A Counterpoint to “Unpopular Opinion”

I must be misinformed. I thought that going to see your favorite team play in the heat of a pennant race was fun, and essentially the whole payoff of rooting for a team in the first place. Apparently it’s a burden on par with court imposed community service or jury duty.

There is one thing I agree with in the “Unpopular Opinion” article. Nobody should be forced into going to Orioles games. So Mr. Ripken, please stop sitting outside area houses staring menacingly at people. Now, let’s move on to why I disagree with its take on the Orioles attendance issue.

Many seem to be acting as though it’s the free will of people not to attend Orioles games. Of course it is, we live in America. Free will is a guaranteed right. However, free will is a much better defense in the case of, say, somebody asking you to shove a lit firecracker up your ass. I would imagine that most people don’t enjoy shoving lit firecrackers up their asses. Hopefully nobody is pointing a gun to your head, there are no consequences if you don’t do it and some dire consequences if you do. So most people would politely turn down the offer and extinguish the firecracker.

But – and I can testify to this as a baseball fan – going to an Orioles game isn’t unpleasant. It’s going to watch an exciting team in a great stadium that most attendees presumably root for. Of course, the free will card is still in play, but it’s an extremely flimsy argument. If you’re a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, and they’re playing right down the street for $20 a night, you can exercise your free will, not go to the concert, and not enjoy yourself. Sounds like a fantastically masochistic evening.

A more reasonable response would be “I have work” or “it’s too far from where I live”, which would be completely legitimate arguments. I miss 90% of the Orioles games this season because I work for the Nationals at the exact same time. But people everywhere work. People in St. Louis work, and they fill an average of 92.6% of their stadium with essentially the same metro population as Baltimore. People in Boston work, but the Red Sox played to a full house against fellow awful team Kansas City on Friday (I was there, it sounded like a playoff game).

As “Unpopular Opinion” said, there are a variety of factors that influence park attendance. “Clever Marketing” makes up about 2% of the pie. Considering I usually spend $20 on first row tickets to watch a winning team, I’ll go ahead and check off the “competitively priced” box. Where the O’s usually fall short is delivering on the product. Everyone knows the history, if you don’t, any cynical Orioles fan will tell you: 14 consecutive losing seasons, haven’t been relevant since Smashmouth was.

The argument that Orioles need to “win their fans back” barely held water in April, and at this point there are now exactly 72 holes in it. This may come as a surprise; teams lose, even the good ones. The Yankees have won 27 World Series, they also had 4 consecutive losing seasons from 1989-1993. The Boston Celtics had 8 consecutive losing seasons in the 90’s. When those teams got back on their feet, fans didn’t pull the bitter ex-girlfriend and wait to be showered with pennants before gracing the team with their presence.

But let’s get back to the free will argument. It’s correct to say that Orioles fans can exercise their free will and not come to games. It would also be correct to say that free agents can exercise their free will and choose to play in a stadium where fans come to watch a winning team. And if we want to go deeper, Peter Angelos could exercise his free will and sell the team to a place where people will actually support it.

“Please don’t be shamed into feeling like you missed Election Day or something because you didn’t buy a bleacher seat and a crab cake.” “It’s not anyone’s duty or obligation to go to a sporting event.” Of course it’s not. The reason people go to see games at Camden Yards isn’t because of a government mandate, it’s because most of them like watching the team. What a crazy concept. Blaming the consumers is apt here, because the O’s have produced an exemplary product. For the majority of their existence, the Cubs have been selling their fans on a wonderful tradition of losing, and Wrigley Field averages 89% attendance with a legitimate alternative in the same city!

You shouldn’t be bullied into coming to Camden Yards. You shouldn’t have to be. The team is winning, the long maligned ownership has been exceptional within the last year, not only with player acquisitions but by keeping ticket prices low. This season is why you stuck with the Orioles for so long; it’s the payoff. Because after all of the losing seasons, all of the expectations not met in the 90’s, and all of the justified frustration, you finally have the best kind of team. One that had no expectations to fall short of that is putting together one of the more improbable and amazing seasons in team history.

Camden Yards used to have routinely outstanding attendance numbers, and people aren’t significantly more busy than they were 15 years ago. So I’ll end with this; would your life be more enjoyable if you stopped creating excuses and just went to watch a great team play baseball once in a while?

I intentionally mentioned that I wasn’t an Orioles fan. You may call me a fan for writing this, but I’m so confident in my lack of fandom that your fandom questioning doesn’t impact the fan that I am. Those two sentences were nearly indecipherable.