Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lonely Days Ahead For Die-Hard Yankee Fans

The off-season is winding down. Pitchers and catchers report to camp next month. The season starts in a little less than three months. Are you excited, Yankee fans?


With the $189 million payroll threshold just a year away, I have been wondering just how excited this team's fans will be as it approaches that very un-Yankee-like deadline. 

In the decades before the dynasty of the late '90s and the competitiveness of the '00s, the New York Yankees had a lot of trouble filling Yankee Stadium. Everyone who has any connection to the team has seen footage of Don Mattingly's home-run balls rattling around empty outfield seats. Also, anyone who followed the team in the late '80s and early '90s knows that the left-field bleachers were rarely open. The attendance wasn't high enough for them to be open. In fact, the attendance was usually under 30,000 per game. 

When the team started to win championships again in 1996, the attendance began to soar and, eventually, the Yankees had their first season attendance of 4 million. Ever. The team continued to win and the people continued to come. It seemed as if these good times would go on forever.

However, since the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, attendance has taken a dip. The reason for it is understandable: Tickets cost a small fortune. No, check that. They cost a fortune, and the Yankees want to make sure they keep that fortune by no longer being a part of Stub Hub.

But the biggest dip in attendance may be yet to come, I believe. The team the Yankees field this coming year  will still be competitive but, because of the coming $189 million threshhold, they may  not be as competitive as some of the other teams in their division (i.e. the Blue Jays). And when 2014 finally gets here, the team may even be less competitive.

Will all those people who became Yankee fans in the late '90s and early '00s still be around? Or, will they jump ship? My guess is a lot of them will say goodbye.Winners always have their fair share of hangers-on, and the Yankees are no different. The hangers-on will go somewhere else, where the weather is better.

Yes, come 2014 all that will be left are the die-hards, those old enough to remember the days of Reggie and Thurman and, to a lesser extent, those who remember Horace Clarke and Joe Pepitone. How long will they suffer? How long will they be alone? Hopefully, not long. Just until the next dynasty begins, and the fair weather fans return.

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