I was listening to Ron and Ian while driving to a meeting last week (As an aside, I have been pretty hard on Ron Diaz in this space in the past but, I have to admit that he has won me over. He’s no baseball analyst but his passion for the ballclub cannot be questioned.) and Ian made an interesting observation. The show was the day after the Bucs’ last pre-season game and the show was splitting time between final roster cuts and the Rays. Ian said “when we started this show it was hard to get callers that wanted to talk Rays, now we can’t get Bucs callers.” That comment came back to me this morning when I read this story about Bucs coach Greg Schiano pleading for community support like he’s coaching high school soccer.
Things have really changed in five years.
I have always argued that Tampa, at its core, is a baseball town. I presume that applies to the larger Bay Area as well but cannot speak as an expert on the sports histories of the other towns. This town, however, has been football crazy as of late. I attribute that to a few factors.
First, we’ve had a NFL franchise for a generation. There are fans, like me, that grew up following the Bucs without having to ditch some other loyalty. Second, since the early 90s, we have lived within a few hours of the best college football on the planet. Third, that college football success has been built on the backs of talent farmed, in large part, from the Bay area.
Of course we are football crazy. We live amidst great football and have for 20+ years. But that doesn’t change our fundamental character. That interest doesn’t preclude us from being a baseball town.
I know we aren’t selling the Trop out. I know we aren’t moving up the league rankings in attendance. But I still think something is happening. This time a few years ago, our young stars were the ones begging people to turn off the NFL pre-season and pay attention to something special that was happening at the Trop. Now, they have our attention (if not our ticket money) and the Bucs are begging for a little love. Perhaps we are on the verge of some kind of tipping point.