I don't know about you, but yes, I save my ticket stubs-to everything. Baseball, basketball, movies, even museums -for the prices they charge, I figure I should have some keepsake. During a recent trip back home, I discovered my piles of stubs, loosely organized by year. They're a nice reminder of happier times, better teams and one's travels. I've been to two Expos games over two separate seasons, and they lost to the Marlins each time -and the one Habs game I attended was an unconscionable loss to the Panthers. Also included was a memorable Red Sox-Phillies tilt at the Vet, my first experience with Philadelphia and its portly, surly denizens. There were fun croo trips to Fenway, the Jake and PNC as well. But all those stubs only account for a small portion of the total collection.
Then there are the Mets tickets. Some good times (99-01), some bad times (02-04), with a slow chronological buildup in volume. The optimism of 2005 led to a build-up, as I attended close to ten games. I rode the wave in 2006 to the tune of around fifteen games, as well as my first two postseason tilts -the memory of Sean Green botching a routine fly ball by the fence still haunts me to this day. Unfazed by a terrible end to the postseason, the Mets had me, as I went to over 20 games, including one of the first Phillie statement games in which Carlos Beltran let a ball sail over his head for a Jimmy Rollins triple. Mercifully, I was not at that fateful final game, but my buddy Mike was, and this poor guy had to endure not only Beltran's hypno-job at the plate in Game 7 in 2006 but also Tom Glavine's bid for the all-time poop the bed moments in sports history in 2007. By 2008, I was already a little more cautious, but still attended around ten games. I was there for the last pitiful out at Shea, a Ryan Church ball that appeared to tie the game for a nanosecond but landed harmlessly in the glove of the center fielder. Suffice to say, I wasn't particularly thrilled at the onset of the postgame tribute to the ballpark -why it wasn't held before the game still baffles me- but I eventually warmed to the sight of the greats, including my late 90s heroes. Mike and I went down the ramps for the last time, slowly taking in the ballpark and wondering how many times we'd see the team in the new ballpark 20 feet away.
The rest is history. I don't need to chronicle the 2009 Mets or the plethora of deficiencies at CitiField. I went to around five games last year and four so far this season. The impromptu "hey wanna go to the ballgame tonight?" is dead. Maybe its because I'm older (24, going on 25, that rounds to 30!). Maybe it's the end of the $8-15 ticket. I do know the team's thoroughly mediocre play has to contribute, especially when it starts to compound on itself. This year's team will finish with around 75 wins. Next year might top at 81. Maybe they'll win 85 in 2012. I'll still be watching the games, but I am certainly not forking over the cash to sit in obstructed seats in an a shopping mall trying to pass itself off as a ballpark. And I'm certainly not the only one. Mike -two years my junior- hardly goes to games anymore, and the cameras on SNY don't lie. It's too bad the practice of gate counting went the way of the separate league offices, because I'd love to have the real attendance numbers, not the ticket-dump inflated numbers we see today.
So what are the ramifications of this? Ballpark revenue isn't the bottom line for an owner, but it offers a glimpse into the marketability of a team, as people who go to games probably buy caps and shirts to wear while attending them. And if fewer families are attending, what happens to future generations of children during their formative years? How do you build generational bonds with your fans to keep the juices -and money- flowing? You've got your work cut out for you, Jeffrey Coup.