You fickle fair weather Florida fans.

You know who you are. The last time you were at a Rays game, you were wearing your Red Sox or Yankees hats and shirts. Why? Because you used to live ‘up North’ 20 years ago.

Now you’ve showed up at the Rays first playoff game with your brand new Rays outfit on. You’ll be gone the second game of the 2009 season after opening day.

Egh, I’m conflicted. I think the bigger culprits here are the morons who thought that the Florida needed a second baseball team. Plus, I understand that it must have been very difficult for fans to get get behind a team that was consistently 50 games under .500.

I have the game on now, and I have to say it’s nice to see some people in the crowd for once, though. I visited that stadium in 2001, and between the horrible, dark dome, the empty stands, and the horrible Devil Ray team, I concluded that I’ve been to funerals that were more upbeat. So, since some fans seemingly turned out today, I think that’s good they’re having fun and good for the team.

One more thing, though: I do hate the Marlins. As a life-long, die-hard Phillie fan who has not seen one championship in my life (from all four of our teams), it’s really annoying that the Marlins have won twice in their first ten years of existence, and no one will go there. I’m willing to give the Rays the benefit of the doubt, for now, that if the Rays do well in the playoffs they will gain some true fans. If that doesn’t happen, and, like in Miami, they’re drawing no one two years from now, I will hate them too.

The team has been in existence for how long? (And how bad have they been throughout their existence?) They’re competing for fan loyalty against teams that have been rooted for for multiple generations. As a Boston fan I’m more then willing to cut the fans in the Tampa area some slack. A deep fan base doesn’t come into being overnight, and for all practical purposes Tampa Bay has been in existence for about that long.

10 years. They came into the league the same year as the Diamondbacks, 1998.

I"m cool with the fan being a Red Sox fan and staying a Red Sox fan. But, becoming a Rays fan now that they’re doing well and dumping them the second they don’t…reminds me of the 300 fan drawing Florida Marlins.

Yes, but the Rays had shitty ownership until 2 years ago, and the Diamondbacks haven’t. I don’t blame the fans at all; we’ve been told all year that the Rays are going to fall apart, and every year until now they have- except the years when they were never any good to begin with.

Go Rays!

As a transplanted NY sports fan now in Vegas by way of Tampa, I’ve seen this “fair-weather” phenomenon on both coasts, and I’d like to add MHO in an attempt to explain it (if not excuse it).

I spent 7 years in Tampa, early to mid-90s. During that time, my only pro sports exposure was the NFL Bucs. Routinely, the only games that sold out were against division rivals Green Bay and Chicago–mostly due to people from those regions planning their vacations around the games. The problem was simple–the Culverhouse regime was putting an inferior product on the field, and that showed in the lack of interest from the local populace.

Cities without a major-league sports history/tradition don’t have the luxury of a built-in fan base that places like Chicago, Boston, NY etc. have. In order for the franchises in these places to be successful past the point where the novelty of “hey, we got a major sports team!” wears off, you have to put a good product out there. The D-Backs have done this to the point that they draw even in a substandard season. The NFL Cardinals, OTOH, still depend heavily on out-of-towners and transplants to fill the seats. I went to a Cards-Jets game a couple of years ago, and the place was more than half Jet fans.

That having been said, I look with not a little shame at the attendance figures for the Marlins and Rays. OK, the Rays pretty much sucked until this year, but come on! They were at or near the top of the division the entire season, and still rest near the bottom of the attendance figures. It makes me wonder if anyone in the Bay area even gives a rat’s patootie. When we were seeking a MLB franchise, it was all anyone could talk about. Now they start winning, and still no one shows up.

The Marlins are an even bigger mystery. They’re in the hunt almost every season, and every time I watch highlights from the games on Sportscenter, I see nothing but rows and rows of empty seats.

I’d be curious to hear from fans from these areas regarding exactly what the problem is. Is it ticket prices, the stadium, apathy, or a combination of factors?

Oh, and: Go Rays!

There was a group of five in our row last night wearing their red Red Sox jerseys. Not sure why they showed up a week early. But there they were. It’s fun when they get tossed out of games, though, so it’s often worth it.

The Rays have been very very bad for a very long time. I went (with a couple of Braves-fan friends) to two of the games they played in Orlando this season (at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, which is about a million times nicer than The Jake), but it was more as a novelty - “Hey! There’s a ballgame here in town!” - than because we thought they’d win or something. Except during the expansion year, the Bucs didn’t sell out of season tickets once until 1995 - the first year that the team finally became consistently good. If the Rays’ brass have the stones to keep the team here for another ten years (and they aren’t below .500 for too many of those years) they’ll be a consistent sellout.

The Marlins suffer from a double whammy- South Florida fans don’t care, and the ownership guts the team every time they get good. It’s hard to root for a team when all the players you like are gone six months after you learn their names.

I think it’s a combo of apathy, ticket prices and location. But location might be the most important aspect.

For those of you not that familiar with the area, the Trop is in downtown St. Petersburg. Which has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the past 5-10 years, but it’s still St. Pete. Not a wealthy city, not easy to get to, with some bizarre demographics. Baseball has a huge culture and tradition in the Bay Area, but it is mostly from Tampa. The area where I live is close to ground zero for local baseball. Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden played ball at a high school close to my house. Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella are local boys.

Anyway, since the problem is not just the large percent of people who have moved down here from the Northeast and Midwest. It’s also that a lot of locals grew up with allegiances to the teams like the Yankees, Cardinals, Reds, Phillies, and even the Blue Jays that have, or have had, Spring Training homes here.

