The Tampa Bay Rays are exploring the madcap idea of splitting home games with Montreal.
Yes, that Montreal. The one 1,500 miles to the north, across an international border. Was Orlando not available? At least we wouldn’t need a passport.
The challenges don’t end with the distance. The team would have to deal with different currencies, tax codes, corporate sponsors, languages, climates and politics.
The two cities are only flirting, but it would be an odd marriage.
They’re urban chic. We’re flip flops at four-star restaurants.
They’re cosmopolitan. We order cosmopolitans.
Opposites better attract or this hook-up will go as well as the Julia Roberts-Lyle Lovett nuptials.
The cities have some things in common. The metro areas are about the same size — 3 million people here, about 4 million there — and in the same time zone, which would make it easy to watch games on TV.
Both have large soulless domed facilities — Tropicana Field and Olympic Stadium. And both love hockey. Maybe we can bond over that.
Another similarity: Montreal’s former major-league baseball team left after experimenting with splitting home games with Puerto Rico. Probably best that Montreal keep that to itself until the two sides get to know each other. No point in killing the early relationship glow.
Florida does a lot of business with Canada. In fact, no country is as ingrained in so many parts of the state’s economy. In 2017, Canada ranked second in foreign investment, second in exports and third in imports into the state.
Canada sends things like organic chemicals used by Florida’s fertilizer and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. Florida exports fruits and vegetables. Both swap a lot of airplane parts.
But that’s like two sets of parents who get along. It doesn’t mean their kids have much in common. How many of our local mayors would even recognize Montreal’s Valérie Plante?
Canada also ranks tops in visitors to Florida, driven by the hordes of snowbirds that show up in the fall and leave around Easter. But most French Canadians, many of whom hail from around Montreal, flock to the east coast, not the Tampa Bay area. If foreign visitors are a benchmark, the Rays might be better off splitting home games with London.
Rays leaders, known for creative thinking, are in a tough spot. No matter how well the team plays, fans don’t buy enough tickets. The team has ranked last in the American League in attendance the past four years and is likely to do it again this year.
Limiting the number of games played in the Tampa Bay area could help fill more seats. But splitting the team between two far-away cities could just as easily erode the local fan base. They might not embrace the Rays as their team anymore.
The Rays’ Montreal idea was met with almost universal derision. Critics saw it as a ploy to motivate fans and get local politicians to get behind a new stadium. Team leaders promise more answers at a Tuesday news conference. They need to pull something special from their box of tricks.
Otherwise, this two-city love affair seems doomed.
Contact Graham Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GrahamBrink.