The Baltimore Stallions are heading into their biggest weekend of the 1995 season, and owner Jim Speros is wondering why so many people do not seem to care.
As of yesterday, four days before the Stallions face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the first round of the Canadian Football League playoffs at Memorial Stadium, only 13,100 tickets had been sold.
Lagging attendance has been a sore spot all year with Speros, who has watched the Stallions' average attendance drop to 30,114. That is still second-best in the CFL, but it represents a drop-off of more than 7,000 per game from Baltimore's inaugural season.
And unless the team benefits from a flurry of ticket sales over the next three days, the Stallions -- who have a 15-3 record, a 10-game winning streak and their second divisional title in as many seasons -- could be playing their most crucial game in front of their smallest crowd of the season.
"This doesn't make any sense," Speros said. "What do people want? We've got a winning product. We're in the first round of the playoffs. If they showed up last week for a game [against Hamilton] that meant nothing, where are they now? I'm a little bit confused as to why people haven't stepped up."
The Stallions drew 29,310 for Sunday's regular-season finale against Hamilton. The week before against British Columbia, a season-high 33,228 showed up.
Baltimore had clinched its divisional crown and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs before both games.
Speros expressed frustration with his season-ticket holders, who have not lined up in droves to watch the postseason. He said only about 65 percent of the Stallions' approximately 18,000 season-ticket holders have renewed for the playoffs.
"We still have to honor our corporate ticket people, and that gets us into the 18-to-19,000 range, but that's still a long way from 30,000, which I need to get us over the hump," Speros said.
Speros is counting on the Stallions playing host to two playoff games, and is hoping strong attendance will help the club soften financial loss for 1995 that he said stands at about $1.2 million. Speros figures two good weeks at the gate will cut that loss in half.
"I'm counting on those two games to give us a shot in the arm, which is what everyone counts on in the playoffs," Speros said.
"I'd like to think we're going to have a crowd of at least 30,000, but right now it's not looking too good. The players are going to take care of business on the field. On the business side, we need the fans' support now more than ever."