe a weekday/school day 1 o’clock start). But I am doing the twitter and the mlb.com and the emailing and reading the star and having a great time. I’m sure the game was great, but it was also great at my house, on my phone, on gameday (no sound), waiting for my kid to finally go to sleep just the two of us in her bedroom. Walk Off!

    There is no one way to be a part of the Royals.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      That’s because you have a life. A wife and two kids are rightly your priority. Want more fans to show up? Schedule games at convenient times, make it easy for fans to get to the stadium and park, and make the experience kid friendly (aka shorter game and more interactive). Keep things the same and fans with their priorities in order can’t and won’t show up.

      Reply
      1. Daniel

        How much more kid friendly could the circus in the outfield be? Make the game shorter? So because I attended last night’s game I don’t have my priorities in order?

        Reply
        1. bellweather22

          No, not at all. But if your top priority was getting to most every game at the expense of your job and family it might well be true. Everyone costs themselves a good night sleep now and again to do something we enjoy…. And a good stretch run, might encourage us to do that a little more often. I’m mainly reacting to those that think every fan should drop their lives and attend games just because the team is playing exciting baseball and fighting for a playoff spot. You may be in a place in life to do just that. But for people like Frank with small children and a wife that doesn’t like sports, it would be completely selfish to dedicate himself to his team, and attend a lot of games for the next month

          Reply
  10. Michael Grimaldi

    Joe nails it by noting that there is little appeal to a late August Royals-Twins game. I was at the game, and — until the bottom of the 9th — it was the most boring game I’ve attended all season. (I’m a season ticket holder, and I’ve attended a lot of games.) Even my section usher — who knows me well, and by name — told me she thought the game was boring, until the bottom of the ninth. BTW, as always with boring games anywhere, but especially in Kansas City in late August against weak teams, a lot of folks left at 9:30 and missed the bottom of the ninth.

    The biggest complaint I heard as we were leaving the game was that there no longer are fireworks for home runs or wins. Or even home runs that give us wins. Yeah, we got that guy in left field in the old-timey uniform “hangin’ a W,” and the mascot runs around with a flag. But the Royals never seem to miss a chance to keep it “Low Prices Always” in what they deliver to the stadium experience. Leave it to Salvy Perez to give us the best post-game celebration, the cliche and corny but nonetheless very sincere drink-jug shower. Salvy’s got a better sense of what fans love than the entire Royals promotions department.

    The best news: For the last 29 years, if the Royals were down a run late in the game, there was a pretty good chance the Royals lost. This year, if the Royals are down a run or even two or three late in the game, there’s pretty good chance the Royals win. And for that, some of the credit has to go to Ned Yost, even if he sometimes is a horse’s ass or doesn’t know when to shut up.

    Reply
  11. mike

    I was there with my 11 year old girl who is a gigantic soccer fan. Royals games to her have always been akin to going to the movies. I saw last night as an opportunity to educate her in the experience and ambiance of a team playing meaningful baseball down the stretch of a season. To see such a small crowd was indeed disappointing especially as she goes to Sporting Park and sees nothing but packed houses every night.
    But the reaction of the fans who were there after Gordons home run and how they interacted with each other and her left an obvious impression on her. Perhaps the beginning of a true emotional attachment of sorts for her to search out that type of moment again. I wont criticize fans but rather encourage them to buy in enough to make the sacrifice to get to the K, even on a school night over this last month. The education of life experience is sometimes more compelling than simply being pragmatic.

    Reply
    1. Tim Zim

      If she were disappointed at not seeing a full Kauffman when she sees a full Sporting Park on a regular basis, use that as a teaching moment and explain to her that SP is quite a bit smaller than the K.

      Reply
      1. KCHomer

        True, it is quite a bit smaller. There are also usually an extra 8,000 people there compared to the crowd the other night.

        Either way, I think the fact that SP is full is proof of what Joe was talking about. No one cared about the Wizards. I mean, I’m a soccer guy, my parents bought season tickets the first couple years at Arrowhead that I used all the time (I was in HS at the time), but by 2000 I had checked out on them. Sure, I would check the standings, and when they did well I’d think, good for them. When they didn’t, it made zero difference to me.

        I moved away from KC in 2007, and moved back about a month before the rebranding. As details came out on the new stadium, a couple of my non soccer loving friends started talking about how it sounded really nice, and they wanted to go to a match and check it out. So we went. We went to a game in August that first season and had a blast. They did too. We now all have season tickets for our third year, and just renewed for next year. All because they generated some buzz. Sporting has done great things with social media, fan interaction, and creating an emotional connection to the team. I wish the Royals did a better job of that.

