Tuesday, June 08, 2010

NOBODY IS INTERESTED IN BASEBALL IN TORONTO

Well, I had meant to mention this a while back, but I have been quite busy the last few days and it promises to get worse as the week goes on. Anyhow, I want to talk about the lousy attendance and lack of interest in the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last week the Jays drew a measly 11,000 against the Tampa Bay Rays. This, even though the team had been winning and is in contention for the wild-card.

I just don't get it. I know that it is still Stanley Cup season and all, but there are no teams from Toronto or even Canada in the Cup finals. And in fact Toronto didn't even put a team into the NHL playoffs! But fans in Toronto would rather follow a couple of American teams in the Cup finals than follow their winning local team at home. It boggles the mind.

You would think that fans in Toronto might be at least tempted to take in the old ball game. But they haven't for most of this season. In fact, the only two teams with worse attendance overall than the Jays right now are Florida and Cleveland. 

The usual littany of excuses is being dredged up by fans for this situation. "The ticket prices are too high", they say -- yet the cheapest Leaf seats cost a King's ransom compared to the Blue Jays, and the Leafs always sell out.

There's whining about how there's not enough teams in the baseball playoffs, ignoring the fact that baseball is all about meaningful pennant races, not this every-team-in-the-playoffs nonsense. There's people in Toronto who go on the radio and say there ought to be as many teams in the baseball playoffs as there are in the hockey playoffs! People complain that there's no hope of the Blue Jays winning in a division with the Yankees and the Red Sox, so "why not expand the playoffs?"

But the Toronto Maple Leafs have been even more hopeless for years and haven't made the playoffs, either, period. Even with so many teams making it to the NHL Playoffs, the Leafs never had a hope of making it this season. Yet these fans still pay the big bucks to go see the Leafs, anyway!

I don't think changing the playoff format will help. Increasing the number of baseball playoff teams to 16, like the fans in Toronto seem to want, would just lead to people complaining about the "meaningless regular season", and the fans will just end up all staying home while waiting for the playoffs.

People also whine about how the 1994 strike and commissioner Bud Selig have ruined baseball, and claim that's the reason they don't go to games . Yet these same whining fans will show up to NHL games in spite of that hated commissioner Gary Bettman and the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out the Stanley Cup.

Others say that Toronto is a "trend" city and that people will support the trendy sports. Right now the big trendy sport is Toronto FC soccer. A few years ago, it was the Raptors. There's also tons of interest in the UFC, even though Ontario still has not allowed the sport in. But it hasn't stopped people from paying to watch the fights on TV. The Jays used to be trendy, but that was back in their World Series years in the Nineties. Now, the fans have mainly moved on to the next sport.

The only team in town never subject to the "trendy" fan fickleness has been the Leafs. For no good reason, either.

Then you have the folks who whine over the loss of Roy Halladay from the team. That's fine, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have given the boot to a lot of people over the last while, too, yet fans still show up for them.

Even the freaking teams in Chicago are doing better than the Jays are, and they have direct competition from the Blackhawks in the finals! Up against the Hawks and Flyers, the White Sox drew 19,000 last Wednesday -- not great, but still better than the 13,000 home crowd the Jays got. Then on Friday they drew 20,000 at home against the stinking Indians, while the Blackhawks were getting beat by Philadelphia on TV.  

I noticed attendance for the Jays picked up considerably when the Yankees went in to town. Still, it's depressing that the only teams that draw a decent Toronto audience are the big teams like the Yankees or Red Sox. Worse yet, the attendances were in the 30,000 range. That's terrible! For a team like the Yankees, the Jays should be absolutely packing the joint and getting crowds of 40,000 plus!

I don't know what can be done to revive the Jays fortunes at the gate. People complain about the ballpark but I never had any problems with it. I have a feeling people in Toronto just don't care about the game. I think they really did support the Jays for the heck of it in the Nineties -- to be trendy and to show up the Americans at their own sport, and so on. But there's really no passion for the Jays out of Toronto anymore. And there really is too much other stuff to do for Toronto fans -- the competition fron FC has really hurt. I think soccer really has taken over as "the" summer sport there.

Just you watch -- the World Cup is coming up and Toronto will go nuts over that. So that'll be another month down the drain for the Blue Jays where the locals will again be obsessing over a sport other than baseball.

Again, I just don't get it. There is no team from Canada in the World Cup, yet these fans would rather watch Italy, Portugal, Brazil -- anyone but the local Blue Jays.   

It's sad. Even when I lived in Toronto I was lamenting the fact that fans weren't as revved-up about baseball as fans in New York or Chicago or St.Louis. The baseball scene there is just plain dead.

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