First of all, I can sympathize with all sides of this issue. I think most people bring valid points to the table. That said, attendance threads, in whatever form they take, are almost always a complete waste. Why is that? It seems like everyone acknowledges that they’re unproductive, but the same script plays out time and time again. I certainly contributed my fair share long ago.
Presumptuousness, hostility, and generalizations abound, but more than anything else, I think the driving force behind the breakdown of these threads is a lack of empathy, on all sides. The central issue here is emotion. We all have something invested in the Rays, and a lot of us do at a deeper level vis-a-vis our hometown. Longoria and Price have perfectly rational points of view, and their frustration is understandable. On the other hand, by virtue of their position, it is impossible for a lot of people not to see them through the lens of "the spoiled athlete", whether right or wrong.
To a certain extent, the dynamic of the debate on this issue will never change. At the same time though, we have to realize that the stakes will eventually be raised and that it will be Sternberg and Silverman expressing these concerns in the context of a decision-making process. The emotion invested by everyone will be the same, but the consequences of their actions will be far greater than any backlash that disgruntled players could cause.
If this region hopes to keep the team, we all need to do better. We need to be better about supporting the team. Better about cooperating in the politics of the stadium process. Better about laying off the judgmental attitude and blame-shifting that seems to foster a lot of excuses but very few solutions. That's what it comes down to, and collectively those are the kind of factors that we can all control.
We face unique challenges as a market due to our size, average income, demographics, and corporate presence. Cynics will argue that this is why Tampa Bay can't succeed as a sports market. Apologists always will always cite these factors in an attempt to paint the status quo as acceptable. I'm sympathetic to how the present economy makes a whole new ballgame out of the debate, but that can't be used as a crutch for avoiding a frank discussion about the larger, endemic issues that our area has always faced, and will continue to face in the future.
Let’s be clear: We have the burden of proving the cynics wrong about our area, and it is up to us as a community to create the conditions necessary for that to happen. Ad hominem attacks don't further us towards that goal. Reactionary pessimism doesn't either. Inflammatory comments by people of influence are especially unhelpful.
I'm immensely proud of my hometown and my home county, but above all else I am proud of my home region. Few things are closer to my heart, and I hope that in the future more people will aside the parochialism that inhibits us. Quite frankly, we can't afford it. We’re too constrained by our inherent challenges as a market to be creating artificial ones based on a lack of maturity.
Eventually, we will reap what we sow, for better or worse. If we continue punting on the substantive questions before us, or devolving into personal sniping in lieu of addressing the issues honestly and with an open mind, we will lose this team. I believe in the potential of our area to do great things, and indeed we must do great things to sustain a successful major league baseball franchise in this area. This isn’t something that only a few can do, and with the rest acting as free riders. Everyone must contribute their support, depending on their abilities and desires, but we can all do more.
Some in the area will profess no interest in sports, but surely the euphoria that so many feel from the Rays’ success isn’t lost on them. It brings us together as a community behind ‘our team’, as the 2008 playoff run did, and therein lies the beauty of the Rays as a civic asset. Some take more pleasure from the team than others, and obviously I am preaching to the choir on DRaysBay, but whether directly or indirectly, everyone in the area benefits from the pride that the team’s success creates for the area.
Let’s move forward on the tough challenges that we face, as a region and as neighbors, unified in the same spirit that drives our hopes for the Rays’ postseason success. Let’s keep a thriving baseball team in Tampa Bay, and let’s create an atmosphere that befits one.