There once was a Cinderella in baseball this year.
The Milwaukee Brewers were the team that could -- their middle of the pack, 16th-highest payroll may not have fit the story like a glove, but the team featured a starting rotation full of pitchers that nobody wanted, and yet it was enough. They were atop a divison that also held the vaunted Cardinals, those perennial contenders, and the upstart Pirates, all full of youth and pitching.
That Brewers team hasn't been in first place since the calendar switched to September. Take a look at their season graphically, thanks to pennant-race.com.
That's a dive. Well, it's two dives, the most recent one worse than the first. They've won four out of their last twenty games. It's gotten to the point where local radio hosts in San Francisco -- whose Giants themselves played sub-.500 ball for a six-week stretch -- likened the swoon to the Brewers 'getting drunk and passing out too early.' Now the rest of the league is drawing phalluses on their passed out face, the hosts continued.
It's enough to drive you to drink, really. Has it? Has it led to more drinking in Wisconsin, or Milwaukee?
It's not an easy question to answer. Take a look at Wisconsin's beer check-in counts over the summer, and there isn't much to discern.
Maybe the arc of beer bends downwards at the end of the summer. That's about all we can see here.
But the losing streaks started in late June. Let's look at that streak, from late June until late July. Is there any uptick in beer drinking if we focus in on that specific time period?
Hard to really count that as an upward trajectory. Looks like a few weekend surges, is all.
The late losing streak, from the end of August until today, has a different story for us.
That's it! The losing streak has driven Brewers fans out of the sports bars, out of the ballpark, and out into the wild. They're drinking less because their team has begun to fall apart! It sort of makes some sense if you think about it that way. Brewers fans are finding other things to do.
Let's look at Milwaukee during this time period, to see if the trend holds up on the local level.
We've got ourselves a narrative, folks. The Brewers are driving fans onto hikes, jogging trails, and into libraries with their losses. People are drinking less -- perhaps because they aren't going to the ballpark.
Well that last one... The Brewers have been away from home for a large portion of their losing streaks. Of those last twenty that have been so terrible for the team, only half have been at home. Fans weren't going to be drinking at the park for those games anyway.
And something important happened after that last long weekend in August: School started in Milwaukee on September second. I'm not suggesting that middle schoolers are floating the untappd checkins, of course. Just that parents suddenly have things to do, things to buy, things to drive around to things their things have to do. They're too busy to drink. And so the check-in counts start suffering a little more during the week, and the weekend bounces are smaller.
Yeah, you'll probably drink a few beers during a game your team wins -- life is great! And you'll probably drink a few beers during a game your team loses -- stupid frigging manager! But you probably *won't* drink a few beers while you're driving your kid to soccer practice.
At least we hope you aren't.
Drink responsibly. Good luck coping, Brewers fans, however you do it.