The Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Fire are doing remarkably at the box office. What makes that interesting at first glance is the historical disparity between Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. What makes this trend even more fascinating is that the Chicago White Sox are competitive, and mediocre, while the Chicago Fire are winless in eight games.
Here’s the attendance figures for the Fire’s four home games in 2014:
14,903 last night, April 19th versus the New England Revolution 15,743, April 5th versus the Philadelphia Union 12,699, home opener versus the New York Red Bulls: 16,228.
That average out to 14,893.25
The Sox drew 15,157 versus Detroit on April 30th, 17,023 the night before, and 11,268 monday vs Tampa, and 17,313 for the Tuesday game in the series.
That averages out to 15,190.25
Obviously, the Fire will applaud this development much more than the Chicago White Sox would. The Southsiders (the baseball team on the south side, the soccer team also happens to be located on the southside) have topped the 18,000 mark in just three of 18 games this season. They are second to last in MLB in attendance. However, this isn’t just a Chicago thing.
In the ESPN survey, both leagues claimed 18% of 12- to 17-year-olds as avid fans of their sport.
The ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report, managed by Luker on Trends, interviews 1,500 Americans per month and tracks interest in 31 different sports. In 2012, the poll determined soccer was America’s second-most popular sport for those aged 12-24, ahead of NBA, MLB and college football. The NFL led the poll with 39 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds saying they are avid fans. The NBA, college football and college basketball were all over 23 percent. The current poll was released on the eve of MLS’s 19th season.
The Fire are in last place in the Eastern Conference, and they have the second fewest points in all of MLS. The Chicago White Sox, on the other hand, are right there in the division race, and possess a newly revamped offense that makes their 2014 product much more fun to watch than their 2013 product. Yet here we are, in some ways on somewhat equal footing.
The White Sox drew very poorly versus the Boston Red Sox, and that’s an alarming development for the club. The big brand name teams usually draw big crowds. Yes, the weather has been awful, but the weather was equally awful for half of the Fire games too. Their season opener drew the biggest crowd, and the high temperature that day was actually 27 degrees. I’m not joking. Neither the Cubs nor the Sox have had to contend with weather that atrocious for a home date. It will be interesting to see what happens with the attendance if the Chicago White Sox hang around the race until August, and Detroit takes longer than usual to run away with the AL Central.
And if the Fire can finally break through with a win.
Fire Coach Frank Yallop on how frustrated he feels
“I feel terrible because I thought tactically we had it figured out. We did great in the first half, but the game is 90 minutes. You got to punish them with another goal, but I said at half time ‘they are going to come at you because they’re good.’ I don’t think we really wanted to win that game because we didn’t show it. If we wanted to, we would have put our head through the ball, and be good at that stuff. We had a total collapse in a game we should have won.”
Well, it’s probably not any solace to him, but his side is doing well at the gate.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks is a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, who’s been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)
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