We have proven time and again in St. Louis that we’re one of the best pro sports towns in the country. The Cardinals simply need to open the gates to draw 3 million fans, the Blues get 17,000 a game just for trying hard, and the Rams had to fall to the depths of the NFL standings to see their twelve year sellout string end.
As great as we are with pro sports, St. Louis is simply a bandwagon college town. The September 5 Mizzou-Illinois football matchup is a perfect example. As I write this on Friday morning, August 28, there are 5,000 tickets left for that game. This follows a recent trend in the Mizzou-Illinois basketball rivalry, where tickets have been available at the gate on the day of the game.
Last year, when Mizzou opened the season at #6 and Illinois came in at #20, the game drew 66,441. That 52-42 thriller came on the heels of the 2007 heart stopper,
in which Mizzou outscored Illinois 40-34.
At the beginning of the series, in 2002, Mizzou-Illinois drew 61,876, with 63,576 attending in 2003. When the series resumed with the classic ’07 affair, 62,352 showed up.
So, the deal is this. If Mizzou and Illinois are ranked and have high expectations, the Edward Jones Dome will sell out on Labor Day weekend. If they just provide great entertainment, we can expect the game to fall 3,000-4,500 short of capacity. I know the economy is having an affect on lots of people this year, but even when times were good, this game didn’t sell out unless both teams were ranked.
Being a bandwagon fan base isn’t a bad thing. Cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami and Cincinnati have pro sports fans that don’t sell out games unless the team is winning big. We don’t have Division I College Football, so the sport isn’t ingrained into our consciousness.
But when Mizzou-Illinois football series leaves St. Louis after next season, we shouldn’t complain.