Column: Don't group all fans as a whole
Nine years ago this November, the scene in the old Yankee Stadium was as wild and loud as I had ever seen at any sporting venue.
Scott Brosius had just hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie Game 5 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona, the second straight night the Yankees rallied to send the game to extra innings in their final at-bat. Fans were high-fiving and hugging everyone within their reach, the Stadium was shaking and some people were even rolling around the ground in celebration.
Moral of the story? There were fans there to celebrate.
As most of you have seen by now, either live on TBS or on Youtube, fans by the thousands stormed out of the new Yankee Stadium Tuesday night after the sixth inning with the Yankees trailing Texas, 7-3, in Game 4 of the ALCS. In the bottom of the seventh, with half the crowd gone, the Yankees brought the tying runs to the plate in Nick Swisher and Lance Berkman, but both of them were retired to end the frame.
If Swisher or Berkman defied the odds and actually hit a game-tying grand slam, I would have had to travel either down three rows or up four to celebrate with other fans. Most of Section 235 (left field bleachers) had already fled the scene. And with that early exit came a lot of heat from the National media and anti-Yankee fans throughout the country. The "Yankee fans are front-runners" sentiment was a common theme throughout the Internet and sports talk radio Wednesday morning.
And on the surface, those type of comments are understood. You report what you see and what people saw was a mass exodus of people heading to the Major Deegan.
However, there's a little more to it.
The "real" Yankee fan only takes up a portion of the building each game (say 50 or 60 percent) and it's even less in the postseason. There's a few reasons for this, but none is bigger than the impact of the secondary ticket market.
Most Yankee tickets are held by people with either full or partial ticket plans and a very limited amount of single-game tickets are sold to the general public. While a good amount of the people with season tickets go to the games, many have the tickets just to resell them for profit. Those are sold on Stubhub. Most of the Stubhub buyers, and you can tell who they are, show up because it's the cool thing to do. They are the fans constantly are taking pictures of themselves and immediately posting them on Facebook.
Case in point, last season during Game 6 of the World Series, the fan in front of me had his "Yankees win!" Facebook post up seconds after the final pitch was thrown. Um, no kidding. I have never been to Los Angeles, but I imagine this is what a Lakers' home game is like.
A good number of the people in attendance just don't care. They are there for three hours, no matter what the score. On Tuesday night, the three-hour mark just happened to come in the sixth inning (that's another problem to discuss for another day) and they were out.
In 2001, there was a lot less season-plan owners not to mention more seats in the old stadium, thus the park was full of people who really wanted to be there. The "Look at me! I'm at the game!" fan was non-existent for the most part. Ebay was still in it's early years and Stubhub wasn't around. If you wanted playoff tickets, you either were on the Internet all morning trying to get through on an ultra-slow ticketmaster.com or sleeping out at the Stadium box office. The people who ended up with the tickets were the fans that truly cared about the team and actually stayed until the last pitch. The casual fan was not going to do all that work to go to a baseball game.
Now, all it takes is a click of the mouse to get anyone in the building. The dynamic of sports crowds, especially in the Bronx, has changed considerably in the past three or four years because of this.
As far as the Stubhub boom, that has been all fine and dandy for the Yankees, who are making a financial killing off of this as they receive the full initial price of the ticket and a handsome percentage of the resale transaction. They can care less who is in the building as long as it's full.
However, it's that kind of attitude which led to that embarrassing video Tuesday night. I do understand the team going after every last dollar as in the end, baseball's a business.
It's just unfortunate that the true diehards, the people that watch the team everyday and the ones still in the stadium until the end Tuesday night, were lumped in as a whole with the early birds when it came to criticism throughout the country.