Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cleveland will learn to love the Tribe...eventually

"Buy Indians' tickets or I'll drain the blood from your body ah ha ha."
Yup, here comes another column about the Indians’ lousy attendance in the midst of a record-breaking season of fun. These pieces appear with more frequency nowadays than spring showers or Abbott & Costello movies if you were alive between the years of 1941 and 1952 (trust me, that’s funny.)

But instead of being chased by Frankenstein’s monster or The Mummy in the style of the cowardly comedic duo, Indians fans seem to be chased away from Progressive Field by their own doubts and stubbornness (OK, that's a stretch…a subtly amusing stretch, but a stretch nonetheless.)

As AP reporter Tom Withers noted, Tuesday night’s Rays-Indians game drew the third smallest crowd (13,551) in the majors for the day. Only Dodgers-Pirates (13,497) and Mariners-Orioles (11,485) saw fewer buttocks in the seats. However, the other home teams in this scenario (Pirates and Orioles) are wallowing in mediocrity while the Indians, as of this writing, at least, have the best record in MLB.

Now, determining reasons why people are staying away from Cleveland baseball has been penned into meaninglessness by media outlets including this very blog. I’m here to figure out when people are going to start actually showing up at the stadium assuming the Indians can compete near their current robust pace. Is there some theoretical tipping point where fans will throw caution and fear to the wind and proclaim, "I'm all in?"

If the Indians are winning, I’m guessing the fans around here will hip to it around July 4. I’m hoping for earlier, of course, but I’d bet as of today there are still lots of folks looking warily to the skies for that other shoe to drop. That’s just how we do it. “Perfect paranoia equals perfect awareness” is the Cleveland fan’s mantra.

But another seven winning weeks in an interminably long baseball season should be enough to entice most fans from their fallout shelters of negativity and entrench the realization that these Indians are “for real.”

The Tribe may also benefit from a “perfect storm” scenario similar to what led to 455 straight sellouts in the ‘90s. Back then, the Cavaliers were coasting on their Fratello-era 40-win treadmill of despair while the Browns were playing in Baltimore. The Indians, meanwhile, had opened a fancy new stadium with a crop of exciting young players. Mix that concoction with a bushel of wins and BLAMMO- you had the hottest ticket in town.

Things are not the same today, of course. The economy is in far worse shape in 2011 than it was in the mid-90s, for one. Still, our stadium remains gorgeous, and by Independence Day you may have not just one, but two professional sports in the midst of an interest-sapping lockout. Mix that concoction with a bushel of Tribe wins and BLAMMO- you’ve got the hottest ticket in town, again.

Pardon me for busting out with the Pollyannaish notions of a sold out Progressive Field and an Indians team playing at a .680 clip in July. I just wonder if it will take that long for Cleveland to recognize greatness.