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Cubs Tue Apr 05 2011

Lies, Damn Lies & Attendance Figures at Wrigley

randy wells.jpg

Randy Wells / Tribune photo: Phil Velasquez

As the Cubs kick off the second of three afternoon games with the Diamondbacks, we're still sorting through Randy Wells' first-inning jitters, a few belated potshots at Lou Piniella and two conflicting sets of data on yesterday's action at Wrigley Field.

In my Inbox this morning was a Tribune Co. press release trumpeting the TV ratings this weekend on WGN: Ratings for Opening Day on Friday "were 40% higher in Households than the first telecast of the 2010 season" and Sunday's game "generated a 7.7 Household rating; the highest since April 7, 2009."

That's all well and good, even if I know just enough about the television ratings system to be suspicious of selectively chosen figures. But on my TV screen and in my Twitter feed yesterday was plenty of evidence that Cubs fans greeted the first Monday afternoon game of the season with historical apathy.

Cubs blogger and budding entrepreneur Julie DiCaro explains:

After seeing sell-out crowds at Wrigley year after year, it was quite the shock to behold the sea of empty seats yesterday. The official attendance report was 26,292, making yesterday's crowd the smallest to see a game at Wrigley since 2002. But even that figure elicited snorts of amusement from those at the game. Witnesses put the crowd somewhere around 10,000 fans at the high end.

If you've witnessed the breakneck speed at which Wrigley games have sold out since 2003, yesterday's attendance is a staggering surprise, but perhaps one that we should have seen coming. The 2011 Cubs Convention failed to sell out, while in the past tickets have been snapped up in less than 15 minutes. Then rumor had it that only six, SIX, Cubs games sold out this year (Opening Day, three Yankees Games, one White Sox Game , and one Cardinals game). Yesterday, ChicagoNow pointed out that tickets to dozens of Cubs games were available online for less than $1.00.

It appears that the proverbial chickens (seagulls?) have finally come home to roost.

Is Julie right that Cubs fans "pay the highest ticket prices to watch the worst baseball"? Is resident contrarian Joe Cowley right that Chicago is becoming a White Sox town? We'll wait for more than four games to reach a verdict, but the latest evidence isn't looking good.

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