I’ve looked over the Yankees’ gamelogs for attendance numbers as well as the Rays’. The one thing that always stands out is that people go to the games against the Red Sox while nobody goes to the games against the Orioles. The Red Sox were the second best team in the division last year with the Yankees and Rays flanking them. Without doubt, they are and have been a superior team to the Orioles for a while now. Ultimately, we go to games to be entertained and experience joy, so why don’t more people go to Orioles games?I'm not sure what sort of a Yankee fan would make vulgar comments about the fine population of Boston, but I would personally find that both distasteful and offensive.
It would seem that a win is more enjoyable to experience than a defeat. I’d rather go to a Rays game where they win than one where they lose. And, I’m not sure if I went to those games against the Washington Nationals last season because subconsciously I wanted to see victories, but I suppose I could’ve been on a losing strike without really knowing it. If I asked a thousand Yankee fans which team they’d rather pay to see live, 95% would say the Red Sox and the other 5% would make vulgar comments about the folks from Boston. But is this rational?
Anyhow, If you grant that attending any win is more enjoyable than attending any loss then, no, it's not rational in an economic decision making sense. The tickets to Red Sox games are much more expensive on the secondary market and the probability of witnessing a win is decidedly lower than if you go to a game against the Orioles.
Anderson supposes it might come down to the "hedonic value" of a win over the Red Sox. A win feels much better against the Sawx but I think we must also assume that a loss feels worse. And people are largely loss averse - meaning they would prefer to avoid losses even if the alternative involves the possibility of reaping gains. Prospect theory, which the concept of loss aversion comes from, contends that this is because losing something hurts more than winning the equivalent.
So why are people not loss averse when it comes to attending sporting events? Certainly a loss in playoff game is going to hurt more to witness than a regular season defeat, but the demand for the postseason is still sky-high.
I think the perceived importance of the game is a major influence on the desirability of attending and during the regular season, the opponent has the most direct impact on that importance. At any point in the season, games against the Red Sox feel like they have playoff implications for the Rays or Yanks. They might not matter at the time, but there is the notion that they may be significant in the future. The history behind any rivalry adds to the feeling of significance as well. These factors generally culminate with an energized crowd and a charged atmosphere and that's ultimately what attracts people to games against good teams.
I personally don't think it's worth the extra money to see the Red Sox when they are in town. I'm content to go to a game regardless of who it's against - I just like sitting outside, drinking a few beers and watching the game unfold. I don't worry too much about individual wins and losses - not much more than when I'm watching at home on the couch. It's always better to see your team win, but the outcome of the came usually isn't enough to taint the experience. But not everyone is like that.
The costs of going to baseball games extend beyond the money for the tickets, concessions, tolls, parking or public transportation. Fans give up precious hours of their life as well and in exchange for those, many would like to see a game that seems significant.
At the end of the post, Anderson asks, "Would you pay more money to guarantee that you are attending a victory?". I don't think so, I can't sit through a game I recorded on the DVR if I know who won. I'd rather just pay the regular price and see what happens.