Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chin Music: Road Shows

The Red Sox took on the NL East in Interleague play this season, and last week arrived in Washington D.C. for a three game set with the Nationals. Three days later, the Nationals had set their new single game attendance record, despite being the worst team in baseball.

David Ortiz hit a three run home run to deep center field at Nationals Park, and he got a standing ovation from 40,000 people. It seems to be a general rule for baseball fans in the northeast, they either travel in hordes to opposing ballparks up and down the east coast, or many of them simply remain loyal to their team despite relocating to somewhere else. After the Red Sox set the single game attendance record (41, 517) and the single series attendance record (breaking 120,000 in attendance) they took their show down to Atlanta with similar, although not record breaking, results.

Where does this phenomenon come from? Remember those empty box seats at the new Yankee Stadium? Fenway Park has standing room only tickets to $20 and you can’t even see any fly balls because of the overhang, never mind the difficulty of getting tickets at face value. For many fans, they travel because tickets are much easier to come by, tickets are much cheaper, and hey why not make a vacation out of it? Tons and tons of Red Sox fans head down to Baltimore every year to take in Camden Yards. I took that trip for the first time last year, and with impeccable timing I was able to catch Manny Ramirez’s 500th home run off of Chad Bradford. The thousands upon thousands of Boston fans were all lucky enough to see that historic event.

Meanwhile, while terrible teams like the Nationals continue to trot out Nick Johnson at first every night to their dismay of their dwindling fan base, they’re thankful when the giants in the northeast, whether it’s Boston, either team from New York, or Philadelphia, because those are the fans that truly care about travel, whether by choice or by lack of ticket availability at their home ballpark. Not to take anything away from any other fan base, like the Dodger fans who show up for the middle three innings, or Angels fans who patiently wait for the big screen to dictate their next move, but next time a northeast team comes to town anywhere else in the country (but small markets in particular), take notice when they dominate cheering, chants, and celebrations.

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