        I’ve been a Royals fan my whole life. I was 5 when we won the WS, and I remember for the 5-7 years or so after that, when my dad would take me to a game, I always begged him to get me a team set of baseball cards (I was quite the collector). He always would tell me that I needed to keep them together, because if they won the WS that year, well, then they’d be worth a lot more as a set. To this day, I have those team sets in a hard plastic case, together, and not messed with. So I have the emotional connection to them. I worry that people my age, their kids won’t unless something changes.

        Reply
  12. deviator77

    This is why I’ve always been fine when fans say “we” when referring to their sports team. The team quite literally doesn’t exist without fans, so I don’t have any problem with people saying “we traded for Willingham!” Makes sense to me.

    I’ve thought a long time about writing about Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic to describe the power that fans have…but yeah, your points are better.

    Reply
  13. Johnny Utah

    I went Monday to the Yankees game with 32K other fans, and it was an awful experience. Parking was overwhelmed coming in and going out. Our No.1 starter got bombed in an 8-1 loss. And they ran out of food and beer in my section. The Royals practically begged me to stay home next time.

    Reply
  14. Sid Mickle

    Just a general comment Joe. I really like your stuff and I enjoy your perspectives even when I disagree. I also find it amusing to read the over the top comments by some readers. Really people, do you need to be nasty to each other and Joe over baseball stories? I think it is the “head up your ass syndrome”. Happens to many people who board airline flights as well!

    Reply
  15. Daniel

    I usually enjoy Joe, but this is very poor journalism taken way out of context. Ned was ASKED a question, he didn’t start out on a soap box about the fans. Secondly, he gave an honest answer to the question and he is absolutely right. He wished there could have been more out to enjoy it. So do I. So did the players. This was not a “rant”. Listen to the actual press conference and don’t read what someone else writes regarding the press conference. You will see it differently. Decades of pathetic baseball, and now your Royals are in first place and we get excuses that it’s a Tuesday night? That it’s a school night? That it was the Twins and it didn’t mean anything? Check Houston’s attendance last night. Check Cincy’s attendance last night. Detroit 1 and half game out of first…check their attendance last night. We want winning baseball…we moan and cry because they’ve been so bad…but when they are leading the division in late August…we say “well, it’s a Tuesday night and it will be late before we get home”. Do Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Cardinals fan think “oh..Tuesday night vs. The Royals….nah…” Where do we want to be as a fan base? Do we really care if our team wins, because last night sure didn’t show that. So more people in Kansas City would rather come watch Derek Jeter play for the last time, than watch their home town team the next night fight for first place? Ridiculous. Very disappointed in the lack of professionalism by Joe here.

    Reply
    1. Tim Zim

      “So more people in Kansas City would rather come watch Derek Jeter play for the last time, than watch their home town team the next night fight for first place?”

      Well, yeah. Have you been to the K in the last – I dunno – 20 years when the Yankees are in town? Seeing any Royals jerseys in the crowd used to be a surprise. Monday’s game actually looked like a Royals home game against NY for once, so there’s decent progress there. Add that it was a future Hall of Famer’s last game in KC and the draw is obvious.

      A Tuesday night game against a terrible Twins team doesn’t really match up. Yeah, yeah – the Royals are in first place in late August and it’s a divisional matchup and Detroit is right on their heels and all that. Sometimes people just can’t make it to the ballpark, but also understand that this is a team that has stomped, stabbed, and crapped all over this city’s heart for almost 30 years. Dayton Moore has been just short of a joke since he came into town, Yost is a certified moron, and this team has been pretty underwhelming until recently, given its level of talent and potential.

      Yes, things are exciting right now for a lot of people, but there are also a lot out there who are staying guarded because they expect the bottom to drop out, and understandably so.

      The Red Sox, Yankees, and Tigers enjoy a much bigger market that we do here in Kansas City. The Cardinals are considered “small market,” but they have years of recent success drawing fans in. The Royals are none of those teams, so comparing them is short-sighted.

