Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times has a first-person report on buying Dodgers tickets for $2.55 each and going to a half-empty game at Dodger Stadium, which gets you scenes like this:
There were no lines to enter the parking lot, no lines to enter the stadium, and nobody clogging the concourses as we walked to our seats just in time to watch the first of many lousy pitches from Chad Billingsley.
Actually, I don’t think those were our seats. Because our section was virtually empty, we could pick any seat we wanted, so we pulled into a middle row and spread out like three people sitting in an empty theater before a bad movie.
We put our feet up on the seat in front of us. We spread our arms across the seats between us. There were no heads to block our view. There was little sound to distract our attention. Down below, the Dodgers and Reds battled each other as if they were Little Leaguers playing for a handful of parents.
It was actually pretty cool. Life in Frank McCourt’s Ghost Town is eerie, but it has its advantages.
Plaschke’s column is mostly a good reminder that official sales figures don’t reflect either actual attendance or actual ticket prices, especially in the age of StubHub. I know I went to a New York Red Bulls game a few weeks back, and sat in what were technically $20 seats, but paid only $5 apiece through a discount program the team runs for my son’s AYSO soccer league; and while press reports had it a virtual sellout of the 20,000 seat stadium, there’s no way more than 5,000 people were there. (Not that this made it any easier to get in and out of the parking lot.)
We are badly in need of legit attendance figures, especially when cities are basing subsidies on the amount of foot traffic a team is expected to generate — but unless the sports leagues see that as in their best interests, or we get an iPhone app that estimates attendance and lets us crowd-source this, don’t hold your breath.