I think Bob nailed the Rays attendance hubbub pretty good last night, but I figured I’d add my thoughts.
No one is saying that it’s wonderful that the Rays drew poorly last night (or draw poorly in general), but I think the notion of blaming Rays fans for their apathy or failure to support the team is myopic.
Yes, there was a history of losing there that has been hard to overcome, but there are institutional problems that have always meant for poor attendance and always will make for poor attendance for the club. The park sucks. It’s separated from the main population center of the Bay Area — Tampa — by a long and annoying bridge. The people that do live in St. Petersburg are not demographically ideal for baseball. Many of them are also likely transplants as well, and have loyalties to other teams.
We’ve heard all of this before, of course, so I’m a bit puzzled at the “why won’t Rays fans support their team!” comments this morning. Not so much from David Price and Evan Longoria — they’re emotional about it, I get that — but from a lot of fans on the web and on Twitter.
For example, one of my friends on the web noted that, like Florida, Philadelphia suffers from 12% unemployment right now, and they’ve sold out hundreds of games in a row. Well, yeah. But that team has also played baseball in that town for a 127 years, the population of Philadelphia is seriously from Philly, and the park is both beautiful and accessible. It’s a gross understatement to say that those things matter, and it’s an unfair simplification of things to slam Rays fans for failing to support their team.
Buster Olney added a nice bit to this in his column this morning as well: marketing matters. He takes David Price and Evan Longoria’s comments about the attendance and pretends a bagel shop owner said the same thing. It’s understandably silly. Location matters. Marketing matters. Market matters. In this, the Rays are fighting against the tide (and in some cases, have themselves to blame).
I think the Rays fans that do show up are great fans. But I get why many don’t show up. It may lead to the team leaving someday. If so, hey, that’s business, and it has always been a possibility with this team. I don’t see it, however, as a reason to cast aspersions on an entire market.