Should Jameis Winston become a Rays fan?

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Yesterday in Tallahassee, several Florida State University football players auditioned for NFL scouts in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft. Among the football hopefuls was Jameis Winston, who may be the number one pick.

As the Tampa Bay Bucs have the first pick in the draft, there are many rumors the team will select Winston. With Winston in mind, many Tampa Bay sports media and other parties watched the Florida State quarterback at the FSU audition.

Along with the physical showcase, Winston was also asked several questions by members of the media. According to Justin Pawlowski of BucsBlitz.com, one of these questions involved the Rays.

Before I get into Jameis’s reply, let me first discuss Pawlowski’s comment to Winston’s reply. For whatever reason the Tampa Bay media seems to have given up – or maybe they never took the baton – defending the local Major League team. I know Pawlowski’s comment was supposed to be a joke, but it doesn’t ring of optimism. Can you imagine if Winston said he was a Yankees fan to New England Patriots’ beat writers? They would have told him that’s the wrong answer and that he better change his socks. But the Tampa Bay sports media doesn’t take that tone. They shrug and accept. That’s sad.

As for Jameis, this is a bit of a public relations faux pas. No matter which team takes him, he will become a member of that city’s athletic landscape. And he will probably be one of the biggest sports figures in that city. The correct answer should have been, “I’m sure I will root for the team in whatever city I play in.”

That sounds political, but that’s ok. The entire draft process is an interview and in an interview, you are supposed to give politically safe answers. Jameis should want to say the right things.

In Jameis’s defense, he has never had reason to root for the Rays. According to the NY Times/Facebook study, his home zip code area of 35022 is 36% Braves, 15% Yankees, and 11% Red Sox. And Jameis’s college area of Tallahassee is predominantly Yankees according to NYT/Facebook.

But what if Evan Longoria or Chris Archer were watching? Do you think they would want to socialize with Jameis were he to join the Bucs? What if former Seminole and current Rays manager Kevin Cash was watching? Do you think he would be open to giving Jameis a tour of the clubhouse if he openly roots for a division rival?

Sometime after the NFL Draft, the Rays will probably want the Bucs’ first pick to throw out the first pitch at Tropicana Field. If it is Jameis Winston, the game could turn into an event and possibly draw a significant amount of Bucs fans and Florida State fans. Unfortunately, Jameis’s answer yesterday might lead to trepidation by the Rays front office that he might not accept the invite. Or that he might not be sincere when putting on a Rays jersey. Or that it will lead to an awkward, “Maybe now you will become a Rays fan.”

Perhaps someone will teach Jameis Winston the right way to appeal to a local constituency. Hopefully if Winston does come to Tampa Bay, he doesn’t walk the line of our local mayors, who openly hobnob with both the Rays and their spring training team and wear two different team jerseys during baseball season.

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