Fabricated Fans

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With the Mets having been eliminated two nights ago (not that I had been holding my breath up until that point, mind you), I have been diversifying my baseball watching.
A typical Mets fan, when I can’t get enthusiastic about the Mets, I at least derive a certain schadenfreude in rooting against the Yankees.  This year’s AL East race has provided plenty of excitement and drama toward that end.
Also, with a close family member being a long-time Braves fan, and knowing this is Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm, I would have loved to have seen them topple the Braves.  In lieu of that, I would enjoy seeing them the winner of the Wild Card.  
The latter is decidedly NOT a typical Mets fan’s desired outcome, I know, and I have been admonished by the Mets fans in my home for holding such sympathies for the Braves and their manager.
As I’ve broadened my listening and watching horizons, I’ve been struck by several things:
1.  In SNY-TV, the Mets have by far the finest announcers covering the game today, period.
2.  Michael Kaye, TV announcer for the YES Network and Yankees games, and his cohort have an amazing ability to convey absolutely none of the excitement of the Yankees/Rays series.  The matter-of-fact tone, the lack of informative color, and the sheer amount of dead air would lead the uneducated viewer to believe that these games were meaningless at best and a sheer bore at worst.  
3. It is achingly painful for me to view sold-out Citizens Bank Park, packed with red in all shapes and sizes with frenzied white rally towel waving and screaming, rabid fans.  
Naturally, the latter is difficult to stomach because, as a Mets fan, I wish that were OUR ballpark.  But more than that, the contrast between the Phillies’ sold-out crowd and our dwindling fanbase could not be more stark.
As a season-ticket holder, the shrinking fan base  first struck me several weeks ago as I entered the Caesar’s Club.  Where previously the crowds there had necessitated our family deploying ourselves as  a “team tag” of vultures to secure a table at which to eat before the game, empty tables and a “library atmosphere” (as they encourage on the Amtrak Acela Quiet Cars) greeted us.
“It’s a ghost town!” I said in astonishment.
Considering the team’s season, I find the lack of support for the team and the shriveling number of fans understandable but nevertheless depressing; ownership should see this and be absolutely terrified.
Lest Jeff Wilpon is lying awake nights, wondering how he’s going to fill seats in his lovingly recreated Ebbets Field, I am here to assure him that perhaps a solution has been found.  If real fans are hard to come by, enter the “virtual fan”.

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From the Wall Street Journal comes an intriguing story of a Northern Italian soccer team suffering low turnout.  An answer to low team morale and lost revenue for the team of Trieste has been to install PVC covering over empty rows of seats upon which are screen-printed image of fans.  They do happen to be actual Triestina fans, never mind that they are perpetually depicted huddled against the cold in blankets, heavy coats and scarves regardless of current conditions.
The Wall Street Journal piece goes on to say:
Between the money the team will save by eliminating stewards, attendants, medical staff and insurance for the shuttered seats (about $130,000 per season) and the extra ad revenue it may earn, team owner Stefano Fantinel says the experiment “will pay for itself very soon.”

What I didn’t see mentioned in this article is the fact that screen-printed PVC tarps do not produce general crowd noise nor respond with a collective roar for great plays.  Conversely, the concocted fans presumably do not boo poor plays nor heckle players.


The attendants in my section at Citi Field are dear friends–like family even.  I would sorely miss Stan, Eddie, and Larry…and, yes, even the “Hot doggie-doggie-doggie!” vendor, as well.

But you gotta bet someone from the Mets has taken note of this story.  

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And while we’re at it, what about managers of symphony orchestras and opera companies struggling to fill houses on certain nights?

Could screen-printed images of extravagantly dressed, bejeweled opera fans–perhaps with audio enhancement in the form of a sound clip of a crowd cheering “Bravo, bravo!” to be played through the house speakers at the climactic end of arias–be the future for the Metropolitan Opera House or other performance art venues?

Hmmm…

Photo of original art work by Jaquet Fritz Junior found here.
Triestina photo by Andrea Lasorte

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