Monday, June 23, 2014

A Different Perspective on Attendance in Sarpy County for Minor League Baseball

I've developed a reputation as the local curmudgeon when it comes to Sarpy County's ballpark.  I've felt it was unnecessary expense for the local area to build two ballparks when one would suffice.  On Friday, people thought it would be fun to razz me over Tom Shatel's column in the Omaha World-Herald, where he points out the booming crowds showing up at the Trailer Park for minor league baseball while the College World Series was underway in Omaha.
A baseball carnival not named the College World Series was open for business Wednesday outside Papillion. More than 7,000 baseball fans came out to watch a game, drink a beer, hear the crack of a wooden bat and maybe see a home run or two.

Well, they got me. Clearly I was wrong.  With only 6,434 seats out in the Trailer Park, a crowd like that would have the grandstand jammed with a huge crowd out on the berms.

Wait, did they say Wednesday?  Funny thing, my daughter was there with her summer program that day...along with several hundred other kids from the Millard and Elkhorn schools' summer programs.  And they were nice enough to share some pictures with the parents on Facebook.

Hmmm... maybe everybody's out in left field during the third inning?

Maybe on the berms?

Maybe it's just an illusion...or everybody just happened to be in the bathroom at that moment?

Shatel obviously used the official attendance for the game, which was 7,524. I have no reason to doubt that paid attendance number.  Why?

Because they were giving tickets away.

It's great that the Sarpy County Storm Chasers gave away so many tickets to kids. But let's not pretend that there it was standing room only in the 6,434 seat ballpark, because it's clear that most of the seats were unoccupied all afternoon Wednesday.

Unfortunately, that misperception carried through to Ballpark Digest, who duly reported on it.  Maybe at some point down the line, I'll be proven wrong about the Boondoggle in Sarpy County...but the longer this goes on (and the attempts to prove otherwise continue to be feeble), the chances of that become less and less.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Patriotism Drives Television Ratings of National Team

Soccer fans around the US erupted a second time today when the ratings for yesterday's game between the United States and Ghana were announced.
Big numbers, to be sure. But then people try to draw comparisons to other sports... mistakenly so.
Problem is you are comparing apples and oranges. A national all-star team playing with the flag on their uniform in international competition, versus two teams out of over two dozen similar teams in the country. It's simply not the same thing.
The best comparison is to the Olympics. When it's the Olympics, people watch curling, skiing, gymnastics, swimming, and track much more heavily than they do during the rest of the year. Or the preceding three years.  Nobody says that when NBC pulls in huge ratings for the Olympics that suddenly interest in curling or gymnastics is booming.  It's simply people watching the best in their country competing with the best the rest of the world has to offer.

I'll give you another example: hockey. I'm a hockey guy.  Love the game.  But I also know that it ranks fourth in the United States in terms of fan interest.  Well behind football, and trails basketball and baseball.  Still ahead of auto racing and, yes, soccer too.

But at the 2010 Olympics, the Gold Medal hockey game between the US and Canada pulled in ridiculous ratings.  How ridiculous?

The last event of the Vancouver games turned into one of the biggest (non-N.F.L.) sports events in recent television history. The Canada-U.S.A. gold medal hockey game was seen by a huge audience of 27.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched hockey game on American television since two games in the 1980 games from Lake Placid, headed by the famous U.S. upset over the Soviet Union.

The 27.6 million viewers put the game ahead of such recent high-profile sports contests as the Masters golf tournament (14.3 million), the Daytona 500 (16 million viewers), the top game from last year’s N.B.A. Finals (16 million), the N.C.A.A. basketball final (17.6 million), Game 4 (the most watched) of the 2009 World Series (22.8 million) and the 2010 Rose Bowl (24 million).

If I tried to tell you that hockey was now bigger than college football, you'd laugh at me.  Of course, I couldn't say that with a straight face. I'm a hockey guy, but I know that hockey doesn't rate that highly.

Except when the team is wearing the red, white, and blue. Doing battle against another country, especially one that probably cares much, much more about the sport than we do. And probably with better talent than we have.

That gets our interest. That gets the casual sports fan or even some of the non-sports fan to watch. Even outside of prime time.  It's not the sport.  It's our patriotism.

If you want to use television ratings to compare interest level, use the ratings of the MLS to judge the interest level in soccer, not the World Cup.  Like last year, when ratings for the NHL were triple those of the MLS.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MECA Confirms Discussions with FXFL Over Pro Football for TD Ameritrade Park

Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald has the story about MECA's discussions with the FXFL to bring professional football back to downtown Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park.  Previously, it sounded like discussions were to bring the team to Sarpy County, but according to Martie Cordaro, president of the Storm Chasers, they've only had "conversations" with the FXFL.

