Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tampa Bay Is Not A Sports City

The improbable run of the Tampa Bay Rays is over. After clawing their way into the post season (Thanks to a colossal collapse by the Boston Red Sox) the Rays were eliminated by the Texas Rangers. Owner Stuart Sternberg was disappointed by the lack of fan support the Rays received in their finale and publicly questioned why more people didn't turn out for the games. Does he have a legitimate gripe?

To be fair Tampa Bay is not a sports town. It's a place people go to enjoy sunny days, nice beaches, and warm water. Sports will ever be the focal point of that community. The Florida Marlins are in a similar situation in Miami. They've won 2 World Series titles and still have to use quirky gimmicks to get fans in the seats. The only difference is they have a larger population to draw from (There are 2.5 million people in Dade county) and the city has a longer tradition with their sports teams.

It is the curse of the small market. No matter how successful your team is (in any sport) certain cities just don't have the demographic to support a high level of fan participation. Everyone knows football trumps all other sporting events and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the biggest thing going down there. Even if the Rays won the World Series they would not get as much support as the Bucs.

In a perfect world winning equals more fans which leads to more money to keep a viable product on the field. In the real world fans are fickle and success doesn't always equate to fan support. No matter what the Tampa Bay Rays do there's a limit and a threshold as to how many people will have a vested interest. The sun always wins in Tampa and there's nothing you can do about it.

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