The Raptors and Fan Interaction Part III

An empty ACC may be more of a "panic-pusher" than anything Bryan Colangelo sees on the court...


In the final part of his Friday afternoon mini-series, Franchise looks at attendance and wonders if decreased fan interaction may cause MLSE to prematurely "push the button."

As we've been discussing on the site, this could be a very long season for fans of the Toronto Raptors.

Little talent, injuries to "key" players early on, and a tough schedule to boot make for a foreboding situation.

However in the end, does any of this really matter if fans keep coming to games, keep buying Raptors-related paraphernalia, and keep discussing the club as fervently as they have?

Perhaps not.

MLSE's coffers keep filling up and as we've seen with their brethren, the Maple Leafs, the on-court product could stay at an abysmal level for years.

However I think as fans we can safely say that Bryan Colangelo is a proud man.

He's not one to admit defeat, and he's not one to keep trying until he feels he's got the right pieces in place.  We know quite well that if the pieces aren't right, we can expect some major changes.

As a parting thought in my recap of Toronto's loss to Charlotte Wednesday night, I noted that Bruce Arthur and I had been discussing one of the major issues we saw with this club going forward; could Bryan Colangelo leave well enough alone to ensure this team landed a top spot in next spring's draft lottery?

It's the million dollar question in my books and I'm just not sure if BC can put his pride on the shelf for 6 months.

But last night I got thinking about something else.

Forget pride, what if there's another element that comes into play forcing Colangelo to push the panic button?  What if things get so bad that the ultimate whipping strap comes out; MLSE losing money.

Can this happen?

Well without getting into all the economics of how MLSE operates, that's highly doubtful thanks to their other endeavours.

But what about the Raps themselves?

The team is 11th in overall attendance but a good chunk of that comes from their road games.  At home they're averaging the 20th worst attendance record in the league at just over 15,700 a game.  To put that in perspective, the Clippers, Timberwolves and yes, Bobcats are all averaging more fans.

That's a problem.

The team didn't sell-out the home opener for the first time in eons, and Wednesday's match vs. the Bobcats (granted it was the Bobcats) was akin to a home game in Atlanta.

And it goes beyond just "asses in the seats."

The fan interaction at games is a far cry from even last season and while the Raptors are doing their best via Twitter and NBA TV Canada to promote the brand, this isn't the Leafs.  At some point (and it could be very soon), fan interaction may be the real harbinger of change, not the team's record, coaching or play.

And don't think MLSE doesn't know this.

Just in the past week I've seen promotions via various Twitter deal sites that had Raptors' tickets discounted by 51%, and emails and other medium offering Raptors' merchandise at cut rates.  The red flags are showing, and MLSE is trying to use every avenue possible to get fan interaction back up.

That's why as rough as it's been on the court so far, I'm finding it fascinating to watch this season unfold as it could be the first time since the franchise's inception that fan interaction (and therefore economics) dictates decisions.

If the club continues on a 10 win pace (essentially what Toronto is on right now), fans may indeed see the true colours of MLSE...

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