There are a lot of factors that are at play, but is television a major one?
There are few things around college lacrosse that generate as much chatter as the attendance issues that have recently plagued Championship Weekend. Everything from ticket prices to location to participating teams to the actual weekend in which the games are held have been put on the table as potential drivers for why the Final Four has lost about 50,000 attendees since 2007. What really hasn't been discussed? The role television is playing in all of this.
In a piece in The Post and Courier, Clemson's athletic director pretty much fingered television as the reason that people aren't sitting in bleachers these days, instead choosing to keep their lazy rumps on the couch:
Television is an important partner with college sports. But the quality of TV technology is connected to the decline in attendance.
Never has been the in-home viewing experience been better, which threatens gate receipts, and presents a paramount challenge for today’s athletic directors.
“What value-adds are you going to give ticket holders that makes them feel it is still a good allocation of their entertainment dollar to come to a game?,” Radakovich said. “Yes, television is here and they are a great partner with collegiate sports. They give a large check each and every year and I don’t know if we could exist without (television). We need to coexist. …The NFL, in mine and your lifetime, has been the most successful (sports league) and it has recognized the fact that there are things that have to be done to keep their stadiums full.”
This seems to be a decent analogue to lacrosse's attendance issues, no? (Even if college football's popularity and issues are somewhat different than college lacrosse's.) I've written it before and I'll write it again: People are lazy. You could put Championship Weekend in someone's backyard, offer free admission (you know, admission to the property that the "host" already owns and pays taxes on), and there's probably an even chance that the person will stay inside on the couch and just watch the thing on television.
Television abuses and needs our laziness as people; it can't exist if we're social and mobile and existing in the reality that our furniture shows us. College lacrosse's relationship with television is a double-edged sword; the tube helps grow the game -- a necessary considering the crowded sports market out there -- but it has also outfitted us with an excuse not to take an annual trek to see all this action live and in person. It would take a special kind of stupid for lacrosse to turn its back on television in a vain attempt to try and raise attendance, but it's hard to believe that more and more broadcasts of lacrosse games -- especially Championship Weekend when everyone has all kinds of excuses at hand to skip making the weekend trip -- aren't impacting the overall attendance of the games.
What do you guys think? Is television a driver in all of this, akin to what's happening on the kickyball side of things? The comments are yours.