Tribe playing to lots of empty seats — it's Cavs time now

HELLO? HELLO? HELLO? 

Tribe playing to lots of empty seats — it's Cavs time now

LAST Friday, I checked my voicemail and had this message from a friend: "Hey, we're thinking about going downtown for the game. Call me back."

Perfect. I had nothing much going on, and it was a beautiful Friday night to watch a baseball game. Game-time temperature would be in the 80s, Fausto Carmona was on the bump for the Tribe and it was high time to erase the memories of my last visit to Progressive Field — the miserably cold, rainy affair on opening day.

I called my buddy back. "Sure, we'll go to the Tribe game. What time do you want to meet?" I asked.

"Uh, dude. We're going to the Q for the Cavs game," he replied.

Of course. The watch party at the Q for the game being played in Michigan.

The Indians face an uphill attendance battle, while the Cavs continue what everyone assumes will be a playoff run deep into June. Consider that on Friday night, the paid attendance at Progressive Field was 20,215, while across the Gateway complex at least 17,000 fans took in the Cavs game vs. Detroit ... in Detroit ... on the JumboTron.

According to Tamera Brown of Positively Cleveland, every Cavs home game brings in about $3.7 million in revenue to the city, or about $162.8 million over the course of the regular season. Makes sense. More people downtown, buying stuff, drinking stuff, eating stuff and drunkenly buying stuff while searching for a place to eat. The Indians are the exception, which is why Paul Dolan and company are probably rooting harder than any hardcore Wine and Gold fan for the Cavs to sweep every single series they're in.

My friend, who preferred paying arena prices for a beer while craning his neck to catch the action on the big screen, is certainly not alone. Go ahead and quickly weigh the options for yourself, assuming the choice is going to an Indians game or watching the Cavs, whether in person, at home or at a bar.

Here's a breakdown of the Tribe's attendance for the past three years on days when the Cavs were also involved in a playoff game.

2008

Sunday game vs. Yankees, Cavs away: 31,598

Wednesday, vs. Seattle, Cavs home: 15,279

Saturday, vs. Toronto, Cavs home: 38,141

Monday, vs. Toronto (part of doubleheader), Cavs home: 16,045

Wednesday, vs. Oakland, Cavs away: 18,188

2007

Wednesday, vs. Texas, Cavs home: 13,843

Saturday, vs. Baltimore, Cavs away: 25,065

Wednesday, vs. Minnesota, Cavs home: 17,678

Friday, vs. Cincinnati, Cavs away: 34,230

Monday, vs. Seattle, Cavs away: 38,645

Thursday, vs. Detroit, Cavs away: 30,038

Saturday, vs. Detroit, Cavs home: 38,254

Thursday, vs. Kansas City, Cavs away: 19,315

2006

Tuesday, vs. Boston, Cavs home: 18,438

Friday, vs. Texas, Cavs away: 22,106

Sunday, vs. Texas, Cavs away: 22,989

Saturday, vs. Detroit, Cavs home: 24,051

Wednesday, vs. Kansas City, Cavs away: 15,064

Friday, vs. Pittsburgh, Cavs home: 32,499

Sunday, vs. Pittsburgh, Cavs away: 31,589

And those three seasons weren't happening a) during the worst economic climate this country's seen in a long, long time, or b) when interest in the Cavs is at perhaps an all-time high.

So far in 2009, the Indians have drawn 197,559 fans for the first 10 home games. That number was 215,687 in 2008. A difference of 18,128, and that's not even including downturns in season ticket, luxury seat and suite sales, all of which are hard to gauge by attendance numbers.

Advance sales of Tribe tickets were likely slow, as wary and poorer fans pondered how to use what little is left of their expendable income. You also have to assume that walk-up sales might be where the Tribe is hurt most on days when there's both a baseball game and a Cavs playoff game. Even then, just because a ticket is sold and added to the attendance tally doesn't mean that ticket holder came through the turnstile. I wonder what the no-show rate is when there's also a Cavs game, because that number might help explain the actual impact on the Tribe's bottom line — that $12 ticket isn't really what pays Kerry Wood's salary. It's the $25 in peanuts and hot dogs and beer.

Take the other night, for example, when the Cavs were squaring off against the Pistons in game two, while across the way, the Tribe was taking on the Royals. Announced attendance for the Tribe: 11,048. If you read any accounts of the game, you know there were probably less than 5,000 people actually in the seats.

The NBA playoff schedule isn't set in stone and is rarely known until just before a series starts. Indians tickets are usually bought well before that, and it doesn't take half a thought to not use them if there's something better going on or to sit on your couch instead of buying that bleacher ticket.

And the goodwill surrounding this current Cavs squad is simply unparalleled. There's a feeling — a hope, a prayer, a God-might-this-finally-be-over inkling — that this team is something phenomenally special, and to miss a moment might be something you regret for the rest of your life.

Put that up against watching Carl Pavano on the bump against the Royals on a Tuesday night. Right.

It could be the All Star break before the Indians don't have to compete for Cleveland sports fans' interest and dollars. Until then, they can look at the silver lining: Maybe no one will notice how bad they are.

vgrzegorek@clevescene.com

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