The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for July, 2007

Party like it’s 1995

Posted by disappointmentzone on 28 July 2007

…And suddenly the halcyon days of Jacobs Field returned.

Welcome back, Kenny.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 2 Comments »

More on attendance: revised edition

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 July 2007

Over at Let’s Go Tribe there is a discussion going on about why the attendance numbers at Indians game are so poor despite the fact that the team is so good. Some people think it is an issue of economics. It’s not. Here’s why.

The Indians are averaging about 20,000 fans each home game. There was a while there that the team averaged a sell out. Why isn’t this happening any more? The answer is not the economy. The answer is winning.

The economy sucks (anyone want to hire me for a job??). Cleveland has been hit hard. But is the economy really so bad that there are not 10,000 fans within driving distance of Jacobs Field who can afford to pay the attendant costs of attending an Indians game (ticket, parking, food, etc.)?

No, the economy is not that bad. A few million people populate the Greater Cleveland and out of those few million there are tens of thousands of people who can afford the cost of attending a game. They were there in 1995 and 1997. In those years they were eager to pay to watch the Indians play. Now, not so much.

Where did they go? Nowhere. Why aren’t they at Jacobs Field?

Because in 1997 the Indians were winning and in 2006 the Indians finished under .500 and missed the playoffs.

Cleveland has a whole bunch of fair weather fans (as do most places). When the Indians were winning in 1997 people showed up. Going to an Indians game was the hip thing to do. People wanted to be part of that crowd. People who otherwise weren’t interested in spending their extra change on Indians tickets decided to do so.

Then the Indians stopped winning and started rebuilding and people stopped showing up to games and the reason they stopped showing up to the game is because the Indians stopped winning.

If the team makes it to the playoffs this season the Jake will suddenly sell out and it won’t be because of a sudden economic bump. It’ll be because about 15,000 people who couldn’t be bothered to go to a game during the regular season will find going to a playoff game enticing. Bandwagons are like that. These people will gladly pay their money to watch the Indians in the playoffs. Should the team win the World Series, these same people will gladly buy up tickets next season. It’s the same cycle that affects every single major sports franchise in a market the size of Cleveland. You win, people come. You don’t, people stay away.

When you are dealing with a market as small as Cleveland the biggest factor for whether the Indians have high attendance numbers is a combination of winning and how winning contributes to the appeal of going to a game. There just isn’t a big enough fan base in Cleveland to sell out a stadium featuring a .500 team. That’s an issue of population, not economics. In New York it’s possible. In Philly it’s possible. In Cleveland it’s not possible.

When the Indians start winning and the fans will come back. Just look at the Cavs.

The culprit is not economics and unless there is another Great Depression the culprit probably will never be economics.

What matters is winning.

Posted in Cleveland Indians, flotsam and Jetsam | 4 Comments »

Fair weather fan report

Posted by disappointmentzone on 25 July 2007

“It bothers me,” said Sabathia. “It’s a little embarrassing. There are such great fans in this city. I was here when we sold this place out. But when you hear cheers of ‘Youk, Youk, Youk’ when Youkilis comes to the plate, that’s not Cleveland.”

And so the tradition continues. Each year, whenever the Yankees or Red Sox are in town, suddenly Jacobs Field turns into the Bronx Jr. or Beantown Light. When this happened last season during a Yankees series I wrote the following:

I’ve been at the last two Indians games and something unusual has happened at both. Whenever a Yankees player does something worthwhile–strike out a batter, say, or hit a double–Jacobs Field turns into Yankees Stadium. I’m not kidding. I never knew New Yorkers traveled so well, but apparently a quarter of the population of the Bronx has uprooted and moved to Ohio. It’s really quite spectacular. Everywhere you look you see either a Yankees hat or a Jeter jersey or a loudmouth — three prominent and popular signs of Yankees fandom. And when a Yankee hits a home run two-thirds of Jacobs Field stands united in a fury of cheering and beer spilling. After last night’s game, I’m moved to ask: Where did all of these Yankees fans come from?

Now it sounds like the same thing is happening this year with the Red Sox. In fact, I know it is. I was at last night’s game. There were Red Sox fans cheering in the row behind me. There were Red Sox fans cheering in the rows in front of me. They cheered throughout the whole game and acted as if they owned the place.

