My latest take or rally cry about attendance at Kansas City Royals games led me to some rather disturbing thoughts that have more to do with community than sport. Legitimacy as a franchise just breeds more worry and stress, albeit in a positive context, and winning has its own unique pros and cons.
I’ll be caught up with balls and strikes and the usual baseball thoughts once I settle in for the next pregame show, but right now, this recent success has my mind on mundane-but-serious stuff like money. You know what makes a franchise money? Actually, that’s less a rhetorical question and more an excuse to explain the current state of the changing relationship between fans and franchises.
Here’s where things start to get sociological: being a fan of the same team should give people in different neighborhoods and different tax brackets some common ground. The upper-class and lower-class high-five one another and cheer in unison every day thanks to the spectacle of sport. Now, more so than ever before, the financial climate of this sport and this particular organization acts as a wall between different demographics instead of a window.
Simply put, there was a time when CEOs from Overland Park and busboys living on The Paseo sat together in the stands at Kauffman. Perhaps the businessman could always afford better seats, but at least the busboy could still get through the gates. My point is simply that it hurts to see that moment in time go away forever. Sure, we can all see the games on TV, but to see the game played live is a wholly different experience.
That live experience is what makes bright-eyed kids into life-long lovers of the game. I remember watching games on TV through the 1990s, but only as a vague blur of clunky baseball and a soothing hum of analysis from the late, great Paul Splittorff and the still-going-strong Denny Matthews. What I remember like it was yesterday is the day when I got front row seats to a Royals game against the Seattle Mariners.
Ken Griffey Jr. went deep that day with a swing so pure and beautiful that I fell in love with it, and the game, on the spot. I was in awe. I had just seen Hercules in action. I was hooked, and nothing could have stopped me from being a baseball fan after that.
So I ask again, you know what makes a franchise money? Making life-long fans, or if you prefer, life-long customers out of young kids watching the game live. Right now, dynamic pricing is doing a disservice to kids from low-income families by making it harder than necessary for them to enjoy the game live and build those memories — the roots from which diehard fanhood grows.
I don’t know if doing it or not doing it makes more business sense. That’s not for me to know or care about. I can only point out everyone’s discontent with a heavy heart, and hope that people smarter than myself can figure out a solution.