Are Phillies Fans the Biggest Front-Runners?

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, June 13, 2014 01:48 PM | Comments: 21

Judging by sports talk radio, the Phillies, even during their 2007 through 2011 playoff run, are often second-citizens in their own town. During this run, many fans were accused being bandwagon fans or front-runners. The notion even gained enough traction to inspire one of the region’s most popular Twitter accounts, @fansince09.

According to a new Emory University study, the accusations may have been true.

Emory used attendance figures from 1998 through 2013 to draw conclusions about how “elastic” and correlated a fan bases’ attendance is compared to the team’s won/loss record. The Phillies, whose attendance is down an additional 8,000 per night in 2014, saw the biggest change in attendance compared to wins and losses.

The researchers argue the following:

For example, if the statistical model finds that a team’s demand is unrelated to winning rate, then the implication is that fans have so much of a preference for the team that winning and losing don’t matter. For a weaker team (brand) the model would produce a strong relationship between demand and winning.

An interesting finding to say the least. As a former NYU athlete who regularly competed against Emory in the University Athletic Association and a complete Philadelphia homer, I have biases against this particular study for reasons that are completely emotional. Anyone who would like to dispute this without an emotionally charged argument that doesn’t include “yeah, but cheesesteaks, tho” (like I would), feel free to be my guest.


H/T: Deadspin

Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 892 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

  • Posts: 0 George

    On a completely unemotional level, I wonder about the accuracy of these results for these reasons:

    1. Getting a true idea of any team’s fanbase must take into account those who have moved from the area and can no longer attend games, but still back the “hometown” team. Did this study do that?

    2. Some cities have been hit harder than others by unemployment and economic downturns.

    3. Media coverage varies from city to city. More televised games could cause an attendance drop.

    I could probably think of more reasons, but I’ll let it go for now. I’ve found that most studies like this are not nearly detailed enough to draw legitimate conclusions about much of anything.


    • Posts: 0 caphlfan

      Absolutely agree with you. I live in CA and attend games when they come here and try to when I go back home. I remember in the old days, even at Connie Mack, there was always a core group of fans that showed up for games — as opposed to the bad Giants years when there were maybe 1500 people at a day game in SF (I was there, believe me). When I say core group, I’m talking over 20,000.

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      You’re right George. My question to the author would be. So what teams fans aren’t front runners? I mean gees! It’s a known fact throughout baseball history that when a teams wins the fans show up! It’s not that hard to understand. I’ve always been a fan. If I don’t go to a game to see a stinky product doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention or not watching. What I’m not doing is shoveling out big bucks to see a team that’s not going to win on most nights. Also I’m not going cause at my age they put me to sleep waiting for somebody to hit the ball or pitch well. By that I mean on a consistent basis, not sporadically.
      I went to a game in May. The only reason I went was because my financial advisor gave me 4 free tickets with comp parking. The tickets were sect. 215 Hall of fame club. They lost, but the food was good the atmosphere was good. (as always). It’s an enjoyable experience to be at CBP. It’s a beautiful place to be. But not at the price for the product. It’s cheaper and more economical to pay the cable company to be at home and watch it. Best seats in the house. If that’s being a frontrunner then count me in. Me and probably any other fan of baseball. If you don’t go to see them, doesn’t mean you’re not a fan. I’m as loyal a fan as anybody else. I just don’t what to spend my money on a bad team. What’s so front runner about that?

  • Posts: 0 xatsman

    Must be that rich winning tradition of one world series every couple of centuries that mske us Phillies phans so spoiled……

    • Posts: 891 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      In the 45 years since baseball expanded in 1969 (i.e. the majority of the lifetime of most current fans):

      - only 7 of the other 29 teams have a better record than the Phillies
      - only 6 of the 29 have more postseason appearances
      - only 6 of the 29 have more championships


      • Posts: 0 Scotty Ingerton

        How many of the 29 have a better winning percentage?

      • Posts: 0 Scotty Ingerton

        Opps, just re-read that…thanks!

  • Posts: 0 Scotty Ingerton

    Jimmy Rollins knew this years ago!


  • Posts: 0 Dan

    I’d be curious to see what this study would show if the data started in 2004, and whether or not the Vet had something to do with attendance in those early years of the study.

  • Posts: 0 Matt

    Were any considerations given to fluctuations in tickets prices? I have no data on this, but costs now seen to be high relative to the product. Could be causing some of the more recent decline, along with the poor play.

  • Posts: 9 rednick261

    Avatar of rednick261

    Many assumptions made in this study are questionable.

    First of all, attendance at the ballpark does not take place in a vacuum, and Phillies’ tickets are some of the most expensive in the majors. If I lived in Pittsburgh, I would probably go to 20 games a year just because I can get decent bleacher seats for around $20. $20 will get you standing room only – or worse at CBP.

    Second, attendance at the ballpark is a poor measure of fan support, unless not wanting to spend premium money on a crappy product (but still watching on TV, purchasing merchandise, hoping against hope that our illustrious GM makes a good decision for once in his life, and maintaining a measurable interest in the team) qualifies as being a bandwagon fan.

