There are plenty of reasons why Progressive Field is empty

Apparently it’s not enough that the Cleveland Indians are playing well and challenging the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central.

Now we’re supposed to drop everything we’re doing and start flooding the gates at Progressive Field. Forget about the yard that needs mowed or your kid’s baseball game. Get your fanny to downtown Cleveland and watch the Indians.

The audacity of professional sports teams often astounds me. Their over-inflated belief in the importance they play in our lives borders on ridiculous sometimes.

There’s no doubting the fact that sports consume a great deal of leisure time and for some fans they even define who they are, which is a topic for another discussion. You feel better when your favorite team wins. Monday mornings aren’t as drab when the NFL team you follow wins the day before.

Beyond that, we don’t owe teams anything. Yes, fans do need to attend games in numbers large enough to make sure franchises remain financially profitable and are in town the following year, but there are limits to that level of support.

I’m not sure management always gets it when addressing attendance issues. The feeling seems to be that fans are expected – perhaps even required – to support the boys. When the numbers don’t reflect all the good that’s taking place on the field, the true loyalty of fans is often questioned.

You’ll hear: “Don’t jump on the bandwagon in July when we’re in first place,” or, in the famous words of former Browns President Mike Holmgren, “When it does happen, don’t come to me for extra playoff tickets.”

Someone needs to get these teams a subscription to “The Wall Street Journal.” Then they’ll see just how bad the economy is, which might provide a better understanding of why the average fan doesn’t regularly attend games.

Northeast Ohio seems to be at the center of the economic mess. What jobs are available don’t pay the high wages of previous years. The Ohio unemployment rate is about 7 percent, half a percentage point lower than the national average.

You don’t have to be an expert of the Keynesian economic school of thinking to realize the economy is shaky. It’s hard to ask fans to pony up at the turnstiles when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed at home.

It’s not inexpensive to gather up a family of four, drive long distances in some cases and then go through the financial experience of game day. There are tickets to buy – $128 for four lower reserved seats at Progressive – parking costs, and food and beverages to consume. The Indians have dropped the prices of concessions considerably and now charge $3 for a hot dog and $4 for a 12-ounce domestic beer.

You’re easily looking at a $200 day at the park. Not everyone can make that happen in today’s economy.

One important fact has been forgotten when questioning the turnout rate of Indians’ fans – history. The last championship that meant anything in Cleveland was won 49 years ago by the Browns. Since the turn of the century the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers have combined for eight playoff appearances – five by the Cavs, two by the Indians and one by the Browns.

People need to realize that we don’t live in Boston, where there aren’t enough laundry cleaners to keep the championship banners looking clean. How does 33 combined titles among the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots sound, including seven since 2000.

Cleveland has one since 1964. Now you know why fans aren’t storming the gates simply because the Indians are off to a good start.

They need to earn your support instead of expecting it.