April 11, 2015
The Phillies beat the Washington Nationals Friday night. Starting pitcher Jerome Williams had a solid outing, and they were able to pick up just enough offense to carry the team to take the series opener.
Sadly, though, not many people were there to see it.
The last time the Phillies drew less than 20K: April 26, 2006 vs. Colorado, when there were 19,182. Tonight: 19,047.— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) April 11, 2015
The last time the team drew less fans than Friday night's total, they were playing on the astroturf at Veterans Stadium.
Tonight's attendance is the smallest at home since Sept. 3, 2003, when Phillies drew 18,002 vs. Expos at Veterans Stadium.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 11, 2015
That sad fact might back up the claims of a younger Jimmy Rollins, who criticized Phillies fans back in the team's glory days for being "front-runners." There's probably some truth to that with any fan-base, but Philadelphians carry a lot of pride for sticking with their team no matter what, and we tend to get pretty defensive when our loyalty gets called in to question.
So what do the numbers say? Are Philly fans of the fair-weather variety, or do they stick around when the going gets tough? Here's a look at the attendance of each of the four major teams in the last 5 seasons to try and find out. (All stats via ESPN.com, league rankings from total attendance)
Ranking in the middle of the league in attendance when the team was as bad as they were last year is actually sort of impressive. There's obviously a pretty clear drop-off from the Phillies five year run of NL East dominance to what they are now, but they actually ranked above a couple playoff teams (Kansas City, Oakland) and just below another (Pittsburgh) in 2014.
While the record seems to go hand-in-hand with attendance, Phillies fans have outperformed several small market teams' supporters who have had more recent success.
To be completely fair, there hasn't been much to get excited about with this team since Allen Iverson left. Mired in mediocrity for about a decade, the number of those heading to the Wells Fargo Center for professional basketball has been about just as average.
That is, of course, until the recent rebuilding efforts truly kicked in, resulting in a 19 win season last year and subsequently abysmal attendance. However, if the combination Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and whomever the team selects in the next few drafts becomes a winning core, expect those numbers to turn around. The Sixers filled the arena at capacity following their 2000-01 championship run.
Flyers fans have historically come out strong no matter how the team performs. The stadium was almost always close to full even during the lockout-shortened 2006-2007 season when they were pretty bad.
This year, they still rank among the top teams in terms of total attendance despite inconsistent play and slim playoff hopes (which were mercifully laid to rest recently). Hockey fans tend to be exceedingly loyal compared to the other major sports, and with the orange and the black that holds especially true.
Don't let those league rankings fool you. The only thing keeping the Eagles from being among the top teams in attendance is the amount of seats in Lincoln Financial Field, as the team is always playing in front of a full crowd. In 2014, for example, Miami topped Philly in total attendance, but only filled their stadium at an average capacity of about 92 percent.
Adding 1,600 new seats last season didn't stop fans from filling the Linc to the brim, and attendance was unfazed during Andy Reid's lame duck year in 2012. Even if Chip Kelly's roster shakeup doesn't pan out this year, don't expect any change in the numbers.
Conclusion: Eagles and Flyers fans show up no matter what, Sixers fans have remained understandably skeptical to pay for the price of admission, while Phillies fans tend to come and go depending on the team's success.
*Season not finished yet.