Does Tampa care about the Rays?

I’ve heard often enough that Tampa people don’t like to cross the bridge to attend Rays games, but could it be that in a sports bar (called the Dugout, no less) in Tampa, the interest in the Rays’ historical playoff run is virtually nil?

And further, could the interest in the Rays historical run be considerably less in Tampa than St. Pete? I haven’t conducted a formal poll, but my sense of it is: yes, Tampa people don’t care nearly as much. I live in St. Pete and work in Tampa. You see all sorts of folks festooned in Rays gear in the ’burg, not nearly as much in Tampa.

Wanna talk sports bars? Check out Ferg’s on the day of a Rays game; whether the Bucs or on another channel or not, the joint is Rays-crazy. Folks have told me similar tales about other sports bars in St. Pete.

Let’s assume that it’s true, that Tampa isn’t particularly dialed in to the Rays. (And my apologies to Rays fanatics and Tampa; I know you exist).

That’s pretty weak. Those of us who live in St. Pete have to listen to out-of-town TV announcers call the team the Tampa Rays constantly. You’d think that would be enough for Tampa folks to perk up.

It underscores a much bigger issue: the lie that Tampa Bay is one big market with no rivalries or competition between cities. I’ve never thought that was true, and this just underscores it.

But c’mon, Tampa people. It’s not too late. The Rays/Red Sox series starts Friday. Did you know?

Earlier this week, I edited Wade Tatangelo’s Bar Tab column — which I do every week, and try not to when I’m hung over — where he told the story of ending up at a sports bar in Seminole Heights at 4 p.m. last Sunday.

That’s when, you may remember, the Tampa Bay Rays were playing their third playoff game (ever) against the Chicago White Sox, and the Tampa Bay Bucs were squaring off with the Denver Broncos.

Before those games, I alleged small-market fan abuse. If the N.Y. Giants had a game, would Major League Baseball schedule a Yankees or Mets playoff game directly opposite it? No chance.

But I, as they say, digress.

When Wade and a buddy showed up at the Dugout Tavern in Seminole Heights, the two big screen TVs were showing the Bucs — even the one with “Rays” taped under it. Another set was showing a NASCAR race. The only place the baseball game was showing was on a small set above a booth in the back. And no one was watching it.

That got me really wondering.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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