What's up FanNation!!!!!!!  It's ya boy Calilove!!!!  With my first edition of Are You Serious??!!  This is a serious look around the sports world we all know and love!!!!  So heeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrreeeee weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee goooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

Are you Serious??!! - There are no butts in the seats at Jacobs Field!!! MLB wide there is a serious drop in attendance!!  In Cleveland, maybe there is a LeBron effect. He left the city. The Browns left the city once, too. The Indians got rid of some fan favorites. And maybe this city of sports fanatics just has a sense of inevitability to it, that its love is a one-way relationship. Maybe Cleveland is like Charlie Brown finally realizing that Lucy is not going to keep that football there for him to kick. So why keep embarrassing themselves? There are all sorts of excuses for the Indians' super-low attendance( and they're off to a great start!). And the league itself has excuses, too, for what has been the dominant thing in baseball so far this season: Empty seats. Rows of empty seats. Yes, it's too early to draw conclusions, but I think baseball has some serious, fundamental problems here. As families sit around the kitchen table in this economy, trying to figure out where to spend and where to cut, baseball is being marginalized. Maybe it's just that April baseball isn't making the cut, and families will still show up when the sun and warmth come. But the problem with that argument is that April baseball this year isn't drawing as well as April baseball last year.

Baseball has had a few years in a row of falling attendance, but Commissioner Bud Selig seemed to think this year wouldn't change. And he didn't sound like a used car salesman when he said it, but rather someone going on cold numbers and projections.  Instead, there have been reports that six teams have already had the worst single-game attendance in their stadiums' history. It was 13,000 in Atlanta, 12,000 in Seattle, fewer than 9,000 in Pittsburgh. The Yankees and Cubs have had uncharacteristically huge expanses of empty seats. And in Cleveland, where the team has been surprisingly hot and hopeful, six games have already drawn fewer than 10,000 fans. What gives? A lot of things. At least, let's just say I have my theories.

The NFL and NBA don't seem to have attendance problems, so it's impossible to pin this entire trend, if that's what it is, on the economy. In Cleveland, though, the economy has hit harder than most places. Enough people still have money to fill a stadium. But baseball has way, way, too many games, and hardly any single game carries any significance. Any four-game losing streak always leads to players and managers saying that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Exactly. And how fun is it to watch a marathon that starts in March and ends in November. It is a long, drawn-out season in a society with an ever-shortening attention span. And the season takes months to crystallize.

The NBA season is long, too, with a lot of meaningless games. But that league, unlike baseball, is filled, now, with superstars and brands that people want to pay to see. And baseball is not a sport that connects with the Beautiful People with money who go to games less for sport than just to be seen. In the NBA, BPs sit courtside. The NFL has just eight home games a year, and the sport is infinitely easier to follow than baseball, not to mention, cheaper.

There are reports that the drop in baseball attendance is just under 4 percent. At this point, you can still blame the weather if you want. But it just seems that the economy has forced fans away from baseball more than any other major sport. Meanwhile, the disconnect between baseball fans and players seems greater than ever, as ticket prices inched up so that fans can pay the players' huge salaries. I don't know. I suspect people tend to look at early-season numbers like this every year. There are still tons of baseball fans. But I wonder how many of them have been going to baseball out of habit. Now, looking for places to cut in the budget, they have started to think about why they are going. Meanwhile, baseball isn't the national pastime anymore. It is a local game with local popularity played in 30 markets. As a result, one team doesn't sell another one, anymore. I mean, in the old days, you watch a thrilling World Series, and it makes you want to go to your own team's games. I'm not sure it works that way anymore. People in San Francisco loved the Series last year, and to a lesser extent, in Texas, too. But nationally, as a sport, baseball just has almost no buzz this year. And that makes attendance fall even more.  At Wrigley Field, the fan base lived for years on being lovable losers. Then, it became The Place to be in Chicago. Now, the team has no hope again, and fans just don't seem inclined to go. I grew up a baseball fanatic, but in this time, and this economy, 81 home games at huge prices in a marathon that drags from the Final Four, through the NBA playoffs and into the NFL season? Too much.


