Sunday afternoon I joined many thousands of my close personal friends at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati for the Reds-New York Mets game. Apparently, many thousands more than I was aware of, recognized, or believed were present to watch New York win 4-3.
The attendance was announced as 31,444, which definitely seemed like a misprint on the scoreboard. I was sure it should read 13,444 because there were no more than that many folks inside the stadium, and that’s if you counted players, coaches, bat boys and clubhouse attendants.
There were so many empty seats spread out amongst all sections – upper deck, balcony, grandstands, box seats -- that just about everyone could have stretched out and rested their feet on the backs of the seats in front of them as if they were footstools. When New York's Curtis Granderson and Anthony Recker hit home runs, fans had to be lucky to find the balls rattling around.
Really, the announced attendance was a bigger exaggeration than the promises made by the average politician. Just maybe that attendance figure was the true number of tickets sold. Way back in the early stages of the season Reds believers probably felt the club was going to be contending for the National League Central Division title, a pennant, or maybe even a World Series appearance. So ticket buyers likely invested in purchasing tix to late-season games because they thought they would be meaningful and that they would be watching a pennant race unfold.
Instead, but for the grace of the Chicago Cubs the Reds would be in last place. My guess is that something like 17,000 people couldn’t give their tickets away. It did not help the cause that Sunday was also the opening day of the National Football League season and that the Cincinnati Bengals were meeting the Baltimore Ravens on television at the same time the Reds-Mets game kicked off.
The atmosphere at the ballpark was blessed with a clear blue sky and bright sunshine, so weather didn’t keep anyone away. Although the temperature was around 80 degrees the sun was so strong and undiluted it felt like a meltdown temp, but that was only discovered once you were there.
The likelihood of the Reds losing another game – they obliged by surrendering four unearned runs – coupled with the football game on the tube probably conspired to keep all of those fans away from the park. There wasn’t even much of a traffic jam before the game or when it ended.
Similar bogus attendance figures were probably handed out in a number of other big-league cities. I don’t mean to pick on the Reds, but I was an eyewitness. There was absolutely no way that more than 31,000 saw the Reds-Mets game in person Sunday.
Around the MLB
An attendance of 26,851 was announced for the Seattle at Texas game. Attendance of 20,013 was announced for the Atlanta at Miami game. Attendance of 19,914 was announced for the Baltimore at Tampa Bay game.
Seriously? Do you believe those are accurate figures? The home teams in each location are farther removed from the pennant race than Jupiter is from the sun. Major League Baseball does not humor the curious by releasing numbers reflecting no-shows.
That means each time we read an attendance figure at the bottom of a box score we reserve the right to believe we are being misinformed. That’s unfortunate. To some extent it is a white lie, but it still is not the truth. If the sport is not going to be accurate about how many fans are really in the ball park, then perhaps it should just change policy and announce the number of tickets sold.