Did New England suddenly extend it reach to include Ohio?

Or is the mass of Red Sox fans at Jacobs Field mostly just a bunch of fair weather fans, a bunch of bandwagon jumpers, a bunch of people for whom a blue hat with a red ‘B’ is synonymous with cool and for whom Jimmy Fallon is unfailingly funny?

I’m not sure. What I am sure is that there were a lot of them and that they made their presence known.

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I don’t blame CC for bemoaning Indians fans. A lot of us are just as fair weather as the next.

However, I don’t know if you’ve looked out your window recently but the weather outside is beautiful. The Indians are one of the best teams in the majors. They are breathing down the necks of the Tigers and in a fierce battle for the Wild Card. They score a lot of runs and have a penchant for late-game comebacks and pie-in-the-face histrionics. What else could a fair weather fan want?

A Cy Young candidate? Oh wait, that’s CC Sabathia.

A MVP candidate? Oh, we have two: Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez.

A blue collar pug? Oh wait, that’s Travis Hafner.

An emerging superstar? Oh wait, that’s Fausto Carmona.

A high-socks wearing first baseman? Oh wait, that’s Ryan Garko.

A hopeful prospect? Oh wait, that’s Franklin Gutierrez.

The fact is attendance at Jacobs Field has been pathetically bad and for no reason. The announced attendance at a game against the White Sox the other week was just over 21,000. The White Sox are our rival. 21,000 is half capacity. That’s awful. That’s embarrassing. That’s something less than Cleveland.

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Look, I can understand why people would rather pay to see the Indians play the Red Sox than to pay to see them play the Royals. What I can’t understand is how the difference between those two crowds seems to be predominantly Red Sox fans. (1)

When the chants of “Let’s Go Red Sox” are barely drowned out by a chorus of “Booo” that’s all the evidence you need to know that this town isn’t fully behind this team. Which is a shame because these guys are a lot of fun to watch and they’ll be a lot of fun to watch come October, at which point I’m certain Jacobs Field will once again fill to capacity, this time with Indians fans only.

Sadly, far too many of them will be just like all of those Red Sox and Yankees “fans”, the only difference the logo on their newly purchased hat.

fn 1: Is there some swarm of R-dropping Irish-Catholics hidden within the drinking establishments scattered about the Erie shores? (#) And does this swarm only emerge on that week when the Red Sox are in town?

#: If at any point during a Red Sox series someone near the Jake asks you, “Hey buddy, you know a good place for me to pahk my cah?” just point them towards Michigan.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | 3 Comments »

Cavs-Heat: X-mas

Posted by disappointmentzone on 25 July 2007

The Cavs and Heat are playing on Christmas. The Christmas game is probably the biggest non-playoff game on the NBA calendar and Cleveland will be getting a little love. Good for us. And good for ABC, too. This is a far better match up than, say, another Heat-Lakers game. It’s nice to see that ABC is no longer stuck in 2002 and that the league finally recognizes that the best way to bring in new fans is by hyping up its young superstars, not by rehashing old hissyfits between a declining great Shaq and a rapist Kobe.

What should the other Christmas game be? The DZ votes for Spurs-Suns, but that might be hard to market without everyone remembering Game 3 and the fishy refereeing and that one of those fishy referees was later booted from the league for fixing games. So it’ll probably be Suns-Mavs. That works, too, though.

Posted in Cleveland Sports | Leave a Comment »

“All Bets Are Off” is terrible

Posted by disappointmentzone on 24 July 2007

I’ve always wanted to write a blog about media, so I’m going to indulge that desire right now.

Last season after Indians games was the phenomenally bad “Cleveland Rants”. A year ago yesterday I wrote a short post on Neil Bender, one of the co-hosts (the more tolerable of the two) of “Cleveland Rants”. You can read that post here. Or you can take my word that I didn’t like the show then and I was glad it was canceled.

This season following Indians games is the phenomenally bad “All Bets Are Off with Bruce Drennan”. Tonight an episode was on the television located right in front of me. Somehow I almost managed to sit through the entire ordeal.

Never again.

