Fans have stopped attending as many sporting events and goes deeper than protests.
By Harrison McQuinn, Sports Editor
It is an action-packed year for the NFL with new frontrunners like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, but fans are not showing up to the games. Professional football has experienced a trending decline in fan attendance, which many have attributed to protests; however, the NBA and MLB are facing similarly empty seats with no protests to blame.
There was only one player who has kneeled for protest in the MLB, yet the average attendance dropped around 201 people since last year according to Baseball-Reference.com. The same goes for the Staples Center which ESPN estimated to be 503 fans lighter per game this year. Sports have come a long way from the 1980 Super Bowl XIV which shattered attendance records, and protests are simply a scapegoat.
Ticket prices and officiating are real culprits behind the case of the missing fans.
For fans who can catch a game at their local bar or on streams for free, a mean price of $77, $89, and $172 for MLB, NBA, and NFL tickets respectively seems a bit steep. The NFL alone has increased its average ticket prices over 6 percent this year according to Vivid Seats. In a word, prices have gone up while the quality of games has diminished.
Officiating has changed significantly on the gridiron, baseball field, and court. This thickening of the rule books means more penalties, review of plays, free throws, and less contact.
“Oh there’s a swing by O’Neal,” yelled Marv Albert during the 1999 brawl between Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.
Sports have since become less exciting. The iron fist of ejections and fines has come down on even the slightest offense, breeding a new era of players with the softness of Stephen Curry and Lebron James. The old excitement and physical energy is fading from these sports. Even the MLB’s river of brawls runs dry, with the climax of 2017 being Bryce Harper’s awkward helmet throw while charging Hunter Strickland.
Now that referees call every form of contact a foul, NBA games are reaching record highs of 160 minutes. Unfortunately for fans, refs cannot be called for delay of game.
The MLB hopes to reduce length of games by implementing stricter pitching clocks while runners are on base, but in the meantime, fans are skipping the costly seats to these penalty pastimes and catching them on the big screen.