Go Ahead and Ring Those Cowbells

This is directed in part to raysfanboy, who dares to taunt the ghost of Pedro, but more to the local Tampa Bay sports radio commentators and callers, who disparage Red Sox nation at every turn. They tend to claim that the Rays are “all grown up” and have taken control of Tropicana Field. As a Red Sox fan who regularly attends games at the Trop, I watch Rays fans ring their bells with the same disposition that I watch my two-year old daughter almost color within the lines: “that’s so cute, its almost like a grown-up would do it.”

I will readily admit that Rays fans are showing up in greater numbers since the end of 2008, but let’s not forget that the the Trop was, and still in large part “is,” the house that Pedro built. As always, I decided to do some research.

First, my initial hypothesis: I expected to find that Rays attendance spiked significantly whenever the Northeastern Axis of Baseball came to town: that is, the Red Sox or the Yankees. I admit I was wrong. Over the course of the 2008 and early 2009 season, attendance consistently spikes only when the Red Sox come to town. And I do mean significantly.

Some numbers (to keep my calculator time to a minimum, I’m rounding off to the nearest thousand):

  • Attendance for non-Red Sox/Yankee games: 1.323k, 21k a game
  • Attendance for Yankee games: 183k, 20k a game
  • Attendance for Red Sox games: 297k, 33k a game

How about some breakdown? Attendance for the first twelve games of 2008? 182k. Attendance for the three game series against the Red Sox? 98k. The opening game of the Red Sox series saw 30,290 fans–the night before a whooping 9,540 turned out to see the Royals. That 9540 was the biggest turnout for the entire series. The night after the Sox left town, hello 12,039.

I probably don’t need more evidence, but to be certain: the 2005 Rays (I picked this season at random) drew more than 20,000 fans to 14 games all season. They drew 30,000 plus fans 3 times all season. How did the Red Sox play into that? 7/14 and 3/3. Wait, did I really just say that they only drew 20,000 fans 14 times for an entire year? Don’t feel too bad Rays fans. The Sox had trouble drawing 20,000 fans a game. In 1966.

Some serious reflection–I think the argument that the stadium’s location hurts attendance is realer than people imagine. The Rays average significantly more fans on the weekends than they do during the week. Were the stadium closer to where people actually live (in Tampa rather than St. Petersburg), then I think they could significantly boost attendance. Another problem with the Trop is one that I don’t know how to fix: its in a rather unappealing area. Every major baseball culture I have known has a kind of cultural carnival surrounding their stadium. Cask and Flagon, Stan’s Sports Bar, Sheffield Grill; for those who haven’t visited: do you know what’s around the Trop? Parking lots and industrial plants and convenience stores so sketchy I find myself grabbing my wallet as I pass by… in the car… Addressing the location of the stadium, which will likely not happen until the current lease runs out in 2016, would drastically improve the appeal of Rays games. So then, they might not rank last in the AL in attendance for another 7 straight years. Sorry, sorry, cheap shot…

These issues aside, the Rays fan base is steadily developing. Even in a down economy this year, ticket sales are up over 20% at last glance. They’ve got fiscal control over plenty of young talent (but, fanboy, seriously, you have to come to grips with the fact that this is the Carl Crawford good-bye Tampa tour) and should, avoiding mismanagement, be a competitive force in baseball’s best division for at least the next five years.

But, let’s be frank. You don’t have to like the Nation, Rays fans, but you better respect us. Because the minute we stop coming to your stadium, you are going to have to start rooting for the Albuquerque Rays (“Oh, oh, so hard to resist. Mesquite-grilled onions, jalapeño relish … wait a minute, those are Southwestern ingredients. [the crowd gasps] Mango-lime salsa? That’s the kind of bold flavor they enjoy in … Albuquerque!” Hungry, Hungry Homer).

In the meantime, go ahead, ring your cowbells. Its ok, we give you permission, I mean, hey, we paid for the damn things anyway.

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4 comments

  1. raysfanboy

    My friend, allow me to rebut.

    I find it very interesting to hear such trash talk coming from a fan of a team who got knocked out of the playoffs by these same Rays you are trying to chastise for being immature.

    As a man who is deep into statistical analysis, I would think you would notice that when Pedro was pulling his antics (you know, beating up old men like Don Zimmer) and putting out solid numbers against the Rays, the Tampa Bay franchise was a shambles. We had rent-a-players and AAA boys trying to play major league baseball. We were terrible, and we knew it. It was tough baseball to watch, but I, and many of the other Rays faithful, went to the Trop, turned on the tv, and enjoyed it for what it was: baseball in Tampa Bay.

    How can you try to hang your hat on beating up on that kind of a franchise?

    It would be like you coloring a perfect picture while your young girl (who I look forward to meeting the next time we see each other, by the way) came close to coloring in the lines and you proclaiming, “I’m better than you are!!!!”

    Of course you are. You should be.

    And you are seriously comparing Red Sox game att to Royal game att? I think you would see splits like that anywhere in the league! It’s called “big market” vs “small market.”

    You are right on with the stadium thing, though. One Rays fan (who lives in St. Pete) tried to call out other Rays fans who live in Tampa, saying that it is ridiculous that on a weekday they can’t get over to the stadium on time. Holier than thou stuff. Ridiculous? Come on, man. YOU try to fight traffic going over that bridge to ge to the Trop. And try doing it in rush hour. And try doing it going straight from work (that is the only way you could make it on time). Asinine. OF COURSE the stadium needs to be in Tampa.

    Like you said also, Fenway and Wrigley have great atmosphere’s around them. I loved going to the Cubbie Bear or Murphy’s in Wrigleyville (hey, we even had a name for the surrouding area!). But the Trop has nothing around it. Nada. Moving it to Tampa will rectify that situation immediately. And the largest amount of people live within 30 minutes of the proposed TAMPA stadium site.

    You are right though, we do have a long way to go as a Rays franchise. I mean, we’ve only been around 12 years.

    It’s going to take us a LONG time to reach the 80-plus-year championship-less stretch you guys established up until 2004.

    I’ll take our 1 World Series appearance in two years of actually trying to play Major League Baseball the way it should be played. I’ll take it.

    Until then, be happy that you can go see your Red Sox in person at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. We will never begrudge taking your money.

    Hey! That was fun. We’ve got to hit a game sometime, buddy. (I’ll try to leave my cowbell at home that day)
    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

  2. santosis

    I would simply point out that, since your franchise has been created, Fenway Park is sold out every night. And you don’t want to know about traffic in Boston.

    On a more political note–I agree that the Rays need a new stadium location. The Trop is actually quite nice inside (I sat in old Vet in Philly and Expos stadium in Montreal–those places were dumps). The Trop needs to be in Tampa, closer to the burbs, and further away from the Q-Tips who by and large wouldn’t spend a nickel to see an earthquake.

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