Are you Serious??!! - Dale Jr. hasn't won a race in I think 100 plus starts and he basically got Jimmie Johnson out of his slump!!  Dale Earnhardt Jr. deserves a lot more than the piece of cloth on a stick teammate Jimmie Johnson gave him Sunday after Johnson won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt deserves a winner's check and a trophy as much as Johnson does. Without Earnhardt, Johnson couldn't have won his 54th Sprint Cup race. Without Johnson, Earnhardt wouldn't have been in the mix, either. Restrictor-plate racing has evolved into a team competition and should be treated accordingly. In pairs figure skating, both the man and the woman get a medal. In synchronized swimming, we don't award a gold medal to one winning competitor and a bronze to the other. Well, now we have synchronized racing, and it's vastly different from the way plate racing used to be. Remember when Kurt Busch pushed former teammate Ryan Newman to victory in the 2008 Daytona 500? That was a product of unfolding circumstances on the final lap. In the case of Johnson and Earnhardt, the pairing up was planned before the race, and the Nos. 48 and 88 Chevrolets were inseparable throughout the event. Their pairing lasted longer than an infield marriage. Johnson's comments after the race were particularly telling. "Before we knew it, we found ourselves in third after we took the white-and a decent gap from us to the leaders," Johnson said in describing the action at the end of the race. Got that? He said "third." Wrong. After taking the white flag that indicated one lap to go, Johnson and Earnhardt surged into fifth and sixth places through Turn 2. Johnson said "third" because he was thinking of the cars in pairs, not as individual competitors.

Moments after Earnhardt pushed Johnson past Clint Bowyer at the finish, crew chief Steve Letarte radioed to Earnhardt, "Both y'all won that race-both y'all." In a very real sense, Letarte was right. Johnson and Earnhardt planned to race together from the outset and remained committed to that plan for 500 miles. The only time their cars were separated by an appreciable distance was when Earnhardt parked on pit road as a top-five finisher, and Johnson drove to victory lane. Johnson's gift of the checkered flag to Earnhardt was acknowledgment that the duo won as a team, not as individual racers. Clearly, NASCAR isn't about to crown two winners in a plate race. That being the case, maybe it's time to rethink the scenario where a driver can't win independent of a drafting partner. Jeff Gordon asserts that two-car hookups are "here to stay," because two cars linked together bumper-to-bumper are faster than single cars and faster than cars drafting in large packs. It's a conundrum for NASCAR. Shrinking the openings in the restrictor plates designed to reduce horsepower, which NASCAR did for Sunday's race, slows the raw speed of the cars, but it facilitates two-car hookups, thanks to increased stability at slower speeds. NASCAR could force the cars apart by enlarging the plate openings and creating greater instability, but speeds would quickly exceed 200 mph-as they did at Daytona in February before NASCAR shrank the plate openings there. Speeds in excess of 200 mph are perceived as perilous to drivers and spectators alike. Perhaps we should just take solace in the realization that pairs racing produced a scintillating finish that matched Ricky Craven's .002-second win over Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2003 as the closest since the introduction of electronic timing and scoring in 1993. That said, just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to win a plate race, and Earnhardt was just as integral to Johnson's victory as Johnson was. Too bad all he has to show for it is a checkered flag, a fourth-place check, a winless streak that reached 101 races and an IOU from Jimmie Johnson.

Are you Serious??!! - The NFL might have another Diva in a few years??!!  Yes another Favre!!!!!!!!!!  Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has stayed quiet this offseason, dropping no hints of another NFL comeback. But that hasn't removed the famous name for one significant quarterback competition. Dylan Favre, Brett's nephew and a Mississippi State sophomore, remains in the hunt to win the starting job this fall. Dylan Favre impressed coaches in the MSU starting job after a solid spring and an especially impressive Maroon and White Game earlier this month. His 17-of-26, 199-yard performance included leading the Maroon's game-winning drive, a family specialty. The 59-yard march ended with a short touchdown run with 1:19 remaining. Although coach Dan Mullen called his quarterback race "wide open" among Favre, Chris Relf and Tyler Russell, Favre remains a longshot. Relf, a fifth-year with SEC starting experience, is the frontrunner. But Mullen suggested Favre has the skills to be a future first-stringer. The challenge now is to improve Favre's knowledge of the scheme and help him learn he doesn't need to carry the team, unlike in high school.

