Dividing Line Among Braves Fans; Attendance, It’s Not as Bad as You Think

Chipper Jones tweet last night after the game against the Rockies created a local, well, to some extent, even national, firestorm in regards to the poor attendance at Braves games. And I say poor because that is the perception. While the Braves attendance certainly isn’t among Major League Baseball’s best, to say it is poor would be wrong. It’s right about average.

The Braves attendance ranking over the past five years has been 14th, 15th, 13th, 15th, and so far in 2012 16th. So as I said, it’s not near the top, but it’s also not near the bottom.

I’ll try to avoid the oft used, but entirely accurate, typical explanation about how Atlanta is full of people who aren’t actually from Atlanta. This one everyone should be aware of by now, and to deny it’s role in their attendance is absurd. So I’ll look at some other factors as we compare these horrible, lousy, worthless Braves fans to the rest of the country.

Take into consideration just this year, shall we?

The two last place teams in baseball in attendance are the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. As the season stands now, the A’s would be in the playoffs, while the Rays (who played in a world series a short time ago and made the post season last year) sit merely 1 1/2 out of a playoff spot in the American League.

But I won’t stop there. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox (who have been playing baseball in Chicago for 111 years) rank behind the Braves in attendance this season. This of course despite the fact that these two teams both lead their divisions, in September.

But we can keep going from there. The Arizona Diamondbacks, division winners a year ago, and amid the playoff race through late August this year, also rank behind the Braves. One of the feel good stories of the year, the Pittsburgh Pirates, they who are without a winning season in 20 years, but still a proud franchise that dates back to 1882 (which for you math experts isn’t even 20 years after the Civil War ended) are just two games out of a playoff spot, yet rank behind the Braves in attendance.

So can we stop with the bashing of how Atlanta is full of such horrible baseball fans that won’t come out to see a winner?

I’m curious however when it comes to other stadiums, if you polled all the fans in attendance, how many of those in the ballpark actually live in the city in which the stadium resides. And no, I don’t mean they live on a suburb just outside of town, but rather, in the city.

I’d bet the numbers are pretty high in a lot of the major market teams in baseball. Which brings me to my next point.

Of the 15 teams ahead of the Braves in attendance this year, only four, the Rangers, Cardinals, Reds, and Twins play baseball in a city that doesn’t have a larger population than Atlanta based on the 2010 census.

It must be noted however that while Arlington ranks behind Atlanta in population, and not by much I might add, there’s this other city that pretty much backs right up to Arlington, you might have heard of it. You know, Dallas!

After that, it also must be taken into consideration that two of those teams, the Reds and Cardinals have been around since 1882. They might have had just a wee bit of time to build up a more solid fan base. Throw in the fact that the Cardinals are the defending world champions and the Reds are tied for the most wins in baseball, this is perhaps a little bit better understood.

It should also be noted, that if you’ve ever been to Cincinnati, when it comes to a sports team, the city offers very little else. It’s not like the Bengals are out stirring up hope, nor is Cincinnati exactly a college football hot bed. Your best argument is Xavier and Cincinnati college hoops.

As far as St. Louis goes? That town IS the Cardinals. There’s a reason they’re widely known as the best fans in baseball.

You have to consider that Atlanta only has barely over two-thirds the population of Denver… So, it’s not like the Braves are on equal footing competing with these other cities.

Making matters worse, is MARTA. Hopefully you haven’t had to use it much, but if you have, you understand what I’m talking about. It’s reach outside of the city is limited, at best. And even within the city, it doesn’t make a lot of points readily accessible. The fact you have to walk all the way through underground, to then catch a bus, to take MARTA to a Braves game is just unacceptable and a horrible inconvenience.

So I’m curious, what would attendance in places like Philadelphia, or San Francisco, or Chicago, or Boston, or Baltimore be if the majority of their fans also lived outside the city. And I’m curious as to what those numbers would be if they were to still be allowed to maintain their current public transit systems. But imagine if they had ours? Do you really think they’d be selling out a Tuesday night game against a horrible Rockies team when the pitcher on the hill is one who inspires no confidence of winning?

