Ira Kaufman reports that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell does not believe the fan base of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has eroded.
"Tampa's a great market,'' Goodell said at this week’s NFL meeting in Houston. “I know how passionate the fans are down there. I also know the team is doing everything it can to get people into the stadium."
But attendance has been an issue in Tampa Bay. The Bucs were the only NFL team who did not sell out a single home game last season and that led to local television blackouts. The first two games this season did not sell out, but the streak ended when the Bucs hosted Indianapolis in a “Monday Night Football’’ game on Oct. 3.
That one sellout hasn’t solved all the problems. The Bucs have until 4:15 p.m. Thursday to sell out Sunday’s home game with New Orleans or else the game will not be televised locally. The team has yet to give any indication of if the Saints game will sell out.
Goodell’s right that Tampa Bay’s fan base has not eroded. I live in Tampa and the Bucs are a topic of conversation everywhere I go. You see Bucs shirts and hats all over town. But you just don’t see a lot of fans at Raymond James Stadium.
Goodell pointed to the economy and noted that the Tampa Bay area has been hit particularly hard. That’s a very valid point. The economy is an issue everywhere, but Tampa Bay has felt it more than most areas.
When I talk to friends and acquaintances and ask them why they don’t go to Bucs games, the overwhelming answer is that they still like and follow the team, but can’t afford to go to games.