I don’t think the Rays are likely to set any league attendance records next year, although they’ll most likely break their own records. But there have been a steady core of about 10-12,000 fans since the beginning. I expect that number to grow a bit, maybe up into the 15-17,000 range. The place will continue to be full on Saturday nights and when we play the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Most telling, not all of the Yankees games were sell outs this year. The Rays charge more for those games, but the bandwagon Yankees fans stopped coming as their team dropped further and further behind. And a lot of Rays fans don’t like to go on nights when we play the Yankees or Sox because the folks that show up for those games in northern gear can be obnoxious and offensive. Not all of us want to expose our kids to that. It is supposed to be a game, still.

Not anymore. The Cardinals have sold out every game since they moved into the new stadium. Attending an NFL game and paying NFL prices was pretty lousy in a college stadium. The only team which really has a lot of opposing fans at the Cardinals new stadiums is the Cowboys.

I love that the Cardinals used to play at Arizona State University’s stadium and now play at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Christ, here we go again.

The fans are showing up now because the product is good. Do you know why people buy Toyotas but didn’t buy Ladas? Because the Toyota’s good and the Yugo sucked. Do you know why people buy iPods and not cheap-ass MP3 players? iPods are better.

You cannot blame Tampa/St. Pete’s residents for being more willing to support a good product on the field. That’s what sane people do. Shit, that’s what they do in New York, longtime fan base or no; compare Yankee sttendance these days to what it was back in the late 80s and early 90s when the team was shit.

It’s absurd to blame fans for refusing to support a crappy team but supporting a good team. That’s just good common sense. A baseball team is not owed anyone’s entertainment dollars. I only have so many bucks and free time to throw around, and I’m going to spend less of it on the Blue Jays when they’re bad and more when they’re good, because I derive more enjoyment from the good versions. Is that really a bad thing?

To add to that, consider that for a “northern transplant” (which, gripe as you may, represents a net gain and overall positive for your region’s economy, population and tax base) there needs to be a pretty darn good reason to give up rooting for a team they’ve spent a good chunk of their life supporting. I would expect the new local team to get a default “second horse” status, and only get promoted to the head of the list for some kind of extraordinary reason: signing one’s favorite player, doing better than one’s former team for an extended period of time, or making an awesome Cinderella story.

If the Rays make it to the World Series (never mind win it) and STILL average fewer than 25,000 a game next year, though, it will be a sign that Tampa folks just don’t really care about MLB.

I don’t mind bandwagoners - they are a big part of what makes a special season special.

Meh. There’s something especially upsetting when you see the crowd at a playoff game doing the wave.

I’m a lifetime baseball, and specifically Blue Jays, fan. I happily do the wave.

Baseball’s supposed to be fun. What’s the harm in new fans getting into the excitement of it all?

And that’s assuming that increased playoff crowds are in fact new fans, which in most cases is probably wrong. Crowds of 15,000 becoming 35,000 do not mean that 20,000 fair-weather fans have magically appeared; what it likely means is simply that more regular fans are showing up for the same games. Through the course of the season it’s not the same fans showing up to all 162 games. Lots of dedicated fans will only go to 2 games, or 4, or 10 or 15 or 6, or whatever their budgets and time will allow. So each night you’re seeing different fans show up. When playoff games roll around, the desire of each fan to go increases dramatically, so a lot of folks who went to a limited number of regular season games show up.

I USED to be a die-hard Yankees fan, and I used to look down on “Fair weather” fans in other markets. I used to sneer at Dodger fans who arrived late, worked on their tans, left early to beat the traffic, and didn’t seem to mind whether or not the Dodgers won.

Now that I’m a slightly more sane adult, I realize something: those Dodger fans had the right idea! They were a LOT smarter than I was. I suffered with the Yankees- THEY just had a good time.

Watching baseball is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be entertainment. If you invest any more importance in the game than that, you’re being silly. There’s not a single player on your (or my) favorite team who knows or cares whether you live or die. EVERY player on your favorite team would abandon you in a second if he thought he could get a nickel more someplace else. It’s absurd to offer any sports team any more loyalty or devotion than it offers you.

The fair weather fans of Tampa have the right idea. They live in FLORIDA, for crying out loud, so they have plenty of recreational options. If the Rays are doing well, they’ll show up at the ballpark now and then. If the Rays suck, they’ll go to the beach instead.

Let’s use some analogies outside sports. If Harrison Ford were your favorite actor, and he made 10 lousy movies in a row, would you keep paying to see all those movies, out of “loyalty”? Would you scoff at people who skipped “Hollywood Homicide,” and call them “fair weather fans”?

Would you keep going to a once-great restaurant that had served you nothing but lousy food for 30 years? Would you sneer at people who stopped dining there, calling them “fair weather eaters,” and feeling superior to them because of your dedication?

Of COURSE not! Only in sports do people take pride in their willingness to pay out big bucks for a product they don’t even enjoy!

It is important to understand that the fans don’t owe the team any loyalty whatsoever. If the team stinks, as the Rays have stunk for every year before this one, the good people there have no obligation to fork over their money, just as they have no obligation to go to the movies to buy tickets for a bad movie.

Do you know who Bronson Arroyo and Mike Lowell are?

aren’t you a diamondback fan? It seems kind of shitty to call Rays fans fairweather when the diamondbacks had immediate success and won a world series in their 3rd season. It’s awfully presumptuous to make claims as to how another team’s fanbase should act when yours never had to go through the same thing. If you’re not a D-backs fan, of course, disregard all of this.

go rays!