I was paying attention so little to the Bengals that when I heard solely through the city sports Twittervine that they might win a playoff game, I was astounded by the news that they were ever actually anywhere near the playoffs. The team, and then the NFL, began to push me away many years ago, so I gave them what they wanted. I detached.

Relationships– whether between a person and a person or a team and a person– are such that the only emotion worse than hatred is indifference.

But how does this hurt the team, outside of monetarily? In the age of 5G and social media, more than you’d think. It shifts a modicum of control back to the fan base. Used to be the only way to show our displeasure was to stay away from the ball park, one of the most public and group-friendly marks of disapproval. And unless you were a god-tier American with a Neilson box, no one would particularly know or care if you tuned in or out of game broadcasts.

That is no longer the case. The downside of living life online is that everything we do is tracked. The good part of living life online is that everything we do is tracked. The Reds are now perfectly aware not only of how many tickets are sold, but who’s watching or listening to the game (and for how long), whether we search for the schedule, when we’re talking about the team online, if we’ve subscribed to scoring updates, and how often we even so much as look at an officially licensed social media post. It’s a blessing for fans in exile and a nightmare for those seeking to shut it all down.

They know. If you’re ignoring every possible information stream, they know.

Low attendance numbers hurt, but low Instagram interaction hurts absolutely.

The only way to tune out completely is to tune in on a retro transistor, I guess, or walk very slowly past a downtown bar with a patio, because even negative attention counts. Dogpiling on a “That game didn’t go the way we wanted” message still means that someone, somewhere out there will argue with your point of view– or how you express it. Then others jump in. Then the interaction analytics rise.

Such is the reality of online interaction. You can live your life eight games back in May, but you’ll still capture the eyes of every anti-fan who is thrilled that you’re eight games back in May.

That’s why empty stands don’t hurt anymore. They look dismal, but the real conversation is going on within a 500 mile radius instead of in the Sun Deck.


24 Responses

  1. Redlegs1869

    Very true , Mary Beth. We’ve all noticed how attendance for MLB doesn’t isn’t the intimate driving financial force as it was in years past. Therefore, it’s unfortunately not prioritized by some owners.

  2. Jon

    The Reds are on the verge of ending the rebuild stage and hopefully

    a) calling up their top three hitters and top starting pitcher from Louisville

    b) having a completely empty slate for payroll in 2024 (except for Greene). Meaning we might actually get a couple major signings or trade acquisitions this winter.

    This will do obviously do wonders for ticket sales in the coming years.

    • Redlegs1869

      100% agree, Jon. There’s reason to be optimistic. Actually, the team has played well enough to have some decent crowds.

      • TR

        With school ending for most students in May, crowds should pick until September, if the Reds are not in the hunt.

    • Rednat

      reds fans are pretty fickle though. if it rains, too hot, too cold, too sunny, we tend to stay home. an outfield of Clemente, Mays and Aaron would on draw 12 k on a cold rainy April night in cincy. It isn’t easy being a reds owner for sure

      • Jon

        Reds had an average attendance of over 31,000 in 2013. This obviously followed the NL Central titles of 2010 and 2012. “If you build it, they will come.”

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        We can be fragile flowers sometimes (especially me) but– we’ll endure some nasty crap to watch a winner.

  3. Cincy6464

    We’ve seen this for a number of years in CFB Bowl Games. The stadiums are basically empty as schools from far-away battle in a good-weather venue that has no interest in either team.
    Yet, in some MLB towns, going to the game is still an event. Nicer stadiums with amenities & competitive teams draw 2-3M fans per year. Very few teams (Chi Cubbies) have the rare ability to draw even when they don’t field a competitive product.
    The tear-down/rebuild plan that seems to be needed at some level for most teams. The question I have is “why does it require a “burn-to-the-ground” approach in Cincy?” Seems like there could be a middle ground/MiLB pipeline that keeps a team competitive even in years as players transition. This leads to the wild up & down attendance swings. Throw Phil C. & lockdowns into the mix and here we are….

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      It’s frustrating. It’s should be easy. This seems simple to achieve.
      What am I missing, big picture?

  4. LDS

    I love the perpetual optimism of Reds fans. Next year will be different. MBE, I think you’re exactly on point about the Netizens. However, I really don’t think the ownership group cares, yet. They still get theirs. Until baseball fans generally back off spending, I suspect MLB will continue on the downward spiral that ends well for no one.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I saw a great quote today about spiraling– “Nope, I just dive straight down and plummet to destruction. No spiral necessary.”

  5. redfanorbust

    Already the Cubs, Pirates Brewers all lost today. Now I am not saying Reds have more than a puncher’s chance at best but the division is up for grabs. That coupled with bringing up the stars from AAA will put butts in the stands and give the fans something to cheer for other than blind loyalty.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I just read an article pondering if we could make a Wild Card run and I was like “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, bro.”

  6. Mark Moore

    I’m at a distance, so going to GABP isn’t an option for me. I noticed we had over 14K last night for the win against the Metropolitans. I know butts in seats doesn’t mean what it used to, but still … (heavy sigh).

    Keep us grounded, MBE. We count on you.

  7. Joe

    We give too much credit to the data wranglers for professional sports organizations. Speaking from experience, as someone who interviewed for and was subsequently lowballed by our favorite local baseball franchise’s data and analytics org, they might have the data of what we’re doing (<– might), but they don't know where it is and they wouldn't know what do to with it if they did. IF it's a choice between incompetence and anything else, always assume incompetence.

    • Mark Moore

      Great points. Data without context and a story in which to frame it is like looking at the sky on a dark, clear night. Lots of stars out there, but if I don’t have some sort of reference guiding my stargazing, they remain just “lots of stars”.

  8. Scott C

    Without the youth movement, I would not even have tuned into a game this year. So now at Cessa is gone and I am hoping that De La Cruz and McClain will soon push Newman out, that Abbot and someone else will push Weaver out soon. My hope is that Abbott gets about three more starts Louisville and gets the call up. OK so I am not indifferent, yet.

  9. Jack

    Well, let’s take a look at the forces driving all this. First, baseball doesn’t know its audience. The baseball fan demographic has always been a little old. It is a fathers and sons love affair first. MLB has continually disregarded the middle-aged male (its primary fan) for the last twenty years, and we know it. Most of us aren’t going to Instagram anything. Some will, but most won’t. We are busy. We are working. We associate those activities with busyness. Baseball is God’s game; it is not slave to a clock…oh, wait.