103 Straight Sellouts? I'm Not Buying It

It's a sellout. Tickets still available! (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

If you've been following the Phillies over the past week, you couldn't escape the hype about the team reaching 100 straight sellouts.  They reached the milestone Thursday night against the Giants.  After another 3 sold out games against the Nationals this weekend, the streak is now 103 straight sellouts at Citizens Bank Park.  That's pretty amazing for a franchise that many of us can remember quite recently having trouble drawing more than 20,000 to a game.

But, as impressive as the Phillies' attendance has been recently, I'm having a really hard time buying this sellout story.  Six numbers are representative of why I'm having a problem here:

45,401
44,410
45,449
45,093
45,266
44,539

These are the attendance numbers at Citizens Bank Park over the past six games.  There's no doubt that they are impressive.  Yet, if they were all sellouts, as the Phillies claim, how can the more than 1,000 ticket difference from the second game to the third exist?  If it's a sellout, doesn't that mean there are no more tickets available to be sold?  More specifically, if the Phillies can sell 45,449 tickets, as they did for Thursday night's game, don't they have tickets remaining for the other five games listed here?  And by definition, isn't that not a sellout?

The front page story in the Inquirer Thursday morning about this feat explains:

In order to qualify as a sellout, Weber said, the Phillies must attract between 42,900 and 43,100 paid spectators.

"If we hit that number, we would consider it a sellout," said John Weber, the Phillies' vice president of sales and ticket operations.

Capacity at the ballpark is listed as 43,651, which means more than 1,000 fans on a typical night watch the game in standing-room only areas.

So these games aren't really sold out.  Rather, they're just deemed to be sellouts because the Phillies' marketing department thinks that somewhere between 42,900 and 43,100 sounds impressive enough to slap the label "sellout" on the attendance.  That's so, even though 43,100 tickets sold would mean 551 unsold seats (let alone the two thousand-plus unsold standing-room only tickets that would be available, as Thursday night's 45,449 attendance would indicate).

Let me make myself entirely clear -- there's no taking away from the fact that the Phillies are drawing unbelievable crowds of passionate fans to the games these days.  Phillies fans love this team and are supporting them in record numbers.

But can't we get rid of the marketing nonsense that bastardizes the English language and just use the impressive facts as they are:  that the Phillies are averaging over 45,000 tickets sold per game, which is second in baseball only to the Yankees; that they are on pace to sell almost 3.8 million tickets to games at Citizens Bank Park this year (including the three "away" games against the Blue Jays); and that the added revenue from the ticket sales is a major contributor toward putting a winning team on the field.

These are the facts, and they are amazing by themselves.  Using the word "sellout" when tickets are still available does nothing other than diminish these accomplishments.

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