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WHERE HAVE YOU GONE JOE FAN?
May 17, 2002

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

The executives of Major League Baseball are wondering why attendance is down this season at ballparks around the country.

 
 

They speculate that it may be the economy, or a byproduct of last September's terrorist attacks, or just a natural low-point in a sport with many peaks and valleys.

But the consensus among league bigwigs is that there is nothing to worry about. That fans are as interested as ever in baseball and rumors of the game's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

These guys are missing the bigger picture. It doesn't take a genius - or a General Manager - to figure out the biggest problem in Major League Baseball.

It's me. And every other baseball fan like me. We're just a bunch of fickle, misinformed, malcontents. Tightwads constantly whining about ticket prices and spending a bundle at the concession stand.

Talk is heating up about a late-season "work stoppage" (a.k.a strike). Who could blame the players for wanting to improve working conditions (or should I say playing conditions)?

So it's not a sneaker factory in Asia, these guys have serious labor issues. Issues that could easily be resolved if we, the fans, would just do more to support our teams. Or more accurately, support the owners of our teams.

That way, everybody wins. The owners get richer, the players get richer and we don't have to worry about them taking away our beloved pastime.

It's time we started to address some of the concerns of both the players and the owners before they get too fed up and pack their bags for the summer.

Players don't like to get booed at home just because they are hitting their weight. And they don't like to be criticized on talk radio for spending most of the spring on the disabled list with an ache that most people would cure with an aspirin.

Owners don't like to see half-empty stadiums. After all, they spent hard earned taxpayer money to provide a new or refurbished environment for us to enjoy while we cheer on our teams, the least we can do is show up.

I am one fan that pledges to do my part from now on. For the good of the game. Instead of going to one or two games a year, I'll be a fixture at the stadium.

Forget about the braces, kid, you can't eat crackerjacks with braces on anyway. And I bet I can squeeze another twenty thousand miles out of the old station wagon - that should be good for a couple of box seats.

If I bring along a designated driver I'm sure I could spring for an extra beer or two (we all need to pitch in where we can).

And if my team's back-up utility infielder happens to be at the mall signing autographs for ten dollars a pop - I'm there, how about you?

From now on, all summertime birthdays will be celebrated at the stadium's newly re-decorated picnic area. No more Chucky Cheese for this family.

And no more Disney Land. Instead, we'll follow the team on road trips helping to bolster gate receipts at ballparks all across the country (as long as the station wagon holds up).

We'll do all our shopping at MLB.com and pay for everything with the official Major League Baseball Mastercard.

So what if many of these guys will make more money by the All-Star break than I will in my lifetime, it's up to me - it's up to all of us - to make sure they are well cared for. They are, after all, the future of the game we love to watch - on premium cable.

Together, we fans can make baseball's owners and players so deliriously happy that words like 'contraction' and 'lockout' and 'work stoppage' will disappear into a packed upper deck faster than a Barry Bonds home run.

It's disheartening to see our 'Boys of Summer' so unhappy. It's tragic to think that the financial strain of owning a baseball team can reduce billionaires into common multi-millionaires. But it is comforting to know that I (and you) can do something about it.

So I'm heading out to the ballpark to spend like there's no tomorrow. If I don't, there may not be a tomorrow for baseball - and it'll be my fault.

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