O's attendance: Disraeli was right
Just finished reading our story by Jeff Barker and David Zurawik detailing how the Orioles actually have experienced an increase in attendance and TV ratings during what could turn out to be the worst season in Orioles history.
It seems inexplicable, when you consider just how badly the Orioles have done, but it's not as big a testament to the undying loyalty of Orioles fans as you might think.
The total attendance numbers for the first 32 home games of the season do show a 9.5 percent increase, but that increase is totally explained away by the fact that the Orioles have played 15 games so far against the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets -- games that typically draw twice as many fans as games against less popular opponents, a large percentage of those fans cheering for the enemy. Last year, the Orioles had played only six home games against those teams (all six against the Yankees) by this point in the season.
So, would you like to know the game averages in the games that don't include a healthy infusion of New Yorkers, Bostonians and their Baltimore transplants?
The Orioles have played 17 home games against the rest of the major leagues and have averaged 19,679 fans. Last year at this time, the Orioles had played 26 of their first 32 home games against teams other than the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets. But to make the comparison as equitable as possible, I'll add the home opener against the Yankees because the O's generally sell that game out against anybody.
For those 27 games last year, the Orioles averaged 19,831 fans, which means there has been a slight drop in attendance this year when we're talking about the games that are largely attended by local fans.
I'm no expert on television ratings, but I've got to believe the concentration of games against the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox also has played a role there, since it puts a lot of those transplanted out-of-town fans in front of the television for those games. The Orioles have played 24 games (home and away) against those teams this year as opposed to 16 by this time last year.
The good news: I guess it's still amazing that attendance is holding pretty firm year over year under the circumstances (though there is a corporate season ticket base that props it up even if the tickets are not used), and the fact that so many premium games were frontloaded into the schedule allowed the O's to draw during the worst of competitive times.
I'm guessing you'll see a drop in overall attendance at the end of the year unless the team improves, but it may help that the big teams subsidized the months when the kids were in school. If it's a nice temperate summer, maybe the fans will show up anyway.
The bad news: How much lower can it possibly go? The Orioles are drawing half what they drew in the salad days of Camden Yards, so it's hard to get excited about a modest uptick, especially when you're not looking at the whole picture.
The worst news: Even though the early cluster of games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets helped boost average attendance by 9.5 percent. The average attendance at those premium games was 28,664, a 10.3 percent drop from last year's average of 31,954 for those games (again excluding Opening Day against the Yankees in 2009). That number could improve in the premium games at the end of the season, but it's not a great sign
Oh, for you youngsters who aren't history buffs, Benjamin Disraeli (above right) was the great 19th century British prime minister who coined the famous phrase: "There are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies and statistics."
One more thing: When you get a chance, take a look at the package that Ken Murray and I did on the future of Ravens receiver Demetrius Williams. You can read Ken's story right here, and my accompanying column here. Of course, the whole thing looks pretty impressive on the cover of the print edition of the sports section, so pick that up if you get a chance. We've got kids to feed.