September 22, 2014

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Indians commentary: Another year, more empty stands

A sparse crowd behind Indians right fielder David Murphy watches in the seventh inning Tuesday in Cleveland. Only 9,029 were in attendance to see the Tribe defeat San Diego, 8-6. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

A sparse crowd behind Indians right fielder David Murphy watches in the seventh inning Tuesday in Cleveland. Only 9,029 were in attendance to see the Tribe defeat San Diego, 8-6. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

The television advertisements and team spokesman/cheerleader Nick Swisher say this is a “Tribe Town.”

But is it really?

The Indians returned to Progressive Field this year to discover that not much had changed from last season, where after the obligatory sellout in the home opener, they drew a little over 10,000 fans per day for the five remaining games of the first homestand of the year.

That’s some welcome home for a team that qualified for the postseason last year for the first time since 2007, representing the American League as the top wild-card entrant.

A real, “Thanks a bunch guys,” for producing a memorable year in marquee manager Terry Francona’s debut season and making Cleveland baseball relevant again on the national scene.

Truth is, Cleveland sports fans haven’t supported the Indians much since the franchise’s then major-league record 455 consecutive sellout streak came to an end in 2001 — at least not at the attendance gates.

Even during their last postseason appearance before 2014 in 2007, the Indians ranked toward the bottom of the majors in attendance — 10th of 14 AL teams.

The excuses from Indians fans are abundant — and some of them with plenty of merit, such as owner Larry Dolan’s reluctance to spend competitively enough to produce a quality product on a consistent basis. Then there’s the fact that the Indians haven’t been very good since their glory days in the mid-to-late 90s.

That’s understandable. If the team isn’t winning, it’s tough to ask fans to spend money to come to the ballpark and cheer on the lovable losers.

But the Indians were good last year, with a high-profile manager and some big-named free-agent acquisitions joining the fold in Swisher and National League star Michael Bourn. They were one of the majors’ biggest stories. That should have enticed true Tribe fans to get to Progressive Field, but they didn’t arrive until the wild-card loss to Tampa Bay, ranking 14th of 15 AL teams in 2013 regular-season attendance.

It looks as though it’s going to be the same story this time around, with the Indians in the No. 14 spot again — six home games into the season.

Cleveland’s sports misery and lack of a major professional championship since 1948 is well-documented. That means there haven’t been a whole lot of chances to root on a winner.

Fans missed a golden opportunity last year, and despite the fact that the Indians are expected to contend again, the city’s sports fans seem more concerned with whom the Browns will be taking in the upcoming NFL Draft after yet another losing year (4-12) from the residents of the “Factory of Sadness.”

The sad and overwhelming truth is that Cleveland is and always will be a “Browns Town.” And there doesn’t seem to be much room for Cleveland’s other two major pro franchises at the fans’ table.

No more proof is required than LeBron James’ days with the Cavaliers. Cleveland had arguably the best player in the NBA and was qualifying for the playoffs on a consistent basis — two NBA Finals appearances — and the Cavs still weren’t “Top Dawg” in this town, where the nod went to the brown and orange and guys such as Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs and D’Qwell Jackson.

The King was little more than a prince, despite being born and raised in nearby Akron. That’s hard to believe. Pretty sure he’s the most popular player in Miami these days.

Some will point to the Indians’ sellout streak as proof that Cleveland does support its baseball team at the turnstiles. But that string of packed houses was deceiving, coming at a perfect time for the Indians, who were housed in a new stadium, with one of the most talented teams in the big leagues. And it would have never happened had the Browns not moved to Baltimore.

The Indians and Cavaliers will always play second fiddle to the football team, no matter how much success either franchise achieves.

I just hope Cleveland gets to celebrate a Super Bowl win soon, because that’s the only way its sports fans — er, Browns fans — will ever be satisfied.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

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  • SniperFire

    ‘Cleveland’s sports misery and lack of a major professional championship since 1948 is well-documented. ‘

    The Cleveland Browns NFL Championship in 1964 is well documented.

    • Sis Delish

      And that’s why we post!

