(rare photographic evidence of Tropicana Field with a sizable crowd in attendance)
A 4-0, home loss to Baltimore Monday night would’ve clinched an AL playoff berth for Tampa had the host prevailed, delaying by at least a day what in all likelihood will be the Rays qualifying for the postseason for just the second time in franchise history. This nearly-momentous occasion was witnessed by fewer than 13,oo0 paying customers, a circumstance that caused Rays 3B Evan Longoria to complain, “for the fans to show the kind of support they’re showing right now, you kind of wonder what else you have to do as a player.” P David Price echoed Longoria’s sentiments, tweeting that Monday’s attendance was “embarrassing”. In the considered view of the St. Petersburg Times’ John Romano — who freely admits these turnouts are brutally poor (“for a market that wants to be big league, for a fan base that claims to be rabid, 12,446 has to be considered highly disappointing”) — “it is poor judgment to criticize the very people who help fund their paychecks on the first and 15th of every month.” Except of course, Longoria and Price were criticizing the people who don’t fund their paychecks.
It’s not that Longoria, or other Rays players, forfeit their opinions because of their bank accounts. All of us have rights to our own opinions. Still, the players have to understand how this sounds to the mother or father trying to decide whether tonight is the night to juggle the family budget so they can afford the cost of tickets and parking and a hot dog.
The simple truth is athletes and entertainers in this country are ridiculously overpaid. Now I certainly don’t blame them for that. They have special talents, and they are cashing in on America’s fascination with celebrity and sports.
But you can’t make more money than an entire neighborhood, then question why the people in that neighborhood aren’t showing up to watch you perform.
Because, in the end, the problem is not Tampa Bay’s fans. The guy in the car next to you is not at fault. The teacher at your local elementary school is not to blame. The problem is the market itself. It has some inherent problems, and those problems are larger than a single ticket buyer.
It has to do with a lack of corporations and high-paying jobs. It has to do with challenging geography and fixed incomes. It has to do with a lack of community identity. And, yes, it might have to do with a particular stadium.
I would absolutely agree with anyone who says that Tampa Bay is not a great sports market.
I just think it defeats the purpose when Tampa Bay’s biggest stars are the ones saying it.