      Lastly, Joe’s article was anything but unprofessional. It doesn’t matter if Yost came into the press conference and immediately started his comments or if he was asked. It doesn’t matter if Yost was screaming these things from his office while throwing telephones and clutching a handle of vodka or calmly stating them. It was unprofessional of HIM to say what he said like he’s been here from the beginning and has gone through what the fans here have. Joe could have torn him apart in this article, but instead he admitted to making the same mistake himself some time ago and it taught him a lot. I say “bravo” to Joe.

      Reply
    2. lukeeugenehealy

      Oh come on. You can’t compare the markets like that. Bigger cities, different histories. Did you read any of Joe’s reasons for attendance and ticket sales? It wouldn’t appear so. Or any of the comments? After the Yankees game the night before and an 8-1 loss? After 25+ years of losing?

      This was a professional article (written on a free blog–Thanks Joe!) that actually gave good reasons, evidence, and personal experience for his perspective. Ned was asked, but he chose how to answer it. That’s entirely on him. You criticism of Joe is entirely unfounded.

      Reply
    3. Thomas Charles

      Of course more people would rather come out to watch Derek Jeter play for the last time than to watch the Royals.

      It’s very simple to understand why that is:

      Derek Jeter has given people 20 years of enjoyment and maximum effort and always respected the fans and the game.

      Meanwhile, as a Royals fan, I have to admit that they have given everyone 30 years of lousy baseball and lame excuses and often DIS-respected the fans and the game.

      It is going to take more than one decent season for fans to un-learn everything that the team has taught us to believe about it.

      Reply
    4. Patrick Bohn

      I look at the Royals the way I look at the friend who doesn’t return your calls and texts for a solid month, then gets upset because you couldn’t go out with them on a Thursday night when they text you at work that afternoon. Sorry, but two weeks of great ball doesn’t make up for 20 years of being mediocre at best and lousy at worst

      And of course opponent and day of the week matter. The Dodgers, who lead MLB in average attendance have only drawn less than 40,000 fans seven times this season. Three of the games were on a Monday, two were on a Thursday. and one was on a Wednesday. The one weekend game came against an Arizona team that was something like 5-15 heading into the game.That’s not a coincidence

      Reply
  16. thoughtsandsox

    “The fans are never wrong about who will start in the All-Star Game. I’m wrong.”

    How can a Hall of Fame Voter make this statement and not have it carry over to the HOF voting process? Is it not the fans that go to the HOF?

    Reply
  17. Scott

    It is interesting how we view sports entertainment as different from other forms of entertainment. People consider “fair weather fan” to be an insult; you are supposed to follow and root for your team through good and bad. But for some reason this doesn’t apply elsewhere; if your local theater is performing a crappy play no one calls you a “fair weather fan” for not going to the theater.

    The truth is that sports teams owe us, the paying customers, not the other way around. Sports are a little different in that for one team to be good another must be bad (where there is no limit to the number of good movies, plays, etc), but there should still be no expectation that I pay good money and spend my time to watch bad baseball.

    Reply
    1. Daniel

      I payed to watch good baseball last night. Everyone has a choice that is fine. But to say Ned Yost ranted on the fans last night is bogus.

      Reply
      1. tomemos

        Huh? Ned Yost’s whole point was that it’s *not* fine that so many people chose not to attend the game. In what way was he not ranting about the fans?

        Reply
    2. Scott

      One more comment. Fans might not be able to be “wrong” but they can miss out. A good team playing on a Tuesday night might play a very exciting game and the fans missed out. A great movie might come out, be poorly advertised, and the fans might never see it. Fans might have the chance to see a great player play in the all star game but fail to vote him in.

      Even in this case I agree, don’t blame the fans, blame the product. Advertising is part of the complete product whether you like or not. Ned Yost has a right to be a bit frustrated that they aren’t attracting more fans (it might not be his fault), but that doesn’t make it the fans fault either.

      Reply
      1. Patrick Bohn

        Except that in sports, we often have to decide if we’re going to see a game well before we know if a team is going to be “good” or not, and we’ll never have any idea how exciting the game could be until it’s over.

        The Royals has been lousy to mediocre for 20 straight years. They were a .500 team less than a month ago. The Twins have lost 95+ games three years in a row. For most people, the decision not to attend that game had been made a long time ago

        Reply
    3. tomemos

      Nick Hornby gets at this paradox (about how only in sports are you expected to pay for an acknowledgedly crappy product) in Fever Pitch. He points out that for the hardcore fan, “entertainment” has very little to do with the sports experience. Which is sociologically interesting, but not the kind of attitude we should expect from everyone.

