Interesting 1998 blog post on Expos attendance

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I don’t usually post about attendance outside of the Tampa Bay market. I don’t know enough about other fanbases and any attempts to theorize about how people in other cities spend their money.would be half-baked generalizations.

But every so often a quality attendance analysis catches my eye. Usually these are from Cleveland Indians writer Jacob Rosen, who kills it over at the blog Waiting for Next Year.

The other day however, I found what could only be considered a missing link. A dinosaur bone to an earlier time. A fossilized analysis buried deep in the amber that is the forgotten web.

I found a 1998 tripod.com article on attendance trends of the Montreal Expos.

For those who haven’t been around the web long, tripod.com was a late 1990s blogging site like Geocities or Angelfire. These sites were very text heavy and were basic HTML sites, meaning few if any videos, no advanced coding, and many links to other pages. Most were fan pages, categorized by genres such as sports, entertainment, or hobbies.

Blogger Daniel Arnold created such a page for the Montreal Expos. Entitled “Save the Expos!” the website commented on the news of stadium leases, city politics, and owner announcements. It is this site and Shadow of the Stadium eight years earlier.

Arnold even comments on media treatment of the Expos on sites such as CNNSI and ESPN.

“If Pittsburg, Oakland or Minnesota were in danger of losing a team, Baseball Weekly, CNNSI and ESPN would be running an around the clock campaign to save those teams instead of publisizing manipulated facts which hurt the team’s survival odds as they are doing with the Expos.”

Although we haven’t seen as many ridiculous articles on Rays attendance recently (I like to think I’ve helped stop that a bit), this is true for Tampa Bay now.

As a Rays writer, I never want to write something as sad as this:

For most of the 99 season, it was frustrating to be an Expos fan. Deadlines kept getting pushed back while the team struggled on the field. The media blasted low crowds and despite the fact that the team’s future looked bright, Expos fans kept waiting for the word to be made official.

That sounds horribly familiar.

The coup de grace of Save the Expos is the aforementioned attendance post. Entitled “Looking Beyond 5,000“, the post compares Expos attendance to other teams’ struggles at the gate and concludes that the Expos fanbase is not to blame and will be back given a new stadium and a winning team.

“In light of some poor attendance numbers by the Montreal Expos this year, many people here and in the media have unjustly jumped on the team, claiming that the Expos should move because of a lack of fan support.”

Horribly. Familiar.

I mentioned Jacob Rosen and Indians writing earlier in this article. Cleveland and Tampa Bay face similar challenges when it comes to fan attendance. Ironically, Arnold compares Montreal with Cleveland as well.

However, many similarities do exist between Cleveland’s past situation and Montreal’s current situation. While Expos fans have supported their team better than Cleveland’s over the long haul, consider the following: 3 years before Cleveland moved into Jacobs Field, they had the worst attendance in baseball.

Arnold also points out that the Expos routinely outdrew the Mets and even outdrew the Yankees twice.

Hey, if while we’re talking about New York would you believe that the Expos outdrew the Yankees once? Well they did it twice, in 1982 and 1983. If cities like New York can get away with drawing small crowds, surely Montrealers can be forgiven for staying away from their time at this time.

The population of New York City in July 1984 was slightly over 7 million. In 1986, the metro population of Montreal was 2.9 million. (Btw, 2.9 million is also the current population of the Tampa Bay metro area.)

Which means Expos fans went to more games per fan than Yankees or Mets fans. And the Yankees won 91 games and the Expos won 82.

I think these number reveal clearly that Montrealers have supported their team in the past and that a few bad years of bad crowds do not mean that fans will never come out to support their team.

In 2016, we have much more information at our fingertips. We have access to more public economic data, more public demographic data, and more public marketing data. We can show better charts, convey more convincing analysis, and promote our work better. And as mentioned, I don’t like comparing Tampa Bay to other cities. Buyers don’t choose between going to a Rays game or going to a Marlins, Braves, or Yankees game. I focus on Tampa Bay’s economics, demographics, marketing, and regional competition because that, and only that, is what will make Major League Baseball survive in the area.

But the message and the passion of this site and Daniel Arnold’s site from the late 1990s is the same.

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