Much has been made of the fact, here and elsewhere, that crowds are not overwhelming Camden Yards despite the Orioles’ excellent play this season. By now, you’ve been provoked into anger or indifference about the myriad reasons why there were barely five figures worth of fans present on Monday night for a relatively crucial game in the developing playoff race.
It would be foolish, without a serious army of pollsters, to try and define why there weren’t that many people interested in going to watch the Orioles on Monday. I’m not going to speculate on the most commonly supposed reasons (hatred of ownership, culture of defeat, high prices, weather, parking, etc.), I’m just going to say that whatever reasons people had for not going, they were good enough. Do you know why? Because it’s not anyone’s duty or obligation to go to a sporting event. To suggest otherwise is to callously discard the free will of those “expected” to be there.
Pro sports teams are commercial enterprises that are trying to attract consumers. They do that by supplying a good product, employing clever marketing, and understanding their industry’s economics and pricing their product competitively. When a business doesn’t do well, in what other sector do we place blame on the consumers when business is slow? It’s not our duty to make sure the seats at a stadium are full, it’s the team’s. We understand that if we don’t support the team, bad things can happen, but that’s obviously a risk a lot of us are willing to take in exchange for getting on with our lives on a Monday night.
Please don’t be shamed into feeling like you missed Election Day or something because you didn’t buy a bleacher seat and a crabcake. Do the Orioles technically “deserve” more support for their play in 2012? Absolutely, in a world where everyone is rewarded equally and justly (in real-time) for their deeds, yes, there should be bigger crowds on Eutaw Street every night. But the world doesn’t work like that. Baseball doesn’t work like that. You can be an Oriole fan in whatever fashion you choose. You can go to eighty-one games or zero. None of them are mandatory in order to retain Official Oriole Fandom. I consulted my pocket schedule to make sure.
So, members of the local media and self-proclaimed “die hard” fans chastising a general region of the mid-Atlantic for not joining their crusade for better gate attendance, what is the end game here? What happens if you win? Are you then sitting next to 40,000 other people who you coerced or guilted into being there? That sounds like a blast.
Note: I intentionally resisted trying to defend my credibility as an Oriole fan here. You’ll probably denounce me as “not a real fan” after reading this, but that’s fine, because I’m such a fan that I’m secure enough to know that you questioning my fandom doesn’t affect my relationship to the team. See what I did there?