  • Matt

    Perhaps my experience is more an exception than the norm, but the Indians do seem to put little to no importance on walk-up ticket sales. I attended the home opener, then went back the next day with 10 friends, all of whom had ordered their tickets in March. I normally purchase bleacher tickets. Two ticket vendors told me the upper bleachers ($10 or $12 the day of the game) were sold out, despite the video boards above them not reflecting that information. Lower bleachers were the least-expensive remaining seats … for $38 a ticket. The temperature was 36 degrees, the park was a third-full at best and the cheapest walk-up ticket is $38? I went home.

  • SniperFire

    ‘That’s some welcome home for a team that qualified for the postseason last year for the first time since 2007, representing the American League as the top wild-card entrant.’

    This is quite a whiny article with plenty of inaccuracies. And perhaps it will take the fans you disparage seeing more than a once-a-decade ‘top wildcard entrant’ for them to blow $400 for the family to take a trip to the stadium on a regular basis.

    ‘And there doesn’t seem to be much room for Cleveland’s other two major pro franchises at the fans’ table.
    No more proof is required than LeBron James’ days with the Cavaliers. Cleveland had arguably the best player in the NBA and was qualifying for the playoffs on a consistent basis — two NBA Finals appearances — and the Cavs still weren’t “Top Dawg” in this town’

    How does the Brown’s being the most popular team in town mean there is no room for other pro franchises at the fans table? The Indians were wildly supported in their good years, and the Cavs were well supported during the LeBron years. I call bull.

    • stop ur whining part deux

      MLB is currently the most affordable ticket in all four major pro sports.

      As for the Tribe. You can attend a game for as low as $9. Family of four that comes to $36.00. They have dropped their concession costs that last two years and this year offer a child’s ticket that comes loaded with $15 that can be used in the ball park saving mom and dad’s wallet on concessions and merchandise.

      Now if you do not want to go to the park and support your team, that is your right. But it being too expensive is a cop out, nothing more.

      I just bought a ten game pack right before the season opened and it cost me $100.

      BTW, What inaccuracies?

      • SniperFire

        ‘BTW, What inaccuracies?’

        LOL. What a brickhead.

        • stop ur whining part deux

          Yea that is what i thought. Absolutley nothing. You just love to whine about something, anything. All that time in mom’s basement gets boring.

          Here is a thought, educate yourself and be a man instead of just picking a topic and making stuff up.

          How about you be a big boy and actually debate instead of posting nothingness?

          I responded to your post and used facts to dispute your OPINION. All i get in return is non-sense.

          What a sad little man.

          • SniperFire

            ‘Yea that is what i thought. Absolutley nothing.’

            LOL Were you dropped on your head at birth? When was Cleveland’s last major sports championship?

          • stop ur whining part deux

            Since when does one in inaccuracy equate to “plenty of inaccuracies”?

          • SniperFire

            ‘Since when does one in inaccuracy ‘

            Before I spank you again, let’s confirm your position. You said there were no innaccuracies, and I was just making it up? LOL. Too easy sometimes.

          • stop ur whining part deux

            If you will look at the posts you will see I never stated there were any, I was asking you. You know, being inquisitive.

            Unfortunetly you are close minded and see everything as an attack. Classic inferiority complex. You need the internet to flex your muscles you jump on everyone that tries to reply. You think you are smarter, sry, you are far from intelligent. You are a narrow minded and that is being kind.

          • SniperFire

            ‘I was asking you’ LOL. Dance monkey dance. You took a position (stupidly) that there was ‘absolutely nothing’ going on in the way of inaccuracies.
            Give up, because you REALLY suck at this.

          • stop ur whining part deux

            Wow for someone that criticizes people for being stupid you do not read very well.

            Whats funny is that i am sitting behind a desk making money and you are in moms basement.

  • golfingirl

    “It’s the economy stupid!”

    People don’t have as much disposable income as they had just a few years ago.

    For many, the increase in their taxes… income, property and sales, as well as the high price of gas…would have bought season tickets to the Tribe.

    Unlike the Federal Government, people have to live within a budget. When the economy struggles,one of the first casualties is entertainment, which professional sports is.

  • Sis Delish

    They should have Gay Marriage Recognition Appreciate Parade Day or something… complete with KISS Cams and Weiner Races.