Yesterday, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that for the first time since 2003, the Cubs would finish the season with a season attendance total of fewer than 3,000,000. The Cubs expect to finish the season with roughly 2,800,000 tickets sold which would give them their lowest number of fans through the Wrigley Field gates since finishing 2002 at 2,632,194.
Also in the last day or so I’ve started seeing a few “Uh oh, time to panic” posts, along with an accompanying pictures of empty seats creep into my social media feeds. ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the Jack Horner of the “empty stadium fetish” set, even got into the act on Monday, though a 3 ½ hour rain delay didn’t hurt his cause.
So, it’s time to panic right? Attendance is cratering, the Ricketts’ won’t be able to afford to invest in the team and we’re officially destined to endure another century of disappointment. Oh, and we’re just about to become laughingstocks (and regular Rovell-fodder) like the Marlins, Rays, and Pirates have been. Are you panicking? Should I be panicking? Panic?!?
Hold on folks, we’re not quite there yet. But here, do you want something to panic about? How about the fact that you’re going to see about three billion articles with headlines like “Not So Loveable” losers above photos like the one you see above (which I actually took at Miller Park when the Cubs were in town back in May) showing just how far the Cubs have fallen out of favor with fans.
So yes, things look bad from a fan support standpoint, but are they really? One thing to remember is that the Cubs have been benefiting from an unprecedented run of support since 1998, when Sammy Sosa and the Cardiac Kids started bringing people to the Friendly Confines in droves. Since that season, the Cubs have run off a streak of 15 straight seasons with an average nightly attendance of 30,000 fans or more. Sure, there were four playoff appearances during this streak – but there have also been six 90+ loss seasons during that time frame
Prior to 1998, they had three seasons of 30,000 or more…ever. We talk about not reaching 3,000,000 fans, but as recently as 1995, the Cubs weren’t drawing 2,000,000. Even with the Cubs’ struggles this year, they are still going to finish the season in the top 10 in the league in attendance and are currently third in the league in road attendance. There is a long way to go before the Loveable Losers tag gets removed because the team is no longer loved (hopefully it will take less time for the “Loser” portion to disappear…but I’m not holding my breath)
Rest assured, with top 10 attendance and the third most expensive ticket in the majors, the Ricketts’ still have plenty of revenue coming in to give The Theo a healthy budget to rebuild the team with. If you really want something to worry about, start worrying about whether he is up to the task. For the record, I’m still of the belief that he can…and will. If I’m right, you better go out and enjoy the excess supply of tickets while you can.