In the weeks during which the Cleveland Indians began to kick toward the Central Division crown, the lack of Jacobs Field sell-outs increasingly became the point of talk show conversation. Why weren’t the fans excited enough to start another string of sell-outs? After all, this 2007 team is somewhat in the same young and feisty mold of the legendary John Hart mini-dynasty of 1995-2001 (six crowns, two world series appearances.) Still, once the rebuilding phase commenced abruptly in 2002, the 455 sell out streak had long ended (2001.)
It is indicative of our town’s collective sports psychology that the basic reason given for the fans’ inability to ‘re-arouse’ themselves this year is that they won’t subject themselves to the potential heartbreak should they jump on the bandwagon and experience it to stall sometime at or before the final out of the world series.
This is nonsense of course. Psychology doesn’t work this way. Its ridiculous, uninformed assumptions presume the 10,000-15,000 fans who are staying away are all staying away for this reason. This implies the fans who are showing up come for other reasons but no other reasons exist for all other fans, fans who come out of the sports-happy demographic of northeastern Ohio and its population of 3 million peeps.
This reasoning ignores the 300,000+ fans who have watched the team recently on STO and assumes there is in this group a lack of motivation to see the team in person, even if it is okay to assume they all have stilled this anxiety-provoking potential for heartbreak.
Actually, it is worth suggesting that the in-person audience is highly correlated with the at-home audience. Perhaps the figure is about 10% of the former. Yes, fans have to be motivated to invest time in watching their favorite diamond sons play, but the total figure is quite dynamic and quite unlikely to move south simply because people will defer today’s pleasure against the complete uncertainty of anxiety-provoking results in the distant future.
My guess is that the perfect storm of a good young team and a new ballpark in a city stripped of their beloved, inept Browns (1996) and with a putrid NBA team, constituted a marketer’s perfect storm in 1995.
This said, the rationale behind the idea that a critical mass of fans is prevented from re-forming because of a collective fear says an ore boat’s worth about the longstanding narrative floated by ignorant sports commentators, commentators at least ignorant of social psychology! In effect, it’s a meme floated to support the chip on the shoulder even if the sample of truly disgruntled and fearful fans is given only by those both disgruntled yet motivated to blather on over the phone during call-in shows.
Go Tribe. They are a very dangerous team completely unaware of the idea that they aren’t this year’s cream of the crop. Consider a playoff starting rotation of Sabathia, Carmona, Byrd, with Westbrook, Betancourt, Perez coming out of the bullpen, Borowski at the backend, and the simple revival of hitting with runners in scoring position, and you have to like the Tribe’s chances.