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Sports Illustrated sticks foot in mouth over Rays' attendance ahead of Hurricane Irma

Twitter needs a time out.

Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Most Floridians spent yesterday and will spend today preparing for the possible landfall of a Category 5 hurricane, which has been measured as the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

This preparation — which is ongoing for several of our writers — includes shopping for canned goods, getting sandbags and installing hurricane shutters. It also includes monitoring the storm and mapping evacuation routes, which change every three hours as forecasts are updated. Those living in hurricane-prone areas know the drill.

But, apparently, Sports Illustrated and assorted Twitter “experts,” and even our friends at SB Nation’s Twinkie Town, think we in the Tampa Bay area are doing this wrong.

Despite the statewide state of emergency, which exists in every county, and ongoing mandatory evacuations to our south, Rays fans should have spent last night and this afternoon at Tropicana Field watching a baseball game.

Sports Illustrated leads the way

The worst offender was Sports Illustrated, once (we thought) a leader in sports journalism.

Since then the tweet has been deleted and the article from which it came has been dramatically rewritten to reflect the severity of Hurricane Irma, but the original work was focused on the Rays low attendance.

Needless to say, Sports Illustrated was lambasted for their poor taste and the article has since been heavily altered with their social media shares of the article just getting deleted.

The fact that this writer was able to go to his editor and then have the article cleared all to take a shot at the Rays attendance is just baffling, as every news outlet in the country seems to have fixated on Hurricane Irma at least at some point after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation.

For what it is worth, Daniel Rapaport did apologize for how the article read and how it was shared on social media.

One the one hand, he accepts responsibility, but not before putting the blame squarely on his editor. What was the back and forth?

Daniel Rapaport: "Hey should I write an article about how bad the attendance was for this game? They are both playoff contenders it's pretty terrible"

Sports Illustrated Editor: "Well, there is a hurricane..."

Daniel: "Sure, sure. I'll put that in. But still, crazy low, right?"

Editor: "No! Let’s follow the Rays attendance narrative instead!”

If you’re going to take ownership, take ownership.

Et tu, Twinkie Town?

There are another dozen or so tweets out there that use last night’s attendance as an excuse to bash the Rays and their fans without any reference to the circumstances, but we were especially hurt to see our sister site, Twinkie Town, go there in its game recap:

There were about 12 people in attendance at Tropicana Field today, and it made complete sense, seeing as most of this game was less interesting to me than the one wall in my apartment that is a slightly different white than the rest of them.

First, Twinkie Town, if a tense pitching duel in the middle of a pennant race is boring to you then perhaps you are watching the wrong sport.

Second, do you really want to rag on attendance at Tropicana Field without noting the emergency conditions? Because if you do, I’m afraid we need to remind you of this game.

Moving on.

But it wasn’t just Sports Illustrated!

Perhaps those out of the region just don’t get how nerve-wracking it can be when a hurricane is coming your way. The local media, however, should understand.

Smith is the Sports Director for our local Fox affiliate. Presumably he lives in this area.

We are trying to figure out how one looks around at one’s neighbors scurrying to clean out their gutters and board up their windows and thinks “you know, this is the time to complain about Rays attendance!”

We are proud to say that DRB had the perfect response:

Yes, attendance is a problem

The Rays remain in contention for a Wild Card, and they were playing another contending team. Under most circumstances such a game deserves a good crowd of fans. We will state for the record: The Rays don’t have robust game attendance. We’d like to see this improve.

We invite those who felt they needed comment on it last night to discuss stadium, marketing, and all those other issues with us. Maybe in November, when hurricane season is over.

But now? But when the state is under a hurricane watch? Really?

Yes, many people, including those who really ought to know better, decided that a hurricane watch was a good moment to get snarky about Tropicana Field’s low attendance.

Because why drop a comfortable and familiar gag just because people's’ homes and lives are at risk?

Some guidelines in anticipation of a poorly attended game today

The Rays and Twins will face off again this afternoon, and with the Tampa Bay area still in the “cone of uncertainty” we can predict that most people in the area will not attend, either preparing for the hurricane or grappling with other personal and work obligations that may be disrupted if the area gets hit.

So here are some steps to follow if you want to report the facts without coming across as tone-deaf and devoid of compassion.

  1. If you feel you need to comment on attendance do so in the context of the state of emergency in place
  2. If you don’t know what to do with your overwhelming urge to complain about Rays fans or urge a move to Montreal, take that energy and channel it to figuring out how you can donate or volunteer to help hurricane victims, whether we end up having those in the Tampa Bay area, or elsewhere. Believe me, we’ll all feel better!

What to do if you live in Florida?

It does not matter who you are: Baseball is not your top priority. Everyone in the path of this storm, please put your family, property, neighbors and selves first.

You can find the Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Preparedness Guide here.

Furthermore, lest anyone forget, the Rays have one of the best Radio broadcasts in baseball, so as you prep, tune in to 620 WDAE for Rays Radio with Dave, Andy and Neil. It’s possible to be a Rays fan even when driving about and searching for propane tanks.

Thank you all for your readership, stay safe, and Go Rays.