The FXFL is looking to start a six team professional football league in October, after the NFL makes their final roster cuts. The plan is to play on Wednesday nights, and the goal is to develop players for the NFL. Players who didn't make an NFL roster could turn to the FXFL to stay and shape and improve, with the hope of getting a second look from the NFL at midseason or perhaps for the next season.

Based on the success of the Omaha Nighthawks, Omaha is a market that the FXFL feels they can succeed in, and for good reason. It's not so much that the Nighthawks failed, but the UFL itself. The FXFL won't try to pay the salaries that the UFL tried, and may actually have some traction with getting a relationship started with the NFL.  If that's the case, the FXFL could work.  And if it's going to work, it definitely can work in Omaha.

MECA CEO Roger Dixon seems to think so as well, telling the World-Herald:
“We’ve just got to make sure whoever’s going to do it can pull it together, and I have no reason to think this group can’t do that.”
The Nighthawks proved that professional football could work in Omaha at a minor league level, and that Omaha would support a team at levels much greater than what the FXFL feels is necessary.  TD Ameritrade Park hosted two seasons of football previously, so there's no question whether a football field could be installed there.  (That's something that isn't known about the "Trailer Park" in Sarpy County.)

One mistake that the Nighthawks made in the final two seasons was waiting too long to get started. If the FXFL is truly serious about making this happen in 2014, they probably only have about a month to get everything in place and set for playing in 2014.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Like Most Americans, I'm Not Watching the World Cup...Or the NBA Finals

Later this week, the world's second greatest sporting event kicks off in Brazil with soccer's World Cup. Soccer fans everywhere will be enthralled.
The rest of us? Not so much. A few people will watch it like it is the Olympics, rooting for our national team.
But others, like myself, won't be paying a lot of attention. And that's something that soccer fan just can't comprehend.
Soccer may be the world's most popular sport.  Not necessarily in the U.S.  Sure, kids love to play it. They don't typically love to watch it.  Of course, I'm dealing with generalities.  There are passionate soccer fans in this country.  It is growing, even in Nebraska.

But it's not something I find particularly interesting.  Simply too much like the Simpsons' parody..

 I admit it, I'm a hockey fan. And many of the reasons why I like hockey could also apply to soccer.  If you quintupled the field area, removed the pads, and allowed contact.  But I digress.  Bottom line is that I'm not a fan of soccer, and I don't have much desire to watch it.

And in that light, I'm much like most Americans.  ESPN's Darren Rovell found an infographic that shows how much lower the United States' interest level in the World Cup is, compared to elsewhere.
Just like there is no law that says non-hockey fans need to watch the Stanley Cup final, there is no law that says non-soccer fans need to watch the World Cup.  So I'll be amongst the majority of people who won't be paying much, if any, attention to the World Cup.

It is, however, more likely that I'll catch more World Cup soccer inadvertently than the NBA Finals, which I've been purposely avoiding. I swore off the NBA about 20 years ago, and haven't looked back since.  In the post-Michael Jordan era, the professional game became unwatchable (and almost downright similar to professional wrassling), and I haven't come back.

And here's another little fact.  Even though professional basketball is one of America's most popular spectator sports, it still doesn't matter to the majority of Americans.  Heck, the NBA finals don't matter to most people in San Antonio or Miami, according to the TV ratings.
There's only one sporting event that gets the attention of the majority of Americans: the Super Bowl. Simply put, most people aren't sports fans.  Far more people are interested in Justin Bieber, the Bachelorette, or apparently what's happening with the Kardashians than sports, as near as I can tell.

If you want to follow soccer and the World Cup, that's your choice.  But unless a blizzard breaks out in Brazil, I'm probably not going to pay much attention.
If you don't like that, that's your problem, not mine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Another Classic from Nebraska's Worst Sports Columnist

I try to avoid reading him as much as possible, but sometimes it's simply too difficult to avoid Dirk Chatelain, especially when the World-Herald sticks him on the front page of the sports section.  Like they did last week:
All it took was one sentence to make me roll my eyes:
"Sorry, Jim Delany ain't scheduling any press conferences here."

I could have sworn he just did one. In fact, I've got the proof.
There he was, meeting the media in Omaha. Barely a week prior to this column, I might add. Many of his co-workers were there.  In fact, I was there.

Was Dirk taking literary license there?  Probably.  Some might call Delany's session with reports a "question and answer" session instead of a formal press conference.  That might be technically accurate, but let's face it. There was Delany, fielding questions from the press. In Nebraska.

I've criticized Chatelain's attempts at analysis time after time. Maybe when he writes feature stories he can get away with twisting the facts a bit.  But not when the facts are pretty well known.

So it's easy for me to say "consider the source" to dismiss his conclusions. Sadly, some people still don't recognize that.