Look, I know that sports is not some high-minded endeavor and that part of its appeal is that it relies upon a strong dose of physical astonishment. The math olympics just don’t offer the same rush, the same visceral stimulus. But does that mean that every local sports personality has to be a trite loudass with a derivative sense of humor? I’m not talking about writers so much as radio and television personalities.

Bruce Drennan is a good example of who I’m talking about.

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At the end of this season the only justification for renewing “All Bets Are Off” will be that the show is incredibly cheap to produce. A flat screen monitor. A desk. Cheap graphics. Bruce Drennan. That’s all you need.

There will be no justification for its renewal based upon its other merits. Because it has none.

———————————–

What’s a better alternative?

A successful show would be one where there is reasoned debate and opinion shared by thoughtful people. The people don’t even need to be famous: content is more important than a name. A name will get you through one season, if that. Be wary of any show that includes its host’s name. There is a reason why Drennan’s name is in the title: he’s the attraction, not the show’s actual content (and yes, these can be separated, in part because the show has no content).

For instance, “Pardon The Interruption” is successful not because Tony and Mike are well-established, nationally-known columnists. (1) People don’t watch it because they recognized the names of the hosts. The show is in its sixth season because Tony and Mike are smart and engaging. If they weren’t smart and engaging PTI would have been off the air as quickly as “Cleveland Rants”. (2)

And that’s the problem with “All Bets Are Off”. It’s a can of hot air. There is no substance.

I would gladly watch three smart but unknown fans discuss sports. Hell, it’s what I do with my friends and that’s consistently smarter and funnier than anything on the air right now. Not that my friends and I should be given our own show, but SportsTime Ohio could do worse. (3) In fact, I bet that a television show where the hosts were a random sample of the authors of the blogs linked to the right — that show would work. It would at least be watchable. Probably a lot more.

Too bad it won’t happen.

fn 1: Before the show debuted how many people under the age of 30 — and this is the show’s main audience — and who lived outside of the greater Washington, DC, area knew who Tony and Mike were? 15%? Young folks don’t read newspapers, even the Washington Post and in 2001 newspapers hadn’t fully embraced the internet. (#)

fn 2: I can’t explain the continued presence of “Around The Horn”, however. My theory isn’t that tight, apparently.

fn 3: See: Bruce Drennan.

#: Most still don’t.

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | 13 Comments »

Quick link

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 July 2007

The NBA ref scandal is tangentially related to Cleveland sports and so it falls under the purview of the Disappointment Zone.

Here is one of the better, shorter takes I’ve read on the subject, from The Sports Economist. The blog post references the Price-Wolfers study about racial bias in NBA refereeing. You might have heard of it from the strong, vocal cries of foul! wrong! ridiculous! emanating from the NBA Commissioner’s Office. The NBA reassured its fans that it monitors its refs closely and would certainly detect any racial bias.

Well, the NBA didn’t detect a referee influencing games for the mob.

You should read the whole thing, which runs about five sentences longer than what’s below.

Of course, the whole reason the field of inferential statistics has been developed is to help discover relationships that cannot be identified through casual (or even intense) direct observation. While there may be valid arguments why Price and Wolfers are wrong, the NBA’s claim that “We can’t see it with our naked eyes” was always ignorant in the extreme…. If the naked eye can’t even pick up a guy trying to throw games for the mob, how can there be any hope, aside from well-designed statistical experiements like that of Price and Wolfers, of discovering subtle (and almost certainly, subconcious) racial bias in the NBA?

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a Comment »

Bentley passes physical

Posted by disappointmentzone on 23 July 2007

The AP is reporting that LeCharles Bentley passed his physical today and has been cleared to play football. Bentley will still need to pass the team physical, but he is confident he’ll get clearance.

A few months ago Bentley was close to dying. Now he is trying to play professional football. His chances of making a meaningful contribution remain incredibly slim — there is a reason Savage has been quite on the subject — but at this point you have to figure playing football is the icing on the cake.

In other NFL News: Emmitt Smith is stupid.

Posted in Cleveland Browns | Leave a Comment »

On Lee, Mastny, Underwood, and Manning

Posted by disappointmentzone on 21 July 2007

As the calendar cranks slowly towards August now is as good of time as any to reflect upon what we’ve learned about the Indians thus far. Here are three things that appeared in stark relief during Saturday’s Indians game.