      Reply
  18. George Purcell

    Season tickets are the culprit, mainly.

    I’ll never forget the best game I ever saw at Kauffman–it was the makeup game for the broken Kingdome. First come first served seating. Best crowd EVER.

    Reply
  19. BigSteve

    I think people stayed home because the game was broadcast on FoxSports1, and it was a rare chance to watch them without having to listen to Rex Hudler. Even with Bert Blyleven’s bias for the Twins, it was a refreshing change of pace.

    Reply
  20. Mike G

    Having heard Yost’s comments on tape, it sounded to me more like pleading for the fans to come out to the game rather than attacking them for not having done so. I know there is no love lost here for Yost as a manager, and in no way am I arguing in favor of his managerial skills. And, yes, I’m sure that 13 thousand fans at last night’s game was a result of many years of lousy Royals baseball and other factors.. (I’m a New Yorker and a Mets fan, so I know all about bad teams and an empty stadium!). But I just don’t find in Yost’s comments — especially hearing them and not just reading somebody else’s spin on them — anything that terrible.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Still, a professional baseball manager should have recognized the loaded question and known not to go there. This type of question is asked all the time, especially this time of year when school starts and small crowds are common…. and a prepared answer should be in his hip pocket. Freddie Freeman was asked the same question after a sub 20K fan turnout on a weekday game last week. He answered that, sure, we’d like a full ballpark every night, but with school starting we understand that’s not always possible…. Then started talking about how the fans are always supportive and he loves the fans, etc, etc. that’s a 25 year old player. How does Ned Yost not know how to answer that question?

      Reply
    2. MCD

      I agree 100%. I don’t think much of Yost as a manager, but I urge anyone criticizing Yost for “blasting” the fans to read his comments and judge them directly for themselves.

      Sure he was disappointed, but he went out of his way to enumerate all the reasons to excuse someone for not being there.
      IMHO, the sarcasm of “13,000 people got to see a great game?” is probably the worst jab of the entire spiel. Comments like “This was a fun night. I just wish there could’ve been more out here to enjoy it with us” are an entreaty, not an insult.

      Reply
      1. MCD

        It may be confusing because bellweather jumped in while I was typing but I agree 100% with Mike G’s comments.

        In response to bellweather, Yost *did* say he realized school started and was careful to use verbs like “hoping” as opposed to “expect”.

        Reply
  21. EE

    Since Ned Yost is such a fan, he can sit in the stands the rest of the season to help boost attendance. I am sure there are plenty of fans that can manage the team for the final month. Focus on the playoffs, Ned and stop worrying about the turnstile numbers. Make the postseason and 100,000 Kansas City fans will claim they were in attendance for the Royals’ signature victory when Gordon won it in the bottom of the ninth.

    Reply
  22. Tampa Mike

    “Because it occurs to me that whoever the fans choose is the right choice”

    I have to disagree with you here. Prime example this year is Matt Wieters being voted as a starter. He played in only 26 games before having season ending surgery. Thats not voting by merit, that’s voting because you recognize the name. When you play in that few of games you should be off the ballot.

    Reply
    1. jimmorris11

      Joe you are way over the top on this one. Ned didn’t criticize the fans. He simply said ‘this is fun. Wish you were here’. I wasn’t offended in the least. He certainly didn’t day ‘baseball is dead in KC’. Mellinger, as he often does, went way over the top also. Just trying to stir up some controversy and fill several column inches late at night. He does that often.

      Reply
    2. Patrick Bohn

      Joe’s point is that it isn’t about merit. The fans decide who they want to participate, and if the fans want the name, then that’s what they pick. They’re not being asked to choose the “right” candidates, they’re being told to pick whoever they want. To quote High Fidelity, “How can it be wrong to state a preference?”

      Reply
      1. Brett Alan

        Hey, if you just vote for the people you want to see, it’s no longer the All Players-Having-The-Best-Season Game! It becomes some kind of…All-”Star” Game! Can’t have that!

        I’ve never, ever understood the notion that people should vote only based on the current season. (Not even the second half of the previous season, after the previous year’s game?) I think the game would be better off if the biggest names played every year. There’s no question Daniel Murphy is having a better season than David Wright, but did anyone actually care about seeing Murphy in there as the Mets’ representative? And Wright isn’t even a true superstar–it’s even more true of those who are.

        Reply
  23. Chip S.

