No One Likes The Indians Because They Like LeBron James Instead

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That's a headscratcher headline, I know. But it is really the only thesis statement I can draw from this Forbes article I just read. According to sports business writer Tom Van Riper (excellent name btw) The Indians' (and for that matter the Browns') lousy attendance, stingy spending and ultimately franchise devaluation are directly affected by playing in the same town as LeBron. Majorly affected to the point that TVR kinda just brushes past on-field performance.

Already playing in baseball's third-smallest market, the Indians have discovered that sharing their limited stage with a larger than life star means permanent understudy status, as they play before sparse crowds on a limited budget.

With local fans jamming Quicken Loans arena this spring for the NBA playoffs, Progressive Field, the Indians home that averaged over 40,000 fans nightly from 1996 to 2000, has drawn fewer than 15,000 per game so far this season, last in Major League Baseball and less than what the Cavs averaged this year in a building less than half the size.

The Indians seem well on their way to their sixth losing record in nine years, but the poor attendance isn't due only to that. The 2007 club, which won 96 games and narrowly missed the World Series, ranked 21st of baseball's 30 teams in attendance at just over 28,000 per game.

The real LeBron victims are the Indians, a once-resurgent franchise that is back to resembling the bumbling bunch that was spoofed in the 1989 movie Major League. It's a long way from the heady days of the 1990s, when the Indians routinely filled a new ballpark and appeared in two World Series.

Yes, the Indians are a long way from the "heady 90's." But so is everyone else on earth because IT'S 2009 2010. And also, because their team is a long way from being anywhere near as good. Let's not forget that about $50M of that "limited budget" has been given to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner. By the time Van Riper uses the Indians successful 2007 campaign as a barometer for winning's impact on attendance he's already contradicted himself in the preceding sentence. Losing seasons in 6 out of 9 years. THAT'S what drives attendance. To pack a baseball stadium every night you have to prove your team's worth to lots of casual fans. Being a losing team for the better part of a decade brands your team as a bad value for a night's entertainment. The occasional single season blip cannot turn the tide. Sample size.

So where does this tenuous at best, and gonzo at worst, kind of correlation come from? Well, from the bedrock of all good financial reporting: laughable anecdotal quotes. He talks to a PIRATES exec from the late 80's (yes, I'm aware they were good then, but still) on Mario Lemieux's impact on the baseball team.

"We never wanted to say it, but we knew darn well it was affecting us," Mullin says of going up against Lemieux during his Pirate years.

The Pirates are the last team you'd want involved to try and prove this shared spotlight theory. Ben Roethlisberger could sexually assault Sidney Crosby until both their teams had to fold and the Pirates would still draw 700 people a night. In a beautiful park.

Progressive Field won't be full again until Indians management (lookin at you Shapiro. Sell that house before the Cleveland economy has a post-James meltdown) figures out a way to get a winning team on the field. And they feel as far away as ever. The only way LeBron leaving town is going to help is if he takes a bunch of lousy baseball players with him.


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12 Comments

Kris,
It's 2010, I think

I'd like to put $2,000 on the Saints winning Super Bowl 44.

That may well be the dumbest piece of writing ever committed to print. Ye Gods what a moron. Forbes hasn't been the same since Malcolm went to that great gloryhole in the sky.

1. I have no idea how anyone could maintain even a passing interest in professional basketball.

2. If you win, people show up.

The Rays beg to differ with Mr. Gorge.

Also, Kris forgetting what year it is RIGHT NOW is my favorite factual error in WoW history. And having made many of them in the past, I can assure you the list is quite long.

Yeah, that's pretty much the biggest one ever.

2009? I blame Kris' F.S.U. education.

Also, I'm pretty sure if LeBron (French for The Bron) goes to NY the Yankees will not suffer any drop in attendance.

@Rob
So is my Johnson

@Kris
That's what she said

Your johnson is a factual error? Makes sense.

There was also that tiny problem of letting two top lefthanders go who shortly then faced each other in the World Series. That would upset me, just a skosh.

And the best part about the 2009 thing is that Kris put "it's" in ALL CAPS right before. To, you know, emphaticize it and all.

I try to quote Slider whenever possible

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