Speaking of which, Chipper picked a bad game to choose to call out the fans for not showing up. Maybe he forgot it was the day after a holiday weekend. Maybe he forgot that all kids are pretty much back in school now. Maybe he forgot that anyone who dared go anywhere in Atlanta all weekend was probably sick of driving due to amount of traffic. Traffic that was far worse than ordinary because all you had going on within 90 minutes of Turner Field this weekend was two college football games among ACC and SEC schools, Georgia’s home opener, three Braves games, Dragon-Con, and the NASCAR race weekend down at Atlanta Motor Speedway. So maybe, JUST maybe, there had been a few other things going around to help detract from people coming for a Tuesday night game against a bad baseball team.

But you know, the worst part about this isn’t that the national media, or other fans are mocking Atlanta for it. No, it’s that there has been a dividing line drawn among Braves fans themselves. You have Braves fans calling out other Braves fans for not being at baseball games, and this to me, is entirely unacceptable.

It’s pretty well documented right now and well known that the economy is pretty much in shambles right now. If it hasn’t affected you, that is great, and I’m happy for you. But don’t you dare sit there and assume it hasn’t impacted the lives of other people.

Yes, tickets can be very inexpensive, and yes, MARTA itself doesn’t cost a lot of money. But if you think that’s the only cost that goes into a Braves game, then you probably lead a very, very fortunate life.

As mentioned earlier, a great deal of Braves fans do not live in the city, and the public transportation system is borderline useless. So being able to just on a whim decide you’ll go to a Braves game, right after work, or just up and decide to go to one, and be able to do so smoothly and be home at a decent hour, not nearly as feasible here as in other cities with professional baseball teams.

If you live north up 85, or are in the Cumming, Lawrenceville, Duluth or Buford area, why would you spend the gas money, take the time, buy the more expensive tickets for Atlanta Braves games constantly when you can just go to Gwinnett?

This of course is an awesome response to the ignorant comments that people who don’t go to Atlanta Braves games aren’t true fans because they aren’t helping pay the payroll. Well, last I checked, the Gwinnett Braves were a part of the Atlanta Braves organization. Maybe some people in their condescending ride on the high horse above the rest of the world didn’t notice that. I don’t know.

In addition, the number of reasons people can’t attend ball games may generally start with financial reasons, but there are countless others. Proximity to the stadium, work schedules, whether they have children or not, transportation, or even health related issues. To hear other fans publicly calling them out saying that they, “have no excuse” for not going, actually sickens me.

Who are these people to tell other people how to spend their money? Who are these people to tell other people what they have “no excuse” for either doing or not doing. Have they walked in their shoes? Do they even know the first thing about them? It’s quite appalling actually.

Claiming someone is less of a fan because they don’t attend games is actually probably hurtful to some people. To some, they brush it off, some get ticked off, others may laugh about it. But to imply that someone you don’t know, and you don’t know why they haven’t gone to a game, or as many games as you deem they should, can be hurtful, and mostly because it is coming from a fellow Braves fan.

Sure, the argument is people are speaking out in general about Braves fans and that nobody is being singled out. Tell that to the countless, COUNTLESS people who just felt real singled out. It’s not like Braves don’t hear it enough from the rest of the country, but when your own Braves family is doing it to you, that’s just not kosher.

I can’t expect ESPN, or Phillies fans, or other sports fans across the country to ever accept any of the reasons Braves attendance isn’t great (because I will not call it poor). But Braves should be more willing to accept and acknowledge the hurdles faced by the Braves in an effort to boost attendance.

When some 25 or 30 year old tells some 45 or 50 year old Braves lifer they aren’t a real Braves fan because they don’t go to games, that 45 or 50 year should simply slap them across the face repeatedly with a lineup card from just about every team from the 70s and 80s that they endured.

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