SEPT. 24, 2018 ANOTHER DISAPPOINTING CAMPAIGN
Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates have done it again. For the third year in a row, they've failed to make the Major League Baseball playoffs, and for the third year in a row, their attendance has dropped.
The Pirates closed out their home season yesterday (except for a makeup game scheduled for October 1). Through 80 home games, the total attendance has been 1,465,316. The final number will be the lowest in PNC Park's 18-year history, more than a million less than the record 2,498,596 who came through the turnstiles in 2015.
On-field success helps. The Pirates didn't have a winning record between June 6 and the All-Star break, but coming into that July 28 game they had been over .500 for a week and had managed to reach 54-51. On that summer night, with the help of an Italian Fest promotion, 94% of the seats were filled. The 35,900 fans watched the Bucs shut out the Mets and stayed for a post-game fireworks show.
The weather also makes a big difference. In chilly April the average attendance had been only 11,905 (not counting the two games that opened the season), and September's average turned out to be 15,070. Seven times during those months, the turnstile count failed to reach five figures.
And the opponent matters, too. Let's consider only the 38 home dates during the warm months of June, July, and August, when the visiting teams were evenly divided between five nearby National League rivals and five more distant opponents. Against the first group, average attendance was 58% greater.
Do Pirate fans prefer to see games against familiar opponents? Perhaps, but maybe there's another explanation. Maybe there are only 15,000 supporters of the home team, but when those neighbors come to town, nearly 10,000 of their fans travel in to support them.
That would mean 40% of those in the stands are wearing the opponent's colors. Observation supports this hypothesis. The picture below is from the 2015 Wild Card game, the last time that Pittsburgh hosted postseason action.
For me, this season's low point came on a Friday night, the sixth of July, when the Phillies brought 9,846 phanatics to join our 15,000 Pirates diehards. I had the misfortune of being on the crew televising that game back to Philadelphia. The home team lost for the 11th time in 15 games, this time by the lopsided score of 17-5. Moreover, the pace was excruciatingly slow: an average interval of 4¼ minutes between balls in play. The game lasted four hours and 30 minutes, which equaled the record for the longest nine-inning game in the entire 143-year history of the National League!
Less than four weeks later, it seemed we might be on pace to shatter even that record. The first pitch was at 7:06 PM, and by 8:48 we had completed only three innings. At that rate, the ninth inning wouldn't end until 12:12 AM. But then the pace picked up. The game was over in 3½ hours, and we actually got to go home before midnight.
SEPT. 23, 2018 SINK GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD?
The University of Arizona is located in Tuson. However, that's not how the city's name is spelled. Local residents insist on adding a c next to the s.
Now this extraneous c does not affect the pronunciation. Either it's silent or it's pronounced like another s. Since the c is pointless, I can never remember whether it should come before or after the real s. Is the city spelled Tucson or Tuscon? Either way seems equally nonsensical.
SEPT. 18, 2018 BENCH SCOOTING
My father was an automobile dealer, so I noticed three slightly awkward shot compositions involving vehicles in the 1960 movie Psycho.
At 55, 64, and 75 minutes, director Alfred Hitchcock positions a car in the foreground at the Bates Motel. The left-hand door is nearest the camera so we can see the driver clearly. But the actor is instructed not to use that door. Instead, he opens the door on the passenger side, sliding with some effort across the full width of the front seat. By taking this shortcut, he spares us from having to wait for him to walk halfway around the vehicle.
SEPT. 12, 2018 VULCANS ON THE AIR
The folks at California University of Pennsylvania, when Angelo Armenti was president, wanted to increase their visibility by televising some of their Vulcans games. They established a Vulcan Sports Network. Essentially this network fed one station in Pittsburgh and one FOX subsidiary satellite channel.
My alma mater's football team the Division III "Yeomen" of Oberlin College, once coached by John Heisman of trophy fame can still claim a unique distinction.
That distinction was in peril yesterday. In the third quarter, the Ohio University Bobcats led the No. 3 Buckeyes of The Ohio State University by a score of 14-6. But Ohio State averted the upset and eventually won 26-14.
The victory was OSU's 36th straight win over an in-state opponent. What was the last Ohio school to defeat Ohio State in football? Oberlin!
It was way back in 1921, the final season for the Buckeyes' Ohio Field at High Street and Woodruff Avenue in Columbus. (The "Horseshoe," Ohio Stadium, would open the following year.) The final score: Oberlin 7, Ohio State 6.
The song apparently was not enough when the Buckeyes faced the fearless Yeomen in 1921.
SEPT. 4, 2018 BLOWOUTS
When I was a lad, today would have been the first day of school following summer vacation: the day after Labor Day. Therefore the first high school football game would have been this coming Friday.
But times have changed, and school starts earlier now. In the Pittsburgh area, the WPIAL played 116 football games in August.
On August 25 Imani Christian, having scored touchdowns on its first three plays from scrimmage, led 58-0 at halftime. After that, the coaches agreed to cut the 12-minute quarters in half, and a mercy rule kept the clock running following incompletions and such. Thus the final score was merely 80-6.
Other matchups resulted in embarrassing shutouts of 41-0, 43-0, 45-0, 46-0, 48-0 (three times), 62-0, and 63-0. Serves those kids right for wearing game jerseys before Labor Day.
SEPT. 1, 2018 WE ALSO SAW MAX MORATH