Thursday, October 2, 2008

The bandwagon is full. For now.

With the veep debate upon us and football season in full swing, I've forgotten to acknowledge that the Tampa Bay Rays will play the first playoff game in franchise history this afternoon.

Good for them.

I won't pretend to care because: I'm from Houston and, thus, I'm an Astros fan; it's hard to develop affection for a team you've only followed for about nine months; and I don't really like baseball.

But at least I'm being honest. There's nothing more distasteful to me than bandwagon fans and it appears that the Tampa Bay area has a fair share of them - not surprising since so many people here are transplants from New York, Boston and Chicago.

Keep in mind, this was a franchise that finished 26th out of 30 teams in average attendance this year. There are reasons for this:

The Rays play in an antiquated indoor stadium in a provincial market where per capital income ranks among the lowest in the game. The team's $44 million payroll is second-lowest in baseball to the Florida Marlins', and it does not figure to rise to the level of more well-heeled franchises in the coming seasons. ... The Rays drew crowds of 30,000 or more on 23 occasions (winning 21 times), though eight of those were boosted by free Saturday-night postgame concerts by the likes of LL Cool J, Trace Adkins, and Kool & the Gang. As recently as Sept. 18, with the Rays closing in on a playoff berth, they drew just 17,296 against the Minnesota Twins.

All that to say, Las Vegas or Charlotte could have themselves a pro baseball team within a decade.

That, of course, shouldn't detract from the improbable success of the Rays this season. But it's obvious that St. Petersburg - and probably the Tampa Bay area as a whole - doesn't deserve or can't support (same thing) a baseball franchise. And a couple weeks of good times in the Trop this October ain't gonna change that.

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