1) Cliff Lee is a monument to mediocrity standing atop a solid base of inconsistency. In each of his last three starts he has had an inning in which he’s given up five runs. Not good. Those who’ve followed Lee over the past few seasons are well aware that he is awfully prone to imploding in one inning (usually the fourth or fifth). Against the Rangers he decided that he might as well get that ugly inning out of the way as soon as possible; hence the five runs he surrendered in the bottom of the first. He promptly followed the first inning implosion with a run of 6+ innings of rather impressive work. That, in a nutshell, is Cliff Lee.

About twice a season he’ll put together a string of nine such excellent innings. In so doing he adopts the role of the tease and converts a few more fans to join the “Yeah, But When He Puts It All Together…” Fan Club. But those few starts are more than outweighed by the times he gives up six runs in 5+ innings, leaving two on before exiting. Lee has an average fastball he throws inconsistently but regularly and it’s the type of fastball that opposing hitters enjoy depositing in the bleachers in left-center field. He’s like Fernando Cabrera, only if Cabrera were never staggeringly excellent. At some point you have to wonder if Lee could lose his job to one of the young arms in the minors. With each start it seems more likely, although as the season inches closer to October and the Indians remain entrenched in a battle to make the playoffs you have to question how wise it would be to give every fifth start to an unseasoned player. Jason Stanford has never been an answer to any question, but he might be the temporary solution to the Cliff Lee Conundrum.

2) Tom Mastny is incapable of getting through an inning without loading the bases. He was the last person to make the roster coming out of spring training and he is still young, which is to say that one shouldn’t be concerned about his long-term prospects. But in the short-term the Indians bullpen has 2.67 quality pitchers. Right now Mastny is the guy Wedge turns to in the seventh when the team needs to stay close, which is just one of the many reasons why it’s a problem that he is always loading the bases. For every time he gets out of the jam (Boston) he puts the game out of reach (Rangers). Again, not good.

3) Matt Underwood and Rich Manning make one atrocious, putrid booth. (1) Here is one Underwood complaint: He cannot make a home run call to save his life. When the homer is a no-doubter he makes the homer sound like a no-doubter, which is to say that his excitement is in proportion to the likelihood of the hit being a homer. When the homer is a maybe-maybe-yes-gone! homer he constantly sounds surprised, as if as soon as the ball crosses the fence Manning elbows him to let him know to make the call. Then you have the not-quite-a-homer hit, which Underwood calls as if it’s going to be a homer…and then it’s not (which is what you want in the maybe-maybe call). So he sounds the most awake and excited when the Indians almost hit a homer and the least awake and excited when an Indian crushes the ball. That’s one complaint. A second complaint is that he often misses calls, which is the cardinal sin of play by play guys.

Rich Manning, meanwhile, is a curmudgeon. He is surly and crotchety old man. He is smug without reason and his smugness is incredibly unbecoming. Here is a Manning complaint: Manning speaks down to his audience.

Take for example the second game of the Rangers series. Carmona reached the 8th inning with just under 100 pitches. He had a three-hit shutout going and he had basically plowed through the Rangers. While Carmona was busy striking people out Underwood was asking about the possibility of Carmona pitching the 9th inning. After all, Carmona was on the verge of a shutout. The bullpen had been overworked against the White Sox in the previous series. Carmona still looked dominant. Why not send him out there in the ninth?

Seems like a fair question — and it is. So of course Manning dismissed it outright. He denied the importance of the complete game, saying that it was something players don’t pay attention to, implying that it’s just a statistic for the uninformed fan. (2) Thanks for the dis! Carmona was going to finish the 8th with over 100 pitches and, according to Manning, sending him back out in the ninth was out of the question. Right here I was wishing Manning would have taken the opportunity to discuss the 100 pitch threshold — why is 100 pitches important? Maybe use his platform to positively affect a fan’s understanding of the game. But instead of an even-handed explanation of why it would be a bad idea to send Carmona out to pitch the ninth Manning belittled Underwood for asking the question and, by extension, the portion of his audience who wondered if Carmona might pitch a shutout. Spectacular!

