Both the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers play exhibition games this week at home, and it is safe to say that each will outdraw the Los Angeles Chargers' first glorified scrimmage for live people. I mean, how hard is it to exceed 21,054?
But I come not to condemn the 5,946 fans who did not buy tickets to see the Chargers lose to Seattle in the teram's new stadium-ette, but to praise them. Theirs is the truer statement.
If those seats went unsold because exhibition football is a contemptible scam that more and more people are understanding as such, good that they didn't go. If those seats went unsold because Chargers fans are still upset at losing their team, good that they skipped it. If those seats went unsold because the in-game experience is clearly inferior to the on-couch experience, good on that, too.
Whatever the reason (and we know it wasn't Michael Bennett's decision to sit out the anthem), here's to every empty seat. May their numbers multiply.
And why, you ask, is this a good thing? Well, an absent fan is making a statement about being a smart consumer, about fan dissatisfaction, about not being a sheep, about not buying into the myth that only bad fans skip games.
Good fans skip games because they are saying, "Your job is to entertain me, not the other way around. You have failed to meet your burden. Do better." Whether it means more wins, shorter lines, cheaper prices or superior customer service, those chairs convey the message that whatever is being sold isn't being bought, and football has always sold the notion that it is the event that cannot be missed when clearly, it can. Why else would they now declare that a stadium capacity that is 85 percent sold out is officially "sold out."
Or maybe this is the message that the in-house attendance is no longer so important except as an ancillary revenue source. That is certainly part of the message behind the Raiders going to Las Vegas – the introduction of the regional franchise whose audience streams from home rather than schleps to a publicly-extorted stadium.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's just America's way of parroting the old Mark Cuban line, "Pigs get fed and hogs get butchered." We can only hope.
Either way, every empty seat at the Coliseum or the Palais du Jed this weekend is to be feted as the customer statement it actually is. And if there are no empty seats (an unlikely notion but still), then that will be a statement too.
A statement that for games that don't matter, there's one born every miunute.