Some of the attendance issues had by the Baltimore Orioles during lean years are well-documented. The Birds at times struggled to draw even 10,000 fans at some games. While it’s certainly the right of the fan (customer) to spend their money as they see fit, it’s the classic question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Should the local populous in effect blindly come to games because it’s their hometown team, or is the onus on the team to provide a viewable product? I would submit that in truth the answer lies somewhere in the middle – once again with the understanding that people can spend their money as they see fit. The fact is that win or lose, it’s fun to go to games, no matter what the sport. There’s nothing better than a summer afternoon at the ballpark, a crisp autumn Sunday at an NFL game, or perhaps a Friday night at an NBA arena.
But there is an onus on the team to put something out there that at least resembles a professional team. If you’re an Orioles fan and the Birds appear to be putting a minor league product on the field, at a certain level you might think to yourself I could just drive to Frederick, Bowie, or Aberdeen to see baseball of this quality. My kids will still have a great time, I’ll be seeing the same essential product, and it’ll be more cost efficient. And the same is true if you root for Washington – you could head down to see a Potomac Nationals game instead.
Bearing all of that in mind, I was interested to read this article by Fansided staff writer, Matt Verderame. In talking about the NHL’s Florida Panthers, he cuts right to the chase in his title: the league should move the team. Let me preface this by saying that I understand and respect that position. And for all I know he’s right. But let’s think about this for a moment…
…there’s more than meets the eye to this. First off growing up with a father who idolized Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts, I’m never going to be in favor of franchises relocating. I’ve seen first hand what that does to adoring fans. However I also recognize that sports is a business – as I’ve said here many times. If the team isn’t making money, sometimes tough decisions have to be made.
But also keep in mind that the premise of this position is that the NHL should move the team. If the owner of the Florida Panthers wanted to move someplace else, that would be bad but it would at least be a business owner making a decision for his company. Do we as the sports community really want to start going down the path of allowing leagues to up and move teams?
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Obviously poor attendance over a long period of time in a city does in fact affect the league financially, as well as reflect poorly on it. And yes, you could have made that case in Baltimore with the O’s for quite a few years. Now I recognize that this was an article written from the perspective of a fellow Fansided writer, and it’s merely his opinion. And I respect that – my views on various issues are often disemminated in a roundabout way here as well.
However my point is that the league has no business getting involved in matters of franchises staying or going. This is always a very fine line to walk because on one hand there are fiduciary business interests all around. However I suppose that I come at if from the perspective of the fans on the street. I might even agree that South Florida isn’t the ideal market for ice hockey. But my point is that should be a decision made by the owner – NOT the league.
In truth I’m thinking more of my Dad having lost his football team that meant so much to him as a kid. I’m also thinking of the Orioles fans, who at one point would have been in danger of losing their team based on this logic. Again, I recognize that it’s a business and there’s to be no doubt on that. However at it’s core, professional sports are a part of the communities they are in. Both ownership and the leagues should never forget that.