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Oilers find few fans willing to fill Astrodome this season

December 18, 1996

HOUSTON (AP) _ Kelly Lipinski isn’t quite ready to give up on the Houston Oilers.

She and her husband were among the record-low crowd of 15,131 fans who showed up at the Astrodome on Sunday for the team’s last home game this season.

``They’re still our home team,″ Mrs. Lipinski insisted. ``I’m still an Oilers fan, always have been. That’s just me, even though I know they’re leaving.″

From sports call-in radio shows to the Internet, there are jokes being made about people like Mrs. Lipinski. Obviously she got a free ticket, some might snicker. Others might speculate on the state of her sanity.

After all, why in the world would anyone subject themselves to watch the lame-duck Oilers? Why would you put your heart on the line for a love that is about to leave you for Nashville?

Mrs. Lipinski laughs at the speculation. Without reservation, she admits that she had a good time on Sunday despite the disappointing 21-13 loss to Cincinnati Bengals.

Not only did she enjoy herself, but she would even go again.

``If the tickets were a lot less, I’d go a lot more.″

Is there no end to the self-sacrifice?

Well, maybe.

The Lipinskis sat among the fewest number of fans ever at an Oilers game in the Astrodome.

``Before we went we said we’d probably make history and be part of the smallest crowd ever at an Oilers’ game,″ Mrs. Lipinski said. ``It was kind of comical.″

More like tragicomedy.

Considering the lowest previous attendance for the Oilers also was this year (20,107), when the Oilers played the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 24, chances are attendance isn’t about to dramatically rise anytime soon.

The Oilers plan to pack up for Nashville when their lease expires after the 1997 season.

Owner Bud Adams has said that the current Astrodome configuration leaves no room for more luxury box seating and therefore, he claims, he continues to lose money.

``I’m really sad to see them go because I feel like we supported them in the up and down years and they’re deserting us for more money,″ Mrs. Lipinski said.

But if they are still here next year, she’ll go.

``There are the few of us,″ she says of Oilers fans. ``I’m very supportive of the team and their players.″

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