(My oldest teaching my stepdaughter the YMCA)
I understand the criticisms of professional sports in general by people who mock the entire concept of rooting for a team of which you are in no way connected except through clever marketing or the happenstance of birth or present residence…but I don’t share them. Sports have an artistry and an energy that can easily rival the arts, and they can and do create one of the few shared experiences we’ve maintained as a culture.
I was fortunate enough to have plans to attend last night’s AHL Springfield Falcons game against the Providence Bruins. It just so happens that, also yesterday, the Republican Editorial Board published on MassLive an editorial chastising the citizens of the greater Springfield area for not more dutifully attending games at the MassMutual Center. I could, and of course WILL, take advantage of this opportunity to get in a few cheap shots at the Republican.
They no longer send a reporter to the games, as they have always done in my lifetime, but rather steal from the Falcons website the press release about the game:
The write up fails to mention that the Falcons started the overtime a man down playing 4 skaters on 3 and it was only after killing over a minute of that penalty, now skating 3 a side, that they scored the winning goal. Nowhere near the quality of reporting we used to get from the local paper of record. How absurd to not even send a reporter to the (well attended) game on the night you’ve opined about lack of attendance.
How many fans were at last night’s game? Gee, the Republican didn’t have a reporter there to tell us. Looks pretty full:
I’m a Pats fan and have been since the days of Jim Plunkett and Randy Vataha. I remember the talented teams of the 70’s…and how they constantly choked under pressure. I remember skipping school on Mondays in junior high to avoid being verbally abused by all of the Steelers fans, and Cowboys fans, and Dolphins fans who have now seemingly disappeared. I remember being the only Pats fan in my dorm at BYU as the Pats put the quickest ever points on the board at a Super Bowl…only to get blown out by the Bears thereafter. But where is the electronic equivalent of “above the fold” Falcons coverage? As there is very little of the “local” left in local media in small markets like Springfield after consolidation, it’s easier to promote the Boston teams as local and forget about the one truly local professional sports franchise. The Republican and MassLive have nearly done so.
The easiest of the cheap shots would be to point out out that it is likely the way in which MassLive in particular hypes and highlights Springfield crime which helps keep the fans away in droves! Scare the pants off people regarding downtown…then chide people for not attending events there; classic.
There is a very serious issue here; the Falcons are a significant part of the local economy. Ask any restauranteur in the downtown and they will tell you how significant the thousands of people who attend the games are to their bottom line. From an urbanist’s perspective one cannot deny how important having live local events can be for retaining young people and attracting new people to the area. Not having minor league baseball in the city is a bad thing; communities with more live sports, or more live music, or more live theater, are more likely to attract the type of people who will make a community more vibrant.
The Falcons woeful attendance is a huge cause for concern…and its remediation could be helped by a greater understanding of its root causes; you know, the type of thing REPORTING can achieve!
I have some thoughts. What about the changing demographics in the city? Of the 4 major team sports certainly hockey has developed the most slowly in terms of its minority appeal, and that means that an increasing number of fans are likely to be coming from the suburbs. Why aren’t they coming? Is it fear? Is there a lack of connection between Springfield and the region of which it is the center?
Just yesterday, watching news coverage from New Haven on the blizzard, I heard a reporter there refer to New Haven as “the beautiful Elm City”. I cannot imagine a television reporter ever referring to Springfield as “the beautiful City of Homes” despite its abundance of parks, astounding architecture, the river, etc.. Anytime I attend a local concert I cringe when the star says something intended to get a cheap roar from the crowd by mentioning “Springfield!” and getting boos instead. The Falcons post a huge “Your Town, Your Team” display on the jumbotron. How many of the fans feel that way?
In any case, finding out what the barriers are to improved attendance might mean taking a reporter off important duties like listening to the police scanner and writing about the possibility that someone may have heard someone fire a gun somewhere near a place where no one has been able to find a victim of, or any other evidence for, a shooting. Wow. It would be a shame to miss that…but maybe this once?