ESPN.com has an article entitled “Battle for L.A. heats up” up on their website right now. It is a semi-interesting article about the Angels’ new owner, Arte Moreno, and his marketing strategies. What really caught my eye, though, was this paragraph near the end of the article:
Super closer Eric Gagne is easily on his way to earning his $5 million salary, as Dodgers execs report that the team’s most popular T-shirt is the one of Gagne with a blue goatee. Gagne’s performance has also been credited with helping to bump concession sales, as fans have a tendency to get another round of food and drink if the Dodgers are leading in the late innings in anticipation of a Gagne sighting.
What this paragraph doesn’t spell out, and maybe only Dodger fans can appreciate this, is that people are staying until the end of the games!
I just did a Google search for dodger fans leave early, and it came back with “about 33,600” results. Some of the highlights from the first couple pages of results:
Columbus didn’t discover America. Everyone knows that.
A Dodger fan. He left earlier.
Then there’s this word problem, to show that Dodger fans’ attendance issues can be educational:
One evening, during a particularly boring game in which the Dodgers were trailing by six runs after six innings, the fans began to leave at a record pace. After the first out in the top of the seventh inning, 100 fans left. After the second out, 150 fans left. After the third out, 200 fans left. The pattern continued in this way, with 50 more fans leaving after each out than had left after the previous out. The ridiculous thing was, the Dodgers tied up the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, and people still kept leaving early. The game lasted ten innings (The Dodgers lost anyway), and the pattern continued through the bottom of the tenth inning. How many fans left early?
When my friends who have never been to a Dodger game ask me about the traffic, I tell them that I always beat the rush by staying until the end of the game.
Well, Eric Gagne may be changing that. It used to be that unless it was a tie game, people would start leaving. It was usually about one inning per run difference: in a three-run game, the crowd starts filing out around the sixth inning. It didn’t matter if the Dodgers were up by three or down by three. If it was a tie game in the eighth inning and a team got a runner in scoring position, men would have their wives go start the car. I watch the Kirk Gibson game from 1988 about ten times a year, and I am still sometimes surprised that the home run didn’t land in an empty pavilion; I guess the rules were different for the World Series.
But people are staying in hopes of a “Gagne sighting.” (I wonder if these are the same fans who used to intentionally mispronounce his last name just so they could call him “Eric Gag-ne with a spoon” when he was a mediocre starter a few years ago…) I think it’s great for the team and the fans, and if seeing Gagne in action is worth the increased freeway traffic at the end of the game, so be it.
I have never believed in leaving games early. In fact, I don’t think I have ever gone to a Dodgers or Angels game and not waited outside the player parking lot to get autographs. I am sure as I get older and more surly I might, but that’s why we have kids, right?