One thing I have done on this blog is call out people who take cheap shots at Tampa Bay baseball fans. Yes, the Rays struggle with attendance. This is a fact. But it is how, when, and why people mention Rays attendance that I often have a problem with.
In context, there is nothing wrong with saying the Rays attendance stinks. I’ll agree and maybe even offer some research on where the Rays struggle the most (hint: Monday through Thursday). But what I will not abide is when people throw the Rays fanbase under the bus for no other reason than to run them over.
Since I started this blog, I have taken umbrage with Dick Vitale, an employee of the Daytona Cubs, a Durham Bulls beat writer, and political writer Dan Drezner. Each time I countered weak claims with facts, in an attempt to not only defend the fanbase, but also to inform and educate. Like most arguments, proper use and interpretation of data makes for a better discussion.
I expect to have to defend, inform, and educate media people who are not from Tampa Bay. They don’t have the facts and they are not from the area. What I do not expect, however, is to set straight other local sports bloggers. These are peers who should know better. They should be working with sites like mine to increase the knowledge level of the Tampa Bay sports community. But alas, I shouldn’t assume.
On Saturday, dozens of college football stars gathered at Tropicana Field for the annual East-West Shrine Game. This game was a showcase of players seeking to improve their draft status and play among the best competition in college football.
Attendance for the 2015 East-West Shrine Game went up 14.33% compared to the 2014 game, from 19,500 to 22,296. That’s great and something people should write about and celebrate.
But instead of accentuating the positive, two local sports bloggers used the opportunity to belittle Rays attendance. According to Bucs bloggers Gil Arcia of TheBayCave.com and Luke Easterling of DraftReport.com and BleacherReport.com,
— Gil Arcia (@GilArciaTBC) January 18, 2015
As @GilArciaTBC points out, today’s Shrine Game attendance is well above Rays’ average at the Trop. *sigh*
— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) January 18, 2015
There is absolutely no reason to bring Rays attendance into a conversation about the East-West Shrine Game. None. The only thing they have in common is the venue in which they are played.
Here are a few ways Rays baseball and the East-West Shrine Game differ:
- Different sports
- Different fan bases
- The East-West Shrine Game is a once-a-year event, Rays play 81 games
- The East-West Shrine Game is an all-star game, Rays games are regular season contests
- The East-West Shrine Game is a national level event, Rays games are marketed to the local fanbase
Comparing the two makes as much sense as comparing attendance to a music festival at Raymond James Stadium to the Bucs average attendance. They take place in the same venue. As a matter of fact, the Super Bowl has been played at Raymond James Stadium, why not compare that to a regular season Bucs game?
Because it makes as much sense as Wookies on Endor.
That local sports bloggers cater to the lowest common denominator and take pot shots at local baseball attendance feeds into the self-fulfilling prophesy that the Rays have a weak fanbase and that is the reason the team struggles with attendance. Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium often writes about self-fulfilling prophesy in regards to the consistent bashing of Tropicana Field subconsciously driving people from the ballpark.
As I pointed out to Mr. Arcia and Mr. Easterling, even if we want to compare a college football all-star game to an average regular season baseball game, and use the only thing the events have in common, day of the week, the Rays don’t look bad at all.
In their 13 Saturday games in 2014, Rays attendance was 24,320.
1,934 more fans than the East-West Shrine Game.
If you are going to critique your own neighbors, you should make sure you have your facts straight. Otherwise, you make our entire sports community look bad.
Then again, maybe that was the intent.