Devil Rays attendance before winning ways

Devil Rays attendance before winning ways

Living in Central Florida during the first five years of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (they should’ve never dropped the Devil) existence, nobody gave a damn about the team. Through my four (maybe five) years of college at the University of Central Florida – which coincided with the first four years of the Devil Rays’ existence – I can honestly say I never remember seeing a single hat, shirt, jersey, or bumper sticker supporting the team. Even when I would travel home to the Bay Area to see my family – nothing. From 2002-2007, the Devil Rays averaged just more than 15,000 fans a game.

Winning cures all. A friend of mine living in Florida recently informed me there’s now a “Ray Nation.” Over the past 14 home games, the Rays have averaged more than 27,000 fans a pop.

"Ray Nation" now that the team is winning

"Ray Nation" now that the team is winning

Some things will never change. In professional sports, most fan bases will desert their teams in bad times and rally around them in good. While there are exceptions – the Chicago Cubs, Green Bay Packers, and Cleveland Browns come to mind – it holds true in most cities, particularly the ones I’m familiar with … Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.

When I was growing up, the Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts stunk. Despite a pint-sized dome, the Colts were an easy ticket pre-Manning and until the mid-90s finding a seat at a Bucs game was like finding sand in a desert. In 1996, the Bucs filled their stadium – then Houlihans Stadium – to 56 percent capacity.

Now that both teams have become winning franchises, the Bucs draw great crowds and good luck finding a Colts ticket for less than $150.

The Indiana Pacers recently stumbled upon bad times and what do you know – a fan base that was once considered among the league’s best ranked dead last in attendance last season.

Fair-weather fans … an epidemic that will live on as long as sports do.

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