Which one of these teams doesn’t belong ?by Joseph Birmingham
Philadelphia is one of the few cities in the country graced with 5 full time professional sports franchises.
4 of them are established, of course I refer to the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Sixers. Now we also have a pro soccer team, the Union.
I played football and baseball as a teenager and in college. I played pick up games of basketball, stickball, volleyball, hockey, golf, darts and even horseshoes.
My high school had a soccer team.
Not only did I: 1) Never try out. but 2) Never watched a game nor: 3) was aware of the results of a game.
I have never played soccer.
All that being said, I think I may need to reevaluate the sport, at least from the perspective of being a fan or spectator.
Because, the numbers dont lie.
Let’s look at the average per game attendance of the teams over the past decade.
Philadelphia Eagles 66,302, 66,000, 65,888, 65,670, 67,991, 67,640, 69,209, 68,169, 69,125, 69,144.
That averages to 67,000 + fans per game. Most of these numbers occured at Lincoln Financial, with a seating capacity of 68,532, but several years were recorded at the previous stadium which held about 3,000 fewer people. Suffice it to say, the Eagles attendance is nearly the maximum possible given the venue and their steady level of fan support.
Philadelphia Phillies 22,846, 20,482, 28,973, 40,626, 33,316, 34,200, 38,374, 42,254. 44,453, 45,054*.
That averages to 35,000 + fans per game, but there also is a stadium change, responsible for the first cresting of the 40,000 mark in 2004 when the Phillies moved to Citizens Bank Park. CBP has a listed capacity of 43,651 so the last three years numbers reflect near constant sellouts. The cavernous Veterans Stadium with it’s NL leading baseball capacity of 62,382 at the time of it’s demolition was rarely more than 75% full, and in lean years, 20,000 fans could look pathetic as they frequently did in 2001 and 2002 when the Phillies were out of contention by mid July.
Philadelphia Flyers 19,634, 19,576, 19,569, 19,325, 19,375, 19,653, 19,283, 19,556, 19,081, 19,536.
That averages at 19,675 fans per game which is jammed in like sardines numbers at the Wachovia Center which is designated as holding 19,519 when set up for hockey. Let it be said the Broad Street Bullies always play to a full house.
Philadelphia 76ers 19,651, 20,560, 19,685, 19,222, 17,870, 16,518, 14,843, 14,870, 15,800, 14,224.
That averages 16,000 fans per game in the Wachovia center which, when set up for basketball has a capacity of 21,500. The telling figure here is how the numbers have dwindled from 95% capacity in 2002 to 65% this year.
The brand spanking new Philadelphia Union. So far they have played three home games, 1 at PPL stadium, and in the first 2 they drew 35,000 and 25,000 fans, their home opener in Chester PA they drew 19,000 fans in a park designed to max out at 18,500 so by early appearances they will continue to sell out or near sell out their remaining games. At 3-7-1, they have not made a statement regarding their ability as yet, but still more fans are attracted then fill the Wachovia Center when the 76ers are at work.
To sum up, the Eagles and Flyers hold steady at sell out level. The Phillies are coming off back to back records numbers in attendance and at their current pace this year, they will beat that number again. The 76ers are fading, and if soccer mania gets a grip here, in danger of falling to the fifth biggest sports headline on the local news.
The most obvious reason for this trend is in the results. Since 2000 the Phillies have 3 league titles and a world championship. The Eagles have 5 division titles and 1 NFC title. The Flyers have 3 division titles and 1 conference championship. Philly is Philly so there are not many bandwagon fans. Look at the Phillies five year surge just as the team started to achieve, the same thing happened in the late 70′s and became nationally known as the Whiz Kid movement as the Phillies took it all in 1980, but by 1998, the attendance had dropped by 50%. Why is that ? Because the team stank. Why else ?
If you win, we will come, and pay, and cheer, and fight, and drink.
If you don’t, we won’t. The honeymoon is almost over for the Union. They need to win consistantly to keep their fan base showing up for every game. At least it should be the case, because soccer fans seem to me to be as crazed, and fired up as any other, and the global reputation of soccer fans and what happens when teams lose and the crowds riot just makes me sweat. If the Union finishes at .500 or above, I am considering listing them as the #4 professional Philadelphia team for 2011. Take this as your wakeup call, Ed Stefanski, else Ed Snider and Comcast will be forced to sell the empty seats to concertgoers and have Celine Dion performing at half court during the equally boring Sixers home games next year !!
In the meantime, Soccer may well end up being the #2 drawing franchise. (No team will ever out draw the Eagles in Philly, period) The Flyers are restricted by the Wachovia center and the Phillies success may not last and the numbers may drop. I don’t think so, but I have been wrong before, to be sure, and soccer is the number 1 sport in the world.
If that happens, you can find me out back. I will be throwing horseshoes.
*number is average so far for 2010 season.
Eagles 1999-2009, Phillies 2000-2010, Flyers 1999-2009, Sixers 1999-2009