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Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, and Corey Seager were named all-stars, but Bellinger and Seager didn’t receive enough fan votes to be starters. L.A.’s favorite redhead, Justin Turner, didn’t even make the team, and Jansen let his frustrations with the fans be known.
“I’ll say it loud and clear again. It’s the Dodger fans’ fault.” – Kenley Jansen
The debate immediately began about how accurate and deserved Kenley Jansen’s criticism was. One side says Jansen’s anger at the fans is misplaced. They say blame rests with the $8.35 billion TV fiasco that has left 60% of the Dodgers’ fan base blacked out for the past four years. If a larger audience could watch on TV, the argument goes, more people would feel connected to the team, and fans would be reminded on the broadcast to vote for their favorite players.
The other side thinks Jansen is right because the Dodgers are a big market team with a huge fan base. They say the fans are just lazy and the TV argument is bogus, because people who really want to watch the Dodgers have plenty of options. Fans can simply switch cable providers, go to sports bars, or pirate the games using internet streams and VPNs. They can listen to games on the radio. They can listen to sports talk shows or follow on their phones for Dodgers and all-star news.
That’s correct up to a point. Do you know who does all that? Diehards. These diehard fans reside within a Dodgers media/social media/diehard bubble. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a happy resident of the Big Blue Bubble myself. But many of us are under the illusion that every Dodger fan thinks, cares and bleeds blue the same as we do. Sorry, sports fans, that number is finite. It’s smaller than we think it is, and it’s shrinking.
You’ve got to put in work to get around the blackout, and therein lies the blue rub. After four years of the Dodgers being absent from television, lots of people just don’t care that much any more. They’ve moved on, and a generation is growing up without the Dodgers in their homes, so they care even less.
What good is a sports market of 20 million if 13 million don’t have an option to watch on television? Out of sight, out of mind. Casual fans are being lost, rather than becoming passionate life-long followers, and I’m not sure that deserves a Kenley Jansen fastball to the haunches.
In reality, the Dodgers didn’t run the table on all-star voting before this TV blackout. There were plenty of theories back then for why not: voter apathy, there’s more to do in LA than watch the Dodgers, smaller markets with more fervent fans stuffed the ballot boxes, and so on. All of these still ring true today, but the Dodgers’ lack of visibility is starting to take a toll, and this all-star vote is a symptom of a larger problem.
Dodger games broadcast on SportsNetLA average an audience of 79,000 households. That number jumped to 378,000 for the games that KTLA broadcast back in April. I don’t need a graduate degree in marketing to make the connection that if you lose almost 300,000 viewers nightly over a four-year period, your brand is going to take a serious hit.
What about those legendary three million annual attendance numbers and the famous waiting list of thousands for season seats? Those are monster numbers, but they’re also phantom numbers. For the past three years the Dodgers capped season seats at 35,000. On game day they count seats sold, not warm bodies actually in them. There could be 3,000 fans in the stadium, but the team will still report attendance at 35,000, because that’s how many tickets were sold.
That waiting list for season seats? This April the Dodgers announced the list has dried up. If you only attend a few games a year, and you have no access to the team on TV, how would you know when to vote for all-stars, and why would you care?
Which brings me back to the point – the fan base is finite and shrinking. Like it or not, the Dodgers maxed out the number of all-star votes they were going to get.
People with disposable income are regularly attending games. When diehards aren’t at the stadium, they’re following some type of broadcast by hook or by crook. Social media-savvy fans are following reporters, writers and each other on a variety of platforms during the games as well. Twitter abounds with people bragging about how many times they’ve voted – some in the hundreds. The true blue fans have spoken, Kenley.
There just aren’t as many of us as you (and many of my fellow diehards) think. Don’t blame us for the dwindling numbers.