If the fans don't come, does that really mean Frank McCourt goes?
That is, of course, the theory. He’s hurting for money, so bleed him out.
The logic is pretty simple: If fans stay away, that’s a lot of parking fees, hot dogs, drinks and souvenirs that go unsold. A lot of cash that dries up for a man deeply in debt.
This movement started last season, many becoming upset during the divorce proceedings when Frank and Jamie McCourt lavish lifestyles became so embarrassingly public.
Season tickets were already sold, however, and the backlash was mostly seen by the swelling number of no-shows. And they were significant. Baseball’s attendance figures are for tickets sold, so whereas the Dodgers might announce a crowd of 44,000, there were commonly nights where the actual crowd appeared 25% less.
Only now even the announced crowds are plummeting, indicating season tickets are down significantly, which the Dodgers deny.
The crowds over the weekend against the Cardinals were so off, they were just shy of embarrassing -- 31,614 on Saturday and 27,439 on Sunday. That’s not discounting the no-shows.
Now the cause of this decline can be viewed as multidimensional -- the beating of the Giants fan on opening day has some concerned for their safety, the team appears mediocre, the economy remains bad.
No doubt all of that plays some factor, but safety issues at Dodger Stadium are not new, the economy has been bad for awhile and the team wasn’t exactly a thrill-a-minute last season, either.
That leaves a McCourt backlash as the driving factor, and on that, I’m buying. A growing number of people are fed up with the McCourt ownership and are trying to make it known with closed wallets.
McCourt somehow -- amazingly -- continues to be propped up financially by Fox. They’ve made him a second loan, this one The Times' Bill Shaikin reported as a personal loan for $30 million to cover expenses into next month. McCourt’s grand bailout scheme is to sign an approximate 20-year, $3-billion deal with Fox.
Commissioner Bud Selig is understandably in no hurry to approve that deal, and since a significant chunk of it will be to pay off over $400 million in debt and to settle his divorce, he may not approve it at all.
Meanwhile, through eight home games, attendance at Dodger Stadium is already almost 50,000 off. And when you have the largest venue in baseball at 56,000, it is almost eerie when half-full.
Thanks to strong sales on opening weekend against the Giants, the Dodgers are still fourth overall in average major-league attendance (40,270). Yet if this current trend continues, they will slowly retreat toward the middle of the pack.
And that has to be a huge financial blow to McCourt, maybe even enough to finally force his hand. Anyway, that’s the theory.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Frank McCourt. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images