Here's a Serious look at spring football!!!  With six tackles and a quarterback hurry as a tackle and an end against Notre Dame's first team offensive line, highly touted Irish early enrollee Aaron Lynch looked like a future star in Saturday's spring game. So it goes with games-lots of attention, and lots of coaches telling everyone to take a chill pill. Here's a look at some other sources of over-reaction Saturday:

  • Jacory Harris, QB, Miami: Two more interceptions for the veteran Hurricane shouldn't bump him from the derby for the starting spot, which should stretch into August. Coach Al Golden pardoned his quarterbacks, saying UM had practiced only seven pass plays.
  • Rob Bolden, QB, Penn State: The maybe-starter threw an interception on his first snap and went 0-for-5 in the Happy Valley rain. Now, the drama: will he transfer to start somewhere else, or hang in a competition with Matt McGloin that coach Joe Paterno said he won't resolve yet?
  • Jamal Turner, WR, Nebraska: A 59-yard punt return, 54-yard kickoff return and 49-yard touchdown catch had Huskers fans thinking they had found another Niles Paul. But Turner, an early enrollee who played quarterback in high school, needs work on route running and blocking.
  • Gus Malzahn, Offensive Coordinator, Auburn: Neither he nor coach Gene Chizik named a starting quarterback after candidates Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley finished their springs Saturday. Smart guys, those two. They'll wait for freshman Kiehl Frazier to join the competition this summer.
  • Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: Bray, UT's most proven quarterback missed his first eight throws and finished 5-for-30 against a defense heavy on Vols' reserves. Backup Matt Simms enjoyed a smoother day, but bank on Bray staying the starter.
  • Connor Norman, DB, Georgia: The walk-on's three pass break-ups and interception appear the perfect elixir for a struggling secondary. Still, coach Mark Richt suggested Norman's ceiling, for now, is some special teams duty.

That's my time this week Nation!!!!  As a reminder for more Serious blogging options come on over to Babes, Beer, and Sports!!!!  If you're serious about all sports this is the place to be!!!  Don't forget to check us out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 19, 2011  03:00 PM ET

Wow! Great post. NASCAR comments were right on.

When I first read it, I thought it said "it's a boy" i thought I'd missed some news! LOL

April 19, 2011  03:03 PM ET

LOL!! Thanks for coming out UBP!!!! I thought I would get it started!!!! What do you think??

April 19, 2011  04:42 PM ET

In depth as usual.

With the baseball season being so long added to an economy that is still struggling and I think you'll just be seeing more of this. The NBA season is about half, NFL even shorter so there are less opportunities so even though the Fan base for the NBA is smaller, a higher % tend to attend games. The Rangers have had pretty good attendance, but mainly a carry over from last year and the strong start they got off to. We'll see what happens during the 105 degree summer day games or if they slump.

Jr had the fastest car, but for them to draft he had to push jimmy. Jimmy would never pull over for Jr or ANYONE else to win. Even if he did, once a car pulled out of the draft to pass, they dropped like a stone. You're right, Jr deserved the win, but he did what he thought was right for the team. That says something about his character!

Don't watch much NCAA football so don't have a clue about spring football...

April 19, 2011  09:45 PM ET

Awesome blog Cali, that part on NASCAR was far better than any race anouncers i have listened to.

The part on Cleveland is a sad commentary on where baseball may be heading. Bud Selig is getting senile and is so out of touch.

April 19, 2011  10:38 PM ET

Nice analysis. The MLB execs like to point to the economy as a copout for their failures, but they definitely have larger marketing issues with their brand.

April 20, 2011  08:04 AM ET

Impressive work, Cali. Your NASCAR analysis is on the money. I'm not fond of the restrictor plate tango, but that was an exciting finish Sunday.
I don't know what the NFL prices are by comparison, but I went to a Cubs game last year and it was over $250 for my family of 5...and those were mid-price range seats.

April 21, 2011  06:42 AM ET

You had me scared with the Favre reference...

Good analysis.

April 21, 2011  10:03 AM ET

Cailove, great read. Yes the attendance is down in baseball and I expect it to be a down year throughout, especially with all the negatives in baseball with the Bonds issue(roids). The fans are tired of it. Then you are correct the economy plays a part in it. Now the Commish takes over the Dodgers another problem that could have been prevented from the start. Pujols wants 300 million, which is insane. Ticket prices are up and who knows what is going to happen after the season with the "CBA" Just run all the fans away, why don't you MLB.
Now NASCAR scored with the great finish from last week.
Have a great day Calilove!

April 21, 2011  11:45 AM ET

Nice job... well researched and well stated Sir. Thank you.


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