Madison Square Garden Vice President Jack Krumpe stared glumly at the sheet of rain falling on RFK Stadium yesterday and admitted the Washington Diplomats' attendance this season has disappointed the team's new owners.
"I'm disappointed with our ability to stimulate the fans in this market," said Krumpe. "Maybe I'm an impatient fellow, but we'd been hoping to see the rewards of the stimulation we've used quicker than we have so far."
Krumpe hedged when asked about the Dips' future in Washington.
"We're still involved in a learning process," he said. "The thought of moving the club hasn't even crossed our minds. That doesn't mean that if someone makes us a great offer to move to Boise tomorrow, we wouldn't take it."
Even though the Garden, a subsidiary of Gulf and Western, signed a three-year lease with the D.C. Armory Board, Krumpe strongly hinted that the contract was not necessarily iron-clad.
"We could leave almost any time, I think, under the terms of the purchase," he said.
"The Armory Board has not been a problem," Krumpe added in response to a question. "But there are certain things we'd like to see the Armory Board respond to.
"Baseball phobia is still a problem here. We'd like to see the community, through the Armory Board, take more pride in some things, like parking facilities, concessions and other things. We don't have a problem but certainly there's room for improvement."
Krumpe did point out that although attendance this season is about the same as last, "the money from ticket sales has doubled. It's easy to get people in here if they don't pay, but that isn't a step forward. The numbers aren't as important as the dollars, and they (the dollars) are doubled."
Krumpe also indicated that Garden management was working hard to familiarize itself with the still struggling North American Soccer League before making any major decisions on how much money to spend on the Diplomats, who are 9-3 on the season.
"When I say we're learning, I mean it," Krumpe said. "We want to know as much about soccer, about Washington and about the league as we can. Then at the end of the season we can sit down and evaluate the situation."
Although Krumpe would not discuss specifics, club sources have said the new owners have been distressed by some of the low-budget franchises in the league, the plethora of clubs (24) and the extremely low-budget television contracts, both local and network, the league is involved in.
"We're looking at more than just Washington in evaluating what we want to do with this franchise," Krumpe said. "We're not going to make our decisions based strictly on this area. In our business, you look at everything. Everything counts."
In some ways yesterday's crowd of 11,450 had to be encouraging to the Garden, which purchased the five-year-old franchise last October. According to the Dips, 3,050 ticket-holders stayed home, indicating the crowd would have been closer to 16,000 or 17,000 had the weather been better.
But the steady, driving rain was only part of a pattern that has haunted the Dips almost since the day the Garden took control. First, they were frustrated in their offseason efforts to buy "name" players. Then they were hurt at the gate by playing their first six home games on Bullet play-off-game dates. And, yesterday, the weather intervened.
"Sure, we're frustrated," said the team's president, Steven I. Danzansky, as he watched early arriving fans head for cover. "But what are we going to do, criticize the Bullets for winning? Curse the weather?
"The season's half over and we're just starting to get going. This is an institutional town, you know. Abe Pollin struggled a lot of years before the Bullets became an institution. We've got the staying power to prove we're an institution too. Once we do that, we'll be there."
Danzansky is very much a man in the middle these days despite his optimistic predictions. Although he and his father, Joseph Danzansky, have maintained a partial financial interest in the club, both are aware that if the Garden is dissatisfied with the bottom-line figures on the franchise, the Diplomats will be gone.
Danzansky said last night that he is determined to see the Diplomats remain in Washington, "We will not be a part of any organization that wants to move this club from Washington," he said. "The Garden made a three-year commitment to the city and the stadium and I am certain they will honor that commitment." CAPTION: Picture, Alhinho of the Tea Men goes on his way with the ball as Rene Breevoort of the Diplomats gets a face full of mud. By Larry Morris - The Washington Post