Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa Bay should brave costs to be true fans

I try to avoid hypocrisy, but I must confess: Even though I didn't attend Sunday's Bucs-Panthers game, I'm disappointed the game wasn't sold out.

Not being able to see the game on television doesn't bother me. How the lack of sellouts and the attendance struggles of our three major sports franchises undermine our national image does. I'm constantly arguing with out-of-town friends that the depths of our economic despair are worse than the rest of the nation. My colleague Robert Trigaux gave a litany of statistics underscoring that just last week.

Still, my friends insist Tampa Bay (and the state) is just a band of fair-weather fans and transplants who care more about their teams back home. Not even the attendance struggles of University of Florida football, the state's most tradition-laden sports entity, can convince them that economic factors are in play.

The regional economy may not be the only factor. The impact of the high-definition home entertainment experience can't be underestimated, the heat can be stifling and concessions can be daunting when not half-off — as they were Sunday.

Still, I believe in the game day experience, even on unbearably hot afternoons. I like the Bucs' new marketing campaign that makes the sun a part of fan pride. There's a sense of community you can't enjoy in your living room even if you invite a lot of friends. The anticipation of a live game can't compare with waiting for it on TV.

I'm not a season-ticket holder for any of the sports teams, but I think if every resident made it a point to get out to a few games, the attendance gap might narrow. Before the season is over, I'm going to do just that.

That's all I'm saying.

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