Before scores of fans, the Royals defeated the Reds last night the ‘Royal Way’: four runs and five innings of relief pitching.
The official attendance was 18,078 in Cincinnati. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the actual number of people in the seats last night was closer to half that number. As Royals fans we can make fun of that and smirk at how of may of those who actually did attend were cheering for Kansas City. We can do that this year because the Royals are averaging 33,609 people per home game and, already past the two million mark, currently are fourth in the league in attendance.
Those attendance numbers are the ‘good team spike’ for an organization that has seen a steady rise in attendance for the past five years and a far cry from the paltry 16,928 average per game back in the dark days of 2005. The Royals are very likely going to break the all-time franchise attendance record set in 1989 of 2,477,700. For a team that ranked no higher than 10th in American League Attendance in any year since the strike, this is heady stuff.
Of course, it brings out the snark as well. Those ‘die-hard’ fans who count themselves among the core 16,000 that showed up night after night to watch the Royals lose 310 games in three years might sneer at the ‘newbies’, some of whom have the audacity to not know who the number three started in Northwest Arkansas is. Where were you back then, they ask. I don’t probably at home watching on television until the game inevitably turned into a pile of garbage. I don’t know maybe taking a bike ride instead of seeing if Shawn Camp could get the Royals out of the sixth inning while keeping them within four runs. Maybe a portion are just bandwagon fans who are showing up because the Royals are hip and fun right now. Most are somewhere beyond bandwagon, but not quite die-hard in fandom. That’s how the world works.
Outside of Kansas City, we have all seen the comments. The ‘oh look, there are Royals fans now’ and other classic dumbassery. As if the Royals are unique in having more fans now that they are winning as opposed to when they were, and let’s be honest, pretty much a joke. Weird, winning teams draw better than losing teams. Who would have thought? If you are cocky enough to think your franchise is immune, you might want to check the record book.
That last sentence might have seemed pointed at the Cardinal Nation. You can hate St. Louis all you want, but you cannot deny the organization’s competence. They have posted a winning record in 17 of the last 20 seasons, made the playoffs 12 of those years and won the World Series twice. They have been no worse than fourth in National League attendance in all but one of those seasons (weirdly the year they won 105 games they finished sixth). To their credit, Cardinal fans have shown up in the losing seasons during that time, but if you go back to the last time the Cardinals posted back to back losing seasons (1994 and 1995), they sank to 7th and 8th in attendance.
How about the Angels? They have been second, third or fourth in AL attendance since 2003, but prior to that they were solidly entrenched at 8th or 9th for years….in a market that is pretty much people as far as you can see. I am a farmer, so I can say this, but you drive by a lot of corn and cows on the way to Kaufmann Stadium. Been to Anaheim lately? Lots and lots and lots of people. When the Angels were going 70-91, they drew 1.7 million.
Detroit? They have been consistent winners since getting to the World Series in 2006, but the four years prior to that? You know when the lost 91, 90, 119 and 106 games. The Tigers were 10th, 9th, 13th and 12th in AL attendance. To their credit, they were never last in attendance, but then the Royals were last in that category just one season. Hell, even the Yankees, who have led the league in attendance every season since 2003 fell as far down as 11th in the early nineties when they had three straight losing seasons.
There is no new information here. More people are fans of teams that win or, maybe more accurately, more people express their fandom of a winning team than when it is losing. I live in Nebraska and, like it or not Kansas and Missouri, the Royals are the dominant franchise up here and where before Alex Gordon was drafted, by the way. Royals gear, always around, is being worn with full fury up here these days. Some are bandwagonners, most are just paying closer attention. There is nothing wrong with any of that and nothing unique about it.
Royals fans, welcome aboard or welcome back or thanks for not being ashamed of being a KC fan anymore. There’s room for everybody, even those of you who don’t realize there are two Morales’. Fans of other teams? Get over yourself and get used to it. There are more of us this year and we are making more noise…. just like you do when your team is really good.