The Ravens Don’t Care About Attendance…
…and If they do, they have a odd way of showing it given the early offseason commitment to the staff returning for 2018.
Ask five Ravens fans why they aren’t attending Ravens games and you might get five different answers. Ask ten and you might get ten different answers.
Protests rubbed them the wrong way. No visiting team was worth the price of admission. The home team is infuriating to watch. Coaches insult the fans intelligence. Money. Weather. Better experience in their living room. Ravens playoff absences. NFL is just a worse and worse product each year. Binge-worthy “Black Mirror” just returned to Netflix. Had to go to Wal-Mart. Sock drawer needed rearranging…and more.
It’s no secret that for a couple years now, attendance at M&T Bank Stadium has been an issue for a once prominent franchise. A franchise in a city that cried when it lost their football team. That begged and pleaded for 13 years to bring the game back here. A franchise that upon calling Baltimore home in 1996 has been rewarded with fans that provided an unmatched home field advantage for them. For years you couldn’t get a seat unless you had season tickets, bought them in the 30-minute window single game tickets were available before selling out, or were will willing to pay well over face value on the second hand market. Baltimore was one of the loudest, raucous fan environments.
Look around at kickoff on Week 17. (Pictured above) Ravens win and they are in the playoffs. First time in three seasons! Exciting! A playoff game in itself! Well, temperatures in the teens and New Years Eve partying may have played a role in less people coming out. But I can’t see that contributing to likely 40,000 people saying “no thanks” to the Ravens in the most important game of the season, or in three seasons. A win and return to the playoffs game.
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Some things are out of the Ravens control. The schedule. They moved the Ravens game up to 4:25 on New Years Eve. The stadium has been packed to the brim for two home Thanksgiving games in recent years. I don’t recall the crowd being minimal in 2006 when the 13-3 Ravens team hosted the Bills on New Years Eve, or the 6-10 team in 2005 that hosted the Vikings on Christmas night.
Another thing out of their control is weather. It was cold. Such is late December in Baltimore. This is nothing new. A few years back when the Ravens played the Vikings in near blizzard like conditions leading up to and through the first half of the game, I was there. There was more people there at the kickoff for that game when it was cold, and far more dangerous to be out on the roads, that there were for the recent Bengals game. It was an important game for the Ravens to win as I recall as well.
But those two things, schedule change and weather are problems that occurred last Sunday. Attendance has been a noticeable issue for two years now, if not a little longer. But in Baltimore it reached an all time low at probably the most important home game in three years. Attendance is a problem league-wide as TV ratings dwindle and swaths of tweets from resident beat writers across the league show the empty seats of their respective teams.
The team sent out a letter to their season ticket holders prior to the week 16 game with the Colts. Kind of in a long winded way saying “we need you to come to the last two games of the season.” It was not received well by the fan base as Dick Cass claimed the anthem protest was the main culprit. While it may be a reason for some, the protests have taken a backseat in coverage, since about week 5. So 10 weeks too late if you are pinning it on that. You must also be blind or not watching the games if you think that’s the only reason people don’t want to come out. The Ravens play has been flat out sub par for three years now. How is that continuity thing working out?
There are two things that will put butts back in seats though. Fresh faces and winning. Now, winning isn’t always in your control because in a contest between two teams, someone has to lose, and sometimes you lose. You can catch a couple bad breaks here and there. Not to the extent that John Harbaugh likes to think. He thinks dropping seven passes in a game, or not moving the chains on 4th and 12 when you throw a 3-yard pass is a bad break. Just like he doesn’t know the difference in aggressive and dumb. But you don’t control what the other team does. They get paid and make plays too. You get to control some things like decisions, but not the outcomes. Often with this staff, decisions are the wrong ones. I swear sometimes they would hit on 20 in black jack because they want to be “aggressive”. Or stand with 5 hoping the other team busts, works sometimes, and the rest of the table hates you. If I’m the house and John Harbaugh, Marty Mornhinweg and Dean Pees walk in, I’m salivating and comping them rooms, meals, the works.
Wining cures all. But the current staff can’t figure out how to do that regularly for the last three years. With a fresh staff however, you get fresh input, a new voice, new knowledge, someone coming in as an outsider who isn’t so close to the team he can’t see the forest for the trees. You get potential problem solvers without bias. It gives the fans something to look forward to. Most of all, you get a sense of hope. You win some fans back by cleaning house and saying “we’ll stop at nothing to get back to the playoffs.” And if you go 6-10 or 8-8 in year one, you tried. We all see there is problem, how are they going to fix it? But sticking with the current staff means in the eyes of the brass, there are no problems. Just tough breaks. You aren’t trying. You’re settling. It’s a shoulder shrug. It’s accepting mediocrity, ignoring who you played, but more importantly who you didn’t play. Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill.
This excites no one. Except the ones thanking their lucky stars that their job is safe.
But Steve Bisciotti has already made it quite clear that a new voice in the clubhouse, some new ideas, are not what he thinks this team needs. Hence, the fans who want this are wrong and he does not care if you come to his team’s games or not. He’ll begin to care if the sponsors take a hike because 30,000 people see their signage on Sunday instead of 70,000. He’ll go so far to tell you that if you buy a football team in order to make money you a sorely mistaken, which is offensive to probably anyone who can’t afford to buy a football team. Show me that Steve Bisciotti took a hit in the wallet this year to the point he has to sell off some luxury items to keep the lights on. 30 years ago, maybe. While in Cleveland, Art Modell had to take out a bank loans to give Andre Rison the signing bonus he demanded. That isn’t the case anymore.
Bisciotti preached after the 2013 season when the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time in the Harbaugh/Flacco era that mediocrity won’t be settled for. He would go on to say after the 2016 season that continuity among the coaches means a lot, like the Steelers have had with Mike Tomlin. Tomlin missed the playoffs twice, sandwiched between two Super Bowl appearances and one title. He wants to keep the continuity going hoping for Steelers like payoff from it. Never mind that the Steelers have a HOF QB, All-Pro WR, All-Pro RB…and the Ravens don’t.
Getting some playmakers like the Steelers have could right this ship. As if that is easy peasy. But even that isn’t going to put butts in seats with the staff in place. A new staff with new playmakers sounds exciting. But let’s be honest. If the Ravens spend their first round pick on a supposed playmaking receiver, does anyone really trust Marty Moronweg Mornhinweg to utilize him, develop him, get the most out of him? Does anyone trust John Harbaugh to coach him up? X’s and O’s have never been Harbaugh’s forte, so how can he ensure Coach Marty is doing everything right? Joe Flacco won’t meet him until OTAs. You should always look for talent, but how exciting is handing it to John, Marty and Joe? It’s like when an old grandmother wins a Corvette on “The Price Is Right”. That’s great, but what they hell are they going to do with it? Let it sit in the garage? When they drive it, drive it real slow? That’s what giving say…Julio Jones, to the Ravens would look like. Do you want to give a Corvette to Grandpa Marty? Or do you want to give it to literally anyone else with a driver’s license and a decent driving record?
Bisciotti has found himself at a crossroads. After the loss to the Bengals that abruptly ended the 2017 season, he would have to renege on one of his statements. Won’t settle for mediocrity. Wants continuity. He can’t have it both ways. How important is continuity if the result is constant mediocrity?
Continuity wins out as he chose to settle for the mediocrity of three straight missed playoff seasons by not making any major changes. Pees retirement hardly moves the needle.
Look around your place of work. When is the last time you had “Purple Friday?” Ratings are down, attendance is down, excitement is way down. Yet the Ravens are busy making excuses instead of change. They will continue play the most boring, bland, mediocre form of football on Earth in front of a stadium at 50% capacity.
It’s hard to tell what matters to this franchise anymore at this point. They used to care about having the best home field advantage. They used to care about winning. They used to actually win, hardly let the home team down. I don’t know this franchise’s identity, goals, vision anymore given the direction they are choosing to go in.
If you think writing a letter to the fans will win them back, then you really have no pulse on your customers who refuse to buy a crap product.
Strap in as for the first time in franchise history, the Ravens are smack in the middle of the dark ages without a light at the end of the tunnel.