Wrigley Field view in 2018

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

Bernstein: Going To Baseball Games Is Hard

Attendance being down is a reminder of the logistical hurdles of attending games.

Dan Bernstein
June 20, 2018 - 2:28 pm
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By Dan Bernstein--
670TheScore.com senior columnist

(670 The Score)​​ ​If you thought you heard more vocally representative Dodgers fans than Cubs fans during the rescheduled first game of the doubleheader at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, it's probably for a very simple reason.

The Dodgers fans were able to be there.

Monday's postponement due to weather and ballpark power issues resulted in an outcry from those who had no shot of just turning around and coming back the next day, planning again from scratch their timing and transportation, rescheduling work and life responsibilities and incurring another round of parking and concession expenses. A rain check only covers so much of the real cash outlay of the trip.

The Cubs -- to their credit -- responded with a reasonable solution, allowing fans to exchange their ticket for one at any other home game this season, subject to availability and if exercised within a certain period. This gave people a fair shot to start the process all over for another day with time to make it actually work.

Those in town to see the Dodgers had no such problems, because they were already here on baseball vacation. They could just make it over to Wrigley from the hotel the next day.

Herein is another illustration of an increasing problem baseball knows it has -- just how difficult it can be to go to games with our lives increasingly stressed for both time and resources to make this kind of commitment of both. Attendance is down sharply this season, and it's not enough to blame it on the early bad weather anymore. The number of intentionally non-competitive franchises isn't helping either, nor is the ongoing effort to serve better the high-end fan with the most discretionary income via luxury amenities while de-prioritizing the regular folk who just want a seat, a dog and a beer.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred sees a 2018 total attendance drop of 10 percent year-over-year, down 2,000 fans per game on average. Never one to miss a chance to identify and treat symptoms rather than problems, he's focused on such topics as defensive shifts and pace of game play instead of trying to address why so many people make the decision that the trip just isn't worth the effort anymore.

Baseball's bottom-line revenue is just fine, due to television deals and the strength of their advanced media business, but there's some irony in how those successes affect the attendance calculus. The better the experience for the consumer at home or on the move in the middle of our hectic existence, the harder it is to reach that threshold that commits to the five or more hours and hundreds of dollars involved in being there.

I'll use myself as a bit of an extreme example here, only to show how pronounced this phenomenon can be. I like going to games as a fan, as does my wife and our sports-crazed son, with our daughter happy to join for a family excursion. We live two miles away from Wrigley Field, a leisurely 40-minute walk or an easy jaunt on the Addison bus. I don't have to pay for tickets, either, lucky to work for the flagship radio station and to have a generous boss who enjoys taking care of people.

We will get to a total of zero games as a family this year, and my son and I might get to two.

Anybody with teenage kids and a working spouse understands why this is, nodding along imagining the already complicated schedule of schools and camps and sports and band and choir and summer jobs and test-prep classes. It's hard enough to have a half-hour with even three of us at the same dinner table, let alone a whole night's ballpark experience. I can't even figure how an individual season-ticket holder gets proper enjoyment out of their investment anymore, especially someone who lives in the suburbs. You may have understood this when finding yourself with a couple tickets unexpectedly, only to make call after call to invite some friend to accompany you with each next one unable to take advantage of the chance.

This was why you saw the USGA run the promos it did during the U.S. Open last weekend, urging golfers to "Play Nine." It's the same issue here, the need to set aside five hours for something at any given time while living regular life at home. Golf is suffering from people unable or unwilling to spend all that time and money for a full round, so they're reminding us that it's OK to cut it in half.

MLB can't do that, of course, but it has to recognize that the concurrent vectors of cost and time and required logistical detail are moving together in an ominous direction that threatens to make the decision to attend a game or not much easier still.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​