Dick Vitale lashes out at Rays fanbase

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Like most small market teams, the Rays don’t have many celebrity fans. There are pro wrestlers Hulk Hogan, Brian Knobbs, and occasionally John Cena, comedian Rob Schnieder (last seen in 2008), and Robin Zander, the lead singer of Cheap Trick. But one celebrity stands out above the rest. One celebrity has had season tickets for years and is on the Rays Fan Wall of Fame.

Broadcasting legend Dick Vitale.

Dickie V is perhaps the most well-known Rays fan in sports circles. He has been an advocate for the (Devil) Rays during his ESPN broadcasts. He hosted an “Intro to the Trop” video back in 1998, selling fans on why they should come out to the game.

“When you come to the Trop, you are coming to one of the greatest sports and entertainment facilities in the world.”

There is no doubt he supports the team.

But unfortunately, Dickie V. doesn’t show the same support to the Rays fanbase. For some strange reason, Dick Vitale seems to think it is constructive to call out Rays fans for not going to games.

I’m not sure how this logic works.

The following, for example, is not a call to action:

Dickie V 06192014

This isn’t the first time Vitale has taken a picture of the right field corner and made a comment about the lack of attendance. Note to Dickie V.: You don’t attract bees with vinegar.

Of course, several Rays fans took offense and got into a tit-for-tat tweet-off with the famed announcer. Surprisingly, Dickie V. responded, leaning on the usual tropes that:

  • Rays prices are reasonable
  • The team needs a new stadium (but what about “The place to be is Tropicana Field, baby!”?)
  • The Rays haven’t put up big numbers when winning
  • You can support the Rays by buying a ticket
  • Vitale’s season tickets equal his support

The whole exchange is interesting. Check it out.

Dickie V. is an enthusiastic supporter of sports. But not going to a day game on a Wednesday does not make someone less of a fan. That is a horrible assumption. What about the working fans? What about the fans in college? What about the unemployed fan who can’t afford a ticket? It is absolutely ludicrous to judge a fan based on their attendance. Dickie V. should know better.

Not to mention, yesterday was the second highest attended Wednesday game of the season and the highest attended of the six games played versus Baltimore so far in 2014. Not that 12,000 is great, but it is an improvement over 11,000 or 10,000.

This is where the Rays organization (again) needs to be more proactive. This is not the first time Dickie V. has called out the fanbase. Having your most famous fan in social media tiffs with other Rays fans is not good for business. The Rays haven’t used Dickie V. for promotional work in a while. If memory serves right, he used to be on the scoreboard calling for fans to get loud among other appearances. But that hasn’t been the case recently.

Maybe there is a reason for that.

Dick Vitale has clout. He is a respected name in the sports community. People listen to Dick Vitale. Being a member of the Rays Fan Wall of Fame, he is a representative of the Rays fanbase. The Rays bequeathed that upon him. But when he calls out supporters of the Tampa Bay Rays for lack of support, he is disparaging the organization.

According to the rules guiding a submission into the Rays Fan Wall of Fame, “Participants must not include any of the following content (the “Content Restrictions”) in any Submission: (vi) content that denigrates, disparages or reflects negatively on the MLB Entities, their owners and employees, or the game of baseball”.

Making jokes about Rays attendance reflects negatively on the Tampa Bay Rays. I am not sure if the rules change after one is inducted in the Wall of Fame, but if not, the powers that be with the Rays may have to consider removing Dick Vitale from the Rays Wall of Fame if the comments and twitter wars continue.

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3 comments for “Dick Vitale lashes out at Rays fanbase

  1. Sebo
    June 20, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I’m not entirely sure how you arrived at the conclusion that he’s somehow disparaging the Rays organization when he criticises the fans. Who’s to say there aren’t powerful people within the franchise itself who agree with his stance, albeit quietly?

    Even if his comments *can* be interpreted as disparaging, it’s not like he’s contractually obligated to shut up about the fans. This isn’t Stu Sternberg and Evan Longoria going on camera and ripping their own fanbase for everyone to see.

    “Fan-shaming” is only a bad thing when your own fanbase is being put on blast. It’s fine and dandy when somebody else is being bullied, though.

    “Powers that be with the Rays may have to consider removing Dick Vitale from the Rays Wall of Fame if the comments and twitter wars continue.”

    Let’s pump the breaks for just a second here.

    It would be the height of hypocrisy if Sternberg himself had the final say in removing Dickie V from the fans wall of fame, given his own criticisms of the fans, not to mention his explicit desire to abandon one side of the bay for the other.

    At any rate, what would ostracizing their most famous (or most visible) fan accomplish? Anything? That act alone won’t foster more goodwill or solidarity among the existing fans. It won’t lead to a surge in ticket sales or TV viewership. And it sure as heck won’t solve the structural problems surrounding the Rays’ ongoing existence in St Pete.

    • Mike Lortz
      June 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Absolutely great comment. Thank you.

      I consider attendance a marketing objective. And the Wall of Fame is a marketing gimmick. If someone on the Wall of Fame is not happy, then the organization should find out why. In this case, Dick Vitale is not happy with attendance outcome. He is not happy with a part of the Rays income stream. From a business perspective, it says the Rays aren’t selling tickets – which is true. How many people go to games and the level of acceptance for that attendance is the Rays’ business. Not Dick Vitale’s. For Dick Vitale to criticize it is inferring the Rays need to do more in their business model. For all we know, Stu Sternberg might be flipping tables and cursing out employees every time the Rays fail to draw 12,000. No reports say that’s true. Ownership has chosen the path. They could be considering bring in new ideas, new marketing people, etc. We have no idea.

      You are absolutely correct that removing Dickie V would create more problems. But talking to him and creating a positive solution and encouraging fans to come out instead of tweeting “where are they?” would be much better for all parties.

      In the meantime, all Dickie V did was rile up parts of the fanbase. Attendance is a sensitive subject for all those who are big fans. Led by the Rays, people should working together.

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