    I strenuously object to Joe’s characterization of Sam Mellinger as “most excellent.” I found the article at the link to be so poorly argued as to seem like a parody of a sportswriter’s rant.

    Mellinger makes a huge deal out of the fact that the boost in the Braves’ late-1991 attendance was not spread uniformly across all games. He gives this banal observation the sheen of some sort of interesting insight by pointing out that attendance was low at a late-August Monday night Braves game in 1991. Maybe Joe can explain the concept of “sample size” to this clown.

    What I found more objectionable was this bit of disingenousnous:

    “First,Yost is dead wrong. Laughably wrong. And this isn’t about his contention that the “electricity” of the home crowd helps a team that is now 4-6 in front of crowds more than 30,000 at home and just had its signature win of the season in front of fewer than 14,000.”

    Well of course Mellinger is quite clearly making it about Yost’s claim, which Mellinger seems to think is utterly refuted by his stupid data. But does Mellinger really think that Yost is saying that a big home crowd is the SOLE determinant of whether the Royals win or lose a game? If he does, he should just stop writing about sports right now, because he’s utterly incapable of rational thought.

    We know what teams are the biggest draws: good teams. Is it too much to expect Sam Mellinger to understand that this means the Royals are less likely to win games that draw big crowds if the quality of the opponent is the primary determinant of attendance? (Aside from the apparently all-important issue of whether it’s a “school night”, of course. And if anyone can explain to me why this past Tuesday is a much bigger deal as a school night than this past Monday–which seems to have drawn a good crowd–I’d be very grateful.)

    Ned Yost is making a “ceteris paribus” argument–taking the quality of the opponent as given, the team will be more energized by a large crowd than a small one. Is that really “laughably wrong”? It seems quite reasonable to me. At a minimum, I think the burden of proof for that is on Mellinger, not Yost.

    This is a very different case from Joe’s example of Cincinnati fans during the playoffs. Playoff ticket prices are set specifically for those few games. They might simply be set too high because the people setting them overestimate the (still possibly large) degree of fans’ eagerness to attend. Yost, however, is taking the level of ticket prices for regular games as having been set at the start of the season, and is talking about the degree of responsiveness of fans’ demand for tickets at constant prices. As I said, two completely different things.

    The bottom line is that Yost is completely correct about this: a team with fans that don’t respond much to winning by buying more tickets will not be a team that spends a lot of money on getting better in the long run, because that’s not a profitable strategy for them. Royals fans may not like hearing that, but blaming the messenger doesn’t change the facts.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Charles

      Dear Chip S.,

      Thank God we have a comment-matrician like you to provide the “CommentFX” to adjust Yost’s comment to account for the night of the week, time of the season, qualiy of the opponent, capacity of the ballpark, size of the crowd, price of the tickets, the number of days since the ticket prices were set, the responsiveness to fans’ demand for tickets, the last chance to see Derek Jeter play, and the willingness of Royals management to spend money on salary based on one late August 2014 Tuesday night Royals game versus the “sample size” of a late August 1991 Monday night Braves game; all in order to PROVE that, “ceteris paribus,” Ned Yost must have been correct.

      You’ve not only shown that, but that he also leads the league in CWAR (Complaint Words About Royalsfans).

      Without the benefit of your “CommentFX” adjustments to what Yost said, he would have sounded dead wrong. Laughably wrong.

      So thank you for that.

      Reply
        1. Tom

          See how you far you will go to try and distract from the real issue so that you don’t have to deal with what Ned Yost said about the fans?

          I couldn’t care less about the reporter. I care about the Royals, and by extension, their manager.

          You are so hung up on the reporter, you continue to act as if he is the issue here.

          You have completely ignored the fact that others reported Yost’s comments, too. If your hated reporter had never been born we would still all know exactly what Ned Yost said about the fans.

          The fact that a few of you demand that reporters bury Yost’s comments to protect him from himself, and go to great lengths to rationalize that Yost didn’t really mean what we all heard him say, shows that even you realize how inappropriate his words were.

          Okay, your turn to write another comment about some insignificant reporter you hate while denying that the manager’s poor communication is what turned this into a story. And since you know that your effort will look silly again, I fully expect you to attack me personally for trying to keep the focus on Ned Yost, instead of your red herring reporter.

          Go ahead and prove my prediction right in 3… 2… 1…

          Reply
  24. NevadaMark

    Perhaps Yost can, you know, actually WIN something before lecturing the rest of us. And make no mistake, that what he was doing, condescending to us.

