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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Attendance Dopes!
by Hal Vickery

You have to admit, if youíre a White Sox fan, you learn one thing: You are the Rodney Dangerfields of baseball. You get no respect. I donít just mean from the clowns who walk around in their Bozo-suit-blue pinstriped jerseys. Sox fans get no respect from the local media which apparently does nothing without approval from the Chicago Tribune. To make things worse, Sox fans get no respect from the national media which one would think would know better.

If Sox fans arenít being equated with multi-tattooed idiots who attack coaches, they are being berated for not showing up for early-May games against the Kansas City Royals on evenings when the wind chill is in the mid-30s. If the media arenít doing that, weíre being told that weíre rooting for the worst team in sports to be a fan of, a direct insult to our taste.

Weíre told that the ball park that most of us think has become an unappreciated jewel is a barn. Weíre told that the amazing start the Sox are off to this year, one that has most of us pinching ourselves to make sure weíre really witnessing this, is a mirage.

The round of insults to Sox fans came Tuesday night from, of all things, a former Sox player (if you qualify the month or two he spent on the South Side waiting to retire being a Sox player), John Kruk. He used his national forum Baseball Tonight to berate Sox fans for not showing up for their first place team.

The night he chose to berate us was the aforementioned early-May wind-chill-plagued game. Maybe Kruk can be forgiven. After all, he didnít sign with the Sox until May. Perhaps heís unaware of the attendance patterns of White Sox fans. However, if thatís the case, maybe he should have just kept his pie hole shut, or simply inserted another slice of banana cream.

There are a number of media types who come to WSI to get a pulse on what Sox fans are thinking. If for some reason you stumble on this column, I have a challenge for you. Most of you get media guides. Maybe some of you have even saved them from year to year.

If you have, do me a favor. Pick up this yearís media guide, and then any of them going back as far as you care to go. Open the book to the section titled ď2004 (or 2003 or 1994 or 1990) Review.Ē Then find the table titled ďDay By Day.Ē

There is a column in that section that gives attendance. There is another column that tells whether each game is a home or road game. Find the home games. Theyíre usually in darkened areas on the page. Then (and this is the hard part because it shifts, so you might want to go to one of those web sites that gives calendars for any given year) find Memorial Day. Draw a line there.

Now look at the attendance for each home game before Memorial Day. If you have a calculator handy, you might just want to add up the numbers and divide by the number of games. This will give you an average attendance. Now do exactly the same thing for after Memorial Day.

Some would even say that this section should be cut off at Labor Day, but it makes no difference to me, or at least it wonít until we see where the Sox are in September this year.

I can already predict what you will find. You will find that Sox attendance is always lower before Memorial Day than after. If you use Labor Day as a second cut-off point, you will also find that attendance is always lower after Labor Day than before.

Now consider the group to whom the Sox direct most of their marketing. Thatís right! Families! Now, ask yourself, is there anything that happens before Memorial Day and after Labor Day that would directly influence ticket sales to this group? (Hint: most of you in sports media do your research about as well as people who donít get past the tenth year of this institution that directly effects families.)

Thatís right! You figured it out! Kids are in school until about Memorial Day and they are all back in school after Labor Day!

Now tell me this: when all of you complain about Sox fans not coming to weeknight games in April and May where the temperatures remind one more of Fairbanks than Miami, have you ever taken into consideration that the Sox clientele isnít a bunch of drunken frat boys who donít care when they go out and get plastered?

Have you considered that maybe itís irresponsible to take children out on a cold night in the middle of the school week?

The other team in town has gone after the frat boy audience. The Sox have decided to direct their marketing at families. This is a good thing. The Sox lost a generation of kids when they first went to a UHF station when no one had UHF antennas back in the Ď60s, and then they compounded this mistake by going to pay-TV and later pay-cable when their rivals stayed on a VHF station that later became a superstation.

The Sox are intent on bringing along a new generation of fans. This means that they will try to attract families with young children. Families, at least those with responsible parents, do not take their kids out to ball games on school nights.

I would imagine Brooks Boyer is quite aware of this, and I imagine that this is why he has expressed a lack of concern to those who are again asking why the Sox canít draw people to ball games. He doesnít expect great attendance until Memorial Day. Then weíll see what happens.

Do you know what I find really sad, though? The local media (and now the national media) havenít figured this out. As a result, this topic has become an annual column here.

So let me just summarize this for all of you media types:


Okay, do you get it now?

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

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