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Though NFL teams have until Thursday afternoon to sell enough tickets to avoid a blackout, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already admitted defeat for this Sunday’s home game.On Monday, the team said the game probably wouldn’t sell out. Then yesterday, the sports director of the radio broadcast confirmed that a blackout would be in place.
The Bucs have ranged from terrible to mediocre in recent years, but they’ve won three of their four games this year. On Sunday, they host the defending Super Bowl champ and division rival New Orleans Saints. It marks the third time in three 2010 home games that the Bucs have failed to fill Raymond James Stadium. And if the team can’t sell out this marquee matchup, they probably won’t sell out any of their eight home games.
This isn’t the first time we’ve alluded to a lack of fan support in Tampa. Only a few weeks ago Tampa Bay Ray players complained of paltry attendance during their playoff run.
You have to question Tampa’s ability to support a sports franchise. Obviously, the NHL (Lightning), NFL, and MLB all believed, at one point or another, that it’s a viable area for professional sports. But the inability of these teams to draw fans – even during good seasons – lends evidence to the contrary.
Buccaneer’s head coach Raheem Morris doesn’t think the problem lies with Tampa, but rather with the league enforcing the archaic blackout rule in the current economy. (Real estate-dependent Tampa has been hit especially hard by the recession. The city’s unemployment rate is 45 per cent higher than the national average.)
Morris isn’t wrong to question the rule. Financially speaking, it seems the league is trading greater traction among younger fans in the long run, for a few extra thousand tickets in the short term. And we’ve learned from football mastermind Bill Belichick that future youngsters are more valuable than current stars.
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