    That of course is a Royals tradition. From Dayton Moore going after bloggers to Trey Hillman calling us idiots because we don’t understand “The Process”, whatever the hell that is, that is just something K.C. management must do. We fans need to show unconditional and massive support for the team but never, never, NEVER question management. After all, we’re just fans.

    And now the club is playing some competent baseball for the first time in a generation and the all knowing manager has to slip in a few more digs. And we have to take it because we are fans and are all too stupid to understand what is going on.

    The irony of the situation is that Yost is damned lucky he even has a job. He should get his own house in order before throwing rocks at the rest of us.

    Reply
  25. :-)

    Interesting angle and not without merit. It appears that Poz is in agreement with Jerry Jones who took a fair amount of criticism from the press for this comment back in April:

    “As you know, the Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in several years. We have not gone. Yet we’re the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings. We lead, 24 out of the last top 25 shows were NFL games, and any time your Cowboys play, they’re up there at the top and leading.”

    Reply
  26. normswifevera

    This was in no way a “rant”, as Joe’s twitter link claimed. Did Joe actually hear it? Or did he just take Mellinger’s word? I’m not sure which would be worse. Either way, Joe should have been called out on this BS by Keith Olbermann just like Sam was.

    Mellinger’s entire column came off like more of his “I know I’m not Joe or Whitlock, PLEASE LIKE ME” pandering to the locals that he wastes far too much space doing.

    Reply
  27. Gabor

    Joe, I completely agree with you. I’m guessing you’ve read Fever Pitch, but here’s an amazing passage from it that sold me on it:

    “One thing I know for sure about being a fan is this: it is not a vicarious
    pleasure, despite all appearances to the contrary, and those who say
    that they would rather do than watch are missing the point…But when there is some
    kind of triumph, the pleasure does not radiate from the players
    outwards until it reaches the likes of us at the back of the terraces in a
    pale and diminished form; our fun is not a watery version of the team’s
    fun, even though they are the ones that get to score the goals and climb
    the steps at Wembley to meet Princess Diana. The joy we feel on
    occasions like this is not a celebration of others’ good fortune, but a
    celebration of our own; and when there is a disastrous defeat the sorrow
    that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity, and anyone who wishes to
    understand how football is consumed must realise this above all things.
    The players are merely our representatives, chosen by the manager
    rather than elected by us, but our representatives nonetheless, and
    sometimes if you look hard you can see the little poles that join them
    together, and the handles at the side that enable us to move them. I am
    a part of the club, just as the club is a part of me; and I say this fully
    aware that the club exploits me, disregards my views, and treats me
    shoddily on occasions, so my feeling of organic connection is not built on
    a muddle-headed and sentimental misunderstanding of how professional
    football works. This Wembley win belonged to me every bit as much as
    it belonged to Charlie Nicholas or George Graham (does Nicholas, who
    was dropped by Graham right at the start of the following season, and
    then sold, remember the afternoon as fondly?), and I worked every bit
    as hard for it as they did. The only difference between me and them is
    that I have put in more hours, more years, more decades than them,
    and so had a better understanding of the afternoon, a sweeter appreciation of why the sun still shines when I remember it.”

    Reply
  28. Michael Green

    But the same people who are agreeing with you, Joe, will attack Dodger fans for leaving early. Isn’t that precious?

    Reply
  29. Berto

    Put the ballpark downtown, or provide the fans with easy, reliable public transportation to and from the park.

    Reply
  30. Jorge

    Maybe fans can’t come out to the park–especially on a school night–but maybe they’re listening at home as they get the kids in the tub and into bed. At twelve, I couldn’t get myself to the ballpark, but I spent a lot of time in the basement with the radio on while cutting out and pasting into my scrapbook every word written in the Star and Times about Frank and Freddie, George, Mac and AO, Al Cowens, Big John and Daryl Porter.

    Reply
  31. Edward

    Out of the 15 MLB games played on Tuesday night, the Royals had the second lowest attendance at 13,847. Among the games that drew better: Tampa – Baltimore at 16,406 (which is awful in its own right); Oakland – Houston at 17,345; and Milwaukee – San Diego at 21,786. What was the worst? Cleveland – White Sox at 12,462.

    So yeah. I can see why Yost got a little cranky about the attendance. (He went on several talk shows on Wednesday claiming that he wasn’t cranky about it, but nobody believes him.)

    Reply

Comment: