Have Blue Jays Fans Changed?

Hopefully this will be the last time this season we address the attendance issue here at Mop Up Duty.  I was able to scrounge up some old footage of Jays fandom in the early days and it got me to thinking: have Toronto Blue Jays fans changed? There are a lot of similarities to the Jays teams of yester year and today’s Jays team.  However, back then fan support never waned, win or lose.  Are we now jaded? Cynical?  Watch the clip below and compare Jays fans back then to the way we are today.

Can we get back to that time of innocence? Do we want to? Being a part of those “League Leading Fans” sure looks like a lot of fun.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Everybody Wang Chung tonight.

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has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (@callumhughson)

  • ‘Twas a simpler time

    I think the advent of the blogosphere (and it’s influence on traditional media in Toronto) has created an atmosphere of constant cynicism, where every fan wants a winner right away.

    Even fans claiming this as a rebuilding year jumped down Overbay’s throat and called for a Wallace revolution after a couple of weeks.

    If any sport preaches patience it should be baseball. It’s a long game that forces teams to record 27 outs, over 162 games a season. Contracts, arbitration, drafting, free agency, minor league development, scouting, roster construction, etc. These are all longevity based activities. Fans these days lose sight of this fact. It’s now cool to bitch about someone’s xFIP after three starts.

    • Preach!

    • I’ll get off your lawn and save my screed for another avenue, but know this: a handful of superinvolved fans griping about linear weights aren’t the reason people stopped going to baseball games. It’s cute of you to blame killjoy nerds, but come on.

      Having passionate and knowledge fans IS NEVER A BAD THING, no matter how much they whine.

      • Well I can definitely see what you’re saying. I don’t think Linear weights, etc are the issue.

        I do however see middle of the road sports (ie not super underground hardcore) sources like the grill room crack out BABIP.

        Throwing around some of these stats out of context (and sample) size can create a negative general atmosphere surrounding the club. And that can’t be good for getting fans out to the park.

        This, along with unrealistic expectations can’t help attendance.

        Commentor Danny brought some good points as well for the general GTA.

  • Alain

    I am perhap unCanadian when I watch the ball game and flick to the hockey game at commercial. That aside in Halifax there is not much call for ball. I’ll see someone wearing an authentic ball cap and ask them if they are royals, athletics, dodger, etc fans. The answer I always get is, “I just liked the hat”.

    Now for those who play pick up ball with me, I get them listneing to the game on News 95.7, which broadcasts the Fan 590 for most games, but when I first started dating my grilfriend she shared the same sentiment as many of my friends who say they are fans of the blue birds. “Its so slow”

    Now my poor girlfriend has sucked it up and started following the Jays, I got her into my fantasy league, playing mlb 2k10 and even watching the game in the evenings (yay no fighting for big tv). The trick to this was to really sell the battle that is going on with the pitchers. Friends are amazed when I tell them that guys are throwing a ball 60 feet at 90 miles, not km, but miles an hour.

    It is a complex game that needs people to describe some ground rules in order to have any hope of following. You’ve never watched lacross before, but there is a net and two teams…basketball, hockey, soccer, they can associate.

    The fans are gone because there is not the chance or the patience perhaps to learn the game. The best source I have for friends who are interested is to read wikipedia, watch a game and come out to play and you’ll figure it out as you go.

    I was playing tee ball when the Jays went back to back, was a huge fan, in fact found my grubby old hat , remember being so pissed when they changed the logo and I codnl’t find a new one with it. Most people out east seem to support Boston, I’m a Jays fan because its the Canadian team…I’m loving the bright maple leaf on the Jersey but is it enough to show that they are Canada’s team playing America’s sport?

    • Good job turning people onto the game of baseball.

      You should create a course showing men how to ‘teach/train’ girlfriends to like baseball. You’d make a killing!

  • I wish it was still like that, my family goes to five games a year regardless of the teams talent. It’s fun just going to the ballpark.

  • Early

    I think we should go back to having sexy women in short-shorts dancing on the dugouts as cheerlearders.

    • Tight_PP

      I think interest started fading the same time BJ Birdie left.

      I would like to see a grassroots “we want BJ” movement

  • Danny Pendrell

    I think the dip in fan loyalty has to do with many factors:
    – changing demographics of Toronto. A lot of the type of fans who would have been living in the city in the 80’s and 90’s – reasonably well-off, middle-class types – are now in the suburbs and don’t want to make the commute. Many suburbanites who would otherwise be interested in baseball choose to stay in their monolithic box-store parking lot areas rather than venture into what they perceive as the frightening city.
    – laziness. Torontonians will find any excuse not to go, from not being able to find parking, not wanting to deal with traffic, not wanting to take TTC, or griping about prices. It’s also easier and takes considerably less effort to park oneself in front of a huge flat screen TV with stereo sound than to take the time to actually attend games.
    – after 20 years in the same location, the dome still does not have direct transit access. The closest is probably the Spadina streetcar, one block distant, and Union station, slightly farther away on the opposite side.
    – a general increase in cynicism and impatience amongst Toronto sports fans who believe they have “waited too long” for another championship team. Much of this has to do with…
    – being sold the image of “a winner” repeatedly by the Ricciardi regime. Anthopoulos and Beeston in 2010 instead chose to respect fans’ intelligence and let them know straight up that this is a rebuilding year. Bandwagon fans don’t want to watch a team in the process of evolving, they want to see games won and big homers hit game after game.
    – total lack of civic pride in Toronto. Torontonians seem to have very little pride in their city and zero respect for its image. I found places like Chicago and New York to have this in spades, a real sense of the community of the city, that everyone there is part of it, while Toronto lacks that to a huge degree.

    • A lot of the type of fans who would have been living in the city in the 80’s and 90’s – reasonably well-off, middle-class types – are now in the suburbs

      False. Absolutely false. Try and buy a house in Toronto and tell me who you’re bidding against. It’s the poor people forced out to the burbs my friend.

      • Danny Pendrell

        I’m not suggesting that there aren’t still wealthy middle-class people in Toronto – there clearly are – but I think a lot of baseball fans are content to simply sit at home in front of their TVs rather than bother to come into town. Let’s leave out wealth and class distinctions here and simply focus on geographic distribution, because that’s more to my point. I’ve spoken to numerous suburbanites who variously describe the city as “scary” “dirty” “crime-ridden”(!) and are simply too insecure to leave their outlying neighbourhoods unless they’re driving, have easy parking and barely have to leave their cars. I also think this depends on what suburbs you’re talking about, and what neighbourhoods in them. There are poorer areas of say, Markham, and wealthier areas, just as you have a contrast in the city between condos on Queen’s Quay and an area like Parkdale or Regent Park. So it’s not so cut and dry.

        I think what will genuinely drive fans back to see games (other than the obvious formula of a winning team), and I’ve seen signs of this already, is younger people who vaguely remember the team from their childhood as being champs and crave 80’s and 90’s nostalgia. These are people young enough to remember the championship Blue Jays but not old enough to be bitter and impatient over the return of said championships.
        Just a couple of opinions, feel free to debate.

  • ct

    how could they have not, they have went from good baseball on the field to bad baseball on the field

  • Dave

    I think we make a big deal about the attendance issue being about winning games and to a certain degree I believe this to be true. I think the aspect that we don’t consider is the fan experience and this in my honest opinion is where the Jays lack. Not only do they lack give-aways but the stuffy atmosphere that pervades at the dome is just terrible. The only people that are actually having fun are the super-idiots that get hammered and annoy the rest of us. What the game lacks are those middle of the road guys that just wanna watch a good baseball game (outside would be best), get a little loud and have son fun. Its just not a relaxing and fun experience to go to the park anymore.
    I also think that what you will notice in those clips is the number of young fans that were there back in the day. Young families that could actually afford to go to the game together get a couple hot dogs and a beer or two and simply have a nice day as a family. Its now simply priced out of the budget for a large portion of the young families out there.
    So yes if the Jays start winning games some extra fans will come out but what really needs to be done is for the team to build its fan base with a foundation of young families and young people.

  • brent in Korea

    All the commenters here have been really hitting all the points- and there are quite a few. I think though that the media needs to be added. The media led by Uncle Dick hit pieces to White Jays articles sure never helped the team. They probably added a lot of cynicism.

    Also, Toronto has added a professional basketball team, soccer team, lacrosse team etc. to divide up sports dollars. I think people have forgotten that the Leafs were so bad in the Ballard years that seeing the Jays would be a relief.

    I’m positive that if the Jays would have had at least one playoff appearance during the Ash/JP years, the team would have been in a much better situation. Those “patient” Blue Jay fans had only to wait 9 years to make the playoffs. It’s been almost double that for us.

  • MK

    A little late to the party but I want to go back to the family thing. I grew up near Exhibition Stadium, the oldest of five, and I saw a lot of games the first few years because of a promotion done to get the expansion team some audience. They were cheap, undated tickets sold by Dominion for $1 each if you bought $20 of groceries. (This was 1977.) The seats were in the grandstand, a little far away but you got to go after the home run balls. And there were all the great promotions – hats, seat cushions, toques – which my family still has.

    Now, to take your family on a JR Jays days, you’re looking at a minimum of $42, and that’s for the 500 level where you’re far away from the action. And that’s not including concessions (which themselves are not family-friendly priced) and transportation costs. If you want to be closer, the price jumps dramatically. Unless you want to buy an overpriced souvenir, what tangible thing are you walking away with to show at school the next week?

    So how are you going to build the next generation of fans? The game’s turned into a once-a-year thing rather than something you do once a month or so. And many more kids are playing soccer and basketball then they were then.

    Family packaging for games is a start. A value menu at the concession stand would help. Basing pricing on the teams coming in (honestly, premium pricing to see KC on a weekend?). More promos. (I’m making a point of getting the Dave Stieb bobblehead even though I’m working later that afternoon. And I made a point of going to get the Aaron Hill one a couple of years ago.)

    And more atmosphere. What drives me crazy at the ballpark is how many times natural cheering from the stands gets stomped on by the guy running the music. Instead of the voice on high, how about working cheering with the fans where they are?

    Right now fans are so removed from the experience. That’s where the focus should be. If going to see the Jays gets a rep of being a fun thing to do, more people will go.