Until this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had played to, well, if not always sold out crowds in Raymond James Stadium since the facility opened in 1998, crowds that were sufficiently large enough to encourage management to gobble up the remainder of the tickets so that the league mandated 72 hour blackout rule was never put into effect.
But after a dreadful 2009 season that included a completely new identity led by head coach Raheem Morris, expectations were as low as they had been prior to coach Tony Dungy turned the franchise around in the mid 1990's.
Which is why it's one thing to understand that the Bucs, with a 3-1 record that makes them one of the pleasant surprises of the nascent 2010 season, did not sell out this weekend against the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
But to presume that they won't ever sell out in 2010? That's apparently what Buc management is saying, according to a story published in Tuesday's St. Petersburg Times.
A team spokesman confirmed Monday that the Bucs expect to fall short of a sellout against New Orleans and, most likely, for the five home games after that. That means local television blackouts are virtually certain the rest of the way. The club's previous two home games in the regular season and both preseason home contests were blacked out.
It was thought that the Bucs' recent success, plus a match up against the Super Bowl champion Saints, might spark ticket sales. But the Bucs' season-ticket base (believed to be 40,000 to 50,000) makes it difficult to sell enough individual tickets to sell out the 65,000-seat stadium.
Now I know that we're still dealing with one of the worst economic crises of many of our lifetimes. And with the cheapest ticket available listed at $40 (with many others available ranging from $79 to $105), it's an extravagant item that you can bet will run you additional $20 bills, whether you're paying for parking, beer, a program and other concessions.
But come on, people. Is it because there aren't very many household names on the Buc team? I mean, my Oakland Raiders have had their share of blackouts over the years out in the San Francisco Bay Area, but nobody from their ticket office in recent years has ever said in early October that he doubted that any of the games remaining on the schedule would actually sell out.
Way to downgrade the community? Or is it realistic? If so, that's interesting.
Ever go out on the weekends in the Bay area? Some of our most expensive restaurants in town are still packed. There have been some big concerts this week in town:Vampire Weekend, Flaming Lips and smaller indie rock shows as well that have all sold well.
With the weather (thankfully)cooler, it's not even that major of a hardship to sit out at the stadium on Sunday afternoons.
As somebody who isn't a Buccaneer fan, I'm not complaining, just observing. It does seem strange that with a winning team in a football crazed state, management would concede this early that they'll never sell out the rest of the year.