Here is a second complaint: Manning constantly bemoans today’s wild technological advances — email! cell phones! the internet! — as if these things are for people of a lesser vintage. He thinks being detached somehow raises him above the fray when in reality being detached makes him look like an fuddling dope. Sometimes I wish he’d just shut up. Other times I wish he’d just head back to the 1970s (except in the 1970s Carmona would have absolutely gone out to pitch the 9th — no doubt about it).

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So the Indians have Underwood and Manning. The Cavs have a slew of really bad announcers. The Browns get stuck with CBS’s fourth or fifth announcing team (which sadly no longer includes Gus Johnson). How can a city as sports-crazy as Cleveland get stuck with such bad television broadcasts? Fortunately we have the radio, I guess. Tom Hamilton and Joe Tait are fantastic. Jim Donovan is fine (and needs to stick Browns radio).

fn 1: Occasionally my blog posts are republished on Swerb’s Blurbs. Swerb’s Blurbs regularly submits content for the “Morning Coffee” portion of the SportsTime Ohio website. What are the chances this blog post a) gets picked up by Swerb’s Blurbs and b) gets published on the STO site? I say 0% and 0%.

fn 2: It’s hard to believe that a professional athlete would not want a complete game shutout. I’m certain that Carmona would have appreciated the achievement; it’s the sort of thing that can be pointed to during contract negotiations.

Posted in Cleveland Indians, flotsam and Jetsam | 12 Comments »

50,000

Posted by disappointmentzone on 19 July 2007

A short while ago the Disappointment Zone had its 50,000th hit. Considering that when I started writing this blog in March 2006 I averaged about six hits per day (that was before moving to WordPress) reaching the 50k milestone is sufficiently impressive, at least to me. So thanks everyone who’s been visiting. Please, don’t stop.

Here are some stats for my time at WordPress (since June 30th, 2006):

50,000 hits
368 posts
609 comments

135.87 hits per post
1.65 comments per post
.958 posts per day

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1 BCS Championship Games played
0 BCS Championship Games won

1 NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Championship Games played
0 NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball Championship Games won

1 NBA Finals
0 NBA Finals wins

The first group of numbers is encouraging. The second group of numbers justifies the name of this blog. Just another year in the life of a Cleveland sports fan.

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | 3 Comments »

Livingston gets it right

Posted by disappointmentzone on 18 July 2007

I know no people who like any of the sports columnists for the Plain Dealer. Bill Livingston is a favorite target and for good reason: he’s not a particularly talented writer or a particularly engaging opinion-maker. Put the two together and you get a columnist I know I don’t read often.

But I must give credit where credit is due. In today’s paper he rips LeBron James — and rightfully so — for an awful-sounding sketch he performed during the ESPYs in which he slams a baby to the ground. (1)

From the column:

In the skit, James stood at the side of the stage, holding a baby in a blanket in his arms. The baby looked too big to be his infant second son, Bryce Maximus, but who knows? It’s hard to tell on TV. Then James jumped and dunked a doll wrapped in the same blanket through a basket. After it smacked off the floor, he said, “Let’s see if Angelina Jolie can adopt that baby.”

Livingston notes Jolie’s celebrity and proclivity for adopting foreign-born babies has gone a long way for international adoption and raising awareness of “the problems children face in such impoverished nations as Cambodia and Ethiopia.” Taking a cheap shot at Jolie was not only unwarranted but also thoughtless and irresponsible.

When you combine this sketch with his unwillingness to do anything about Darfur, LeBron James is quickly becoming a player one must tolerate to support. Which is a shame because he’s a helluva basketball player and an Ohio guy. Oh, he plays for the Cavs, too. He’s been coddled by the media since he was a teenager and everyone around Cleveland seems scared of doing anything to rub him the long way. That goes for many of the sportswriters, too. And even some bloggers. And many radio hosts.

A tasteless sketch is nothing compared to the unimaginably brutal actions of Ron Mexico, but Livingston ends his column by drawing a larger point that’s worth repeating:

It was up to [LeBron] to say he would not do the skit. Because humanitarianism isn’t the butt of a joke. Because child abuse isn’t funny.

Good point.

fn 1: Having a life, I did not watch the ESPYs, so I can’t comment on the sketch with firsthand knowledge. That said, it sounds like it was in poor taste.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a Comment »