    Third, I would be willing to bet that the average Philadelphian (or displaced Phillies fan, like myself) knows more about the team, the roster, the contracts, and more than the average fan in any other baseball town. It’s entirely anecdotal, but I’ve been to a fair number of baseball towns (admittedly, not all) and there are far fewer baseball people there to begin with, and relatively few know details about their team.

    That said, sustained success caused the bandwagon to swell, but the people who go to games (typically suburbanites) don’t want to sit on the Schuylkill to see a team with no hope of lasting success as currently composed. After all, they can watch on their price-bloated Comcast Cable. I know I’m not going to drive down from the Williamsport area for 16 games like I did even last year, unless people keep selling Diamond Club tickets for dirt.

    • Posts: 0 James

      I’m a life-long Phils phan, transplanted in CO. (Yup, just about the only team worse than the Phils right now.) And I have a take that I haven’ really seen yet. I’ve argued for years that the typical Philadelphia sports fan is simply more informed than fans in many other areas of the country. (IE: Colorado has decent sports fans, but the transient nature of this state causes a clearly discernable difference between the passion of the two fan bases.) Due to the long and ingrained nature of our roots, the typical Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers fan (in my opinion) is simply more educated in historical contexts, and in the game(s) as a whole. All that said, I don’t think that the declining attendance numbers reflect a lack of support or passion, but rather a clear understanding of the truly pathetic quality of the product on the field, and the inability of the current administration to put out there anything vaguely resembling a competitive team. The low attendance numbers have not happened overnight – it took several years, and the average Phillies fan knows that our weak farm system and inadequate management has resulted in the unfortunate reality that the team is years away from being relevant and competitive.

  • Posts: 0 wbramh

    About 10 seconds before Hernandez plunked Castro I wondered how he could be sweating that much and still grip the ball. I guess the ump wanted to give him a rest.

  • Posts: 3658 Tracey

    Avatar of Tracey

    The Phillies are charging World Effing Champions prices for a minor league product. They told me when I renewed my season tickets that the prices hadn’t gone up, but the prices written on my tickets are higher hta I remember. And the prices at the food stands are WAY up. Helmet sundae is now $6.50, up from $5. Fries $6, up from $4.50. Beer is $8. Parking is $16. Who wants to pay that to watch a team get shut out? I can watch them lose on TV in the comfort of my living room.

    • Posts: 0 wbramh

      I wanted to take my 3-year-old grandson to his first game this weekend but the prices are ridiculous for this series. Sections that were available last week for $9 bucks are back up to $30. Stub hub prices tonight were higher than the Phillies ticket office prices.
      I wouldn’t exactly call myself a frontrunner since I spent $99.99 out of every $100 dollars at Connie Mack and the Vet watching mostly bad teams. After CBP opened I couldn’t get a seat even if I could have afforded one. Now, seats are available all over the place and I can barely afford to park in their lot – and that’s about as far I’ll get. Forget the ticket and ice cream.

  • Posts: 0 GG

    Want to affect your team’s actions when they’ve put together a horrible product? Stop going to games. This simple fact makes Phillies fans the smartest and most understanding of a market economy in MLB in my opinion. Rah rah blind faith is moronic and a sure sign of a brain dead fan base. Kudos fellow Phils fans for making your voice heard.

  • Posts: 0 Scotty Ingerton

    In the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters. I can only tell you that finding a parking spot in Lot K is a lot easier these days. Leaving after the game is a breeze with no more gridlock at the stadium complex. Also, I’ve been getting prime seats on StubHub for pennies on the dollar. Does that make the local fans frontrunners? Maybe. Do I really care? Not in the least.

    • Posts: 5434 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      Scotty I remember back in the early days of the Vet I would go to a ton of games. Just drive to the Vet with a carload of friends and buy tickets right there. Easy cause the place was so big and plenty of good seats. The difference of now and then is. Back then there was some real exciting young guys coming up and you went to see those guys develop. Oh, and tickets were pretty cheap too! Now what do you get? Got to take out a loan to watch, eat and park, and for me living in NJ you have the bridge fair also. Lots of time the only excitement you get now is when someone wakes you up!

  • Posts: 3658 Tracey

    Avatar of Tracey

    I wonder if this study takes into account the fact that ticket resale (like Stub Hub) became legal in Pennsylvania the same year (2007) that the Phillies first went to the playoffs? Services like Stub Hub artificially inflate attendance figures, because speculators buy tickets hoping to resell them at a profit. Course winning teams are the most profitable to resell, so speculators are more likely to purchase tickets for winning teams in higher quantities. That’s not bandwagon jumping; that’s free market economics. You would think a marketing analytics department in a college would understand these things.

    But they probably didn’t take that into account, because if they did, they wouldn’t have an opportunity to bash Phillies fans.

  • Posts: 3658 Tracey

    Avatar of Tracey

    Another thing to consider, which any good scientist knows: statistics can show a connection between two things, but they do not prove causation This is particularly problematic in social science like this. Do fans show up because the Phillies are winning, or do the Phils win because the fans are showing up? Are we the worst frontrunners, as the haters say, or are we a very effective 10th man on the team, as Phillies fans like to claim?

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