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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Second-Class Sox

by George Bova

It has been yet another interesting week to be a Sox Fan.  It's rare that so many seemingly unrelated events coalesce so nicely to prove a larger point that might otherwise be overlooked.  Like stars in the midnight sky all lining up together, Sox Fans got a heavenly sign this past week.  As Sox Fans the obvious first question must be, "Did this message come from heaven, or did it come from hell?"  Knowing our luck, it probably came from purgatory.

Six events this past week perfectly explain what makes our team the Second-Class Sox.  Each event by itself can't deliver the message, but together they pack a wallop for fans of Chicago's one true baseball team.  Check it out.

Event #1.
It's the end of May and the attendance pattern we've all grown to know and loathe has once again reappeared.  Same as always for the first two months of any season the Sox simply don't sell more than 20,000 tickets for a ballgame.  The only exceptions are for opening day and discount nights when walk up fans get half-priced seats.  This might be excused as "the way it has always been" but it hardly brings relief to the Sox front office forever complaining and blaming lack of revenue for leaving our team one or two key ballplayers away from fielding a championship-caliber team.  We've been dealing with the same excuse across multiple ownership groups for over 86 years.  As you know some of us have been counting the years of futility. 

Can our team finally make a full and sincere effort to win another championship already?  Our hair is graying, our teeth are falling out, and the ticker ain't what she use to be.  We're staring eternity in the face, a fate too many dead Sox Fans have already reached without ever living to experience a glorious championship.  Let's get serious!

Event #2.
Saturday Rookie Jon Rauch became the latest bit of cannon fodder to be sent to the pitching mound to play the role of fifth starter for this outfit.  Like all the others that preceded him, he was shelled and the Sox lost.  In the big scheme of things one loss is no big deal, but spread across a full season's worth of fifth starter forfeitures, the effects are bound to be felt in the won-loss standings.  Everyone knows GM Kenny Williams must make a deal for another pitcher, but everyone knows the Sox will go as cheap as possible to fill this gaping hole.  Why cheap?  See Event #1 above.

Event #3.
On a perfectly pleasant Tuesday evening, 22,000 fans showed up to watch the Sox play.  Unfortunately 9,000 of these fans walked up to the gate the day of the game toting a empty soda can, paid half the going rate for a ticket, and walked out of the ballpark three hours later with no further obligation to support the team besides waiting for the next pleasant evening when tickets are half-priced for walking up the day of the game.  Is there any Sox Fan reading this that doesn't know too well that Chicago's spring weather (especially at night) bears a strong resemblance to Chicago's winter weather?  Half-price nights are driven more by weather than the play of the ballclub, the first sign they aren't succeeding in fixing Events #1 and #2 above.

Event #4.
This will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone with more than one year's worth of marketing training, but many of the fans who got in for half-price treated the product they got for half-price (Sox baseball) in a cheap and worthless manner.  Once again fights broke out all around the outfield, areas that hardly ever have trouble when populated by fans who invested in season tickets or committed to support the team by purchasing their tickets in advance.  As many Sox Fans know, a fair number of Cubs fans choose to take advantage of a cheap night out on half-price nights and since acting like fools comes naturally to most of them, trouble is sure to follow -- especially when Sox Fans get unruly in response.  All of them including these disorderly Sox Fans need to be shown the exits as soon as possible.  They're hurting the ballclub, not helping it.

Beefing up security (thus adding overhead) or cutting off beer sales (thus cutting revenue even further) appears the stop-gap solution to this recurrent problem of fights and unruly behavior at half-price nights.  Why won't it work?  See Events #1, #2, and #3 above.

Event #5.
Lost in all the crowing by Ed Farmer and others shilling on behalf of the Sox about those 9000 walk ups last Tuesday is the butt-ugly truth that only 13,000 paid in advance, and even fewer still in attendance held any kind of full or partial season ticket package.  Selling season tickets -- NOT WALK UPS! -- is the key to fixing everything noted in Events #1-#4 above.  Unfortunately not even Sox season ticketholders themselves can explain what it is they get for going to the trouble of investing in these seats.  Sure, they get their pick of the best available seats but so what?  If their total number is less than 10,000, whatever inducements the Sox are offering clearly aren't enough to lift their numbers to the 20,000+ that are required to make this ballclub financially solid. 

The mere fact that even season ticketholders themselves are confused over what they get -- while every last one of those 9000 walk ups knew exactly what they got -- just underscores the utter incompetence of the Sox Marketing Department to sell these vital advance sale ticket packages.  Marketing Senior V.P. Rob Gallas has already been shown the door, but plenty more needs to be done to correct 10+ years of gross negligence in this department.

Event #6.
This one is the cruelest of all, Sox Fans.  We're labeled by the Cubune editors and others in the media as crybabies for noting the plain obvious truth about media bias, the truth we are powerless to change.  On Friday night the first-place Chicago White Sox mounted a dramatic come from behind victory at U.S. Cellular Field to beat the best team in the American League, in front of several thousand Chicagoans in attendance on Chicago's South Side, many of them doubtlessly subscribers to the Chicago Cubune newspaper.  So how did the Cubune's sports editors handle the news?  They made their Lovable Losers double-loss to the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates the top story, a story that occurred in front of friends and family only several hundred miles away in a wretched town most everyone only "visits" through the clouds at 30,000 feet on their way to someplace more interesting.

That's how the Cubune played it.

The ugly truth is that the Flubs sell tickets and the Flubs sell newspapers, too.  The Cubune and everyone else in the media doesn't care one bit about our Sox until our Sox start selling tickets and newspapers better than the Lovable Losers.  This usually doesn't occur until October when the Sox are making one of their infrequent playoff appearances while the Flubbies' "shrine" sits empty at Clark & Addison. 

Do the restrooms at Wrigley reek of Pine Sol and urine if there is nobody there to smell them?  I'm sure the Cubune sports editors are already planning their October feature story on the subject. 

The Sox will continue to get more local coverage than the Arena League Rush and the Midwest League Cougars as long as we continue to outdraw them.  The moment we don't, look out below!  Just because we Sox Fans are focused solely on winning, don't think for a moment anyone in the media is.  They'll talk about the Sox to the precise amount it helps them with their own goals:  Circulation and listening/viewing audience size.

Sox Fans, attendance matters, not to us but to everyone else.  No wonder the media loves the Cubs.  That's all they're about, 'cause it sure ain't winning.

Look no further than last week's Events #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 to know and understand what makes us second-class to them.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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