“It’s The Economy Stupid”November 11th, 2010
In 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected as the 42nd president of the United States, largely running on a rallying cry from one of his trusted advisors, James Carville, who famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Just last week, a virtual national earthquake took place as voters across the land saw fit to enable Republicans to take over the House of Representatives. The theory of why this took place is widely believed to be many Americans are dissatisfied at the change promised when Obama took office two years ago, or that the change isn’t exactly what people expected.
It’s the economy, as Carville pointed out 18 years prior.
In a few short hours, the Bucs will announce the Carolina game will be blacked out. This is hardly a revelation as the Bucs earlier this year expected, based on forecast of ticket sales and the sluggish gate for all but one home game previously, something monumental would have to take place to sell out a game this season.
And folks, just because the GOP took over the House, and the Bucs are 5-3, that will not mean that all of a sudden people in this area people are back to work at their normal jobs, that their houses are no longer underwater and that people’s checking accounts are miraculously flush with cash.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the immediate Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough and Pinellas counties) 12.4 percent of the workforce is unemployed. Of course, a good chunk of fans come from outer lying areas and the unemployment news there is grim as well.
In Orlando, 11.8 of the populous are out of work. Bradenton-Sarasota area unemployment rate is 12.6. Lakeland is 13.3. Fort Myers is 13.4. Ocala is 14.3.
Those are ugly numbers folks and that doesn’t factor in those who either had their unemployment benefits dry up or those that, for simple pride, won’t collect unemployment.
Many who are employed are working two jobs or at jobs where they made a fraction of their salary some three or four years ago. A third of the area’s homes are underwater.
It’s not just here, it’s all over. Oakland broke a string of 11 consecutive blackouts. That was largely due to the fact the Raiders were playing the Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West and both teams have one of the NFL’s iconic rivalries.
The Bucs have no such rivalry.
San Diego has struggled to sell out, a team with one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and a squad expected to have much success this season. Detroit, of course, has had a rough time selling out. St. Louis needs the aid of Anheuser-Busch and local TV stations to prevent blackouts. Baseball season is over in St. Louis so locals can’t use that excuse.
Last year, when the Bucs did not have a blackout, there were 22 blackouts throughout the NFL, the most in five years. This year through eight weeks there have been 13 blackouts, including the four locally.
Yet some Bucs fans mistakenly point their fingers at Team Glazer for the root cause of the blackouts. Wha, what???
Joe has written this before in various replies to reader comments: Joe finds it disingenuous at best to mock a fan for not being a “true Bucs fan” because he or she cannot afford to go to a game. What, they are supposed to throw away a mortgage to buy season tickets, really? By that same logic, the only “true Bucs fans” buy luxury boxes.
There are other examples locally of how sports fans have been stung by the downturn in business.
The Rays won the American League East division and only when the Rays graciously gave away 20,000 free tickets was the team able to pack the Fruitdome, the final regular season home game.
Tuesday night the Lightning, having a great season with a fun, exciting new offense led by NHL scoring leader Steven Stamkos, only pulled in 16,000 on a Tuesday night where, not only was there nothing else going on, but the game was not televised locally.
Upper deck tickets for Bolts games are very, very reasonable and a Bolts game is a fantastic time. Just a couple of years ago, the Bolts had two straight seasons of sellouts with a less than ideal team. Now, they can’t get a sellout despite being a team on the upswing with massive buzz in the area and no local broadcast.
South Florida played a bitter Big East rival last week, West Virginia, at the CITS and Joe has seen more people at high school playoff games.
The aforementioned examples make it crystal clear: People in the market simply don’t have the expendable income to flock to sports events, except perhaps a high school football game. It has nothing to do with Team Glazer and everything to do with people’s personal finances.
Then throw in the fact of how fractured our area is with sports allegiances (Mark Dominik jokes that his neighbor flies a Steelers flag) due to the region being such a transient area, it’s very, very easy to understand why ticket sales for Bucs games are sluggish.
Look, if one can afford a ticket and has been relatively unharmed by the downturn in the economy, by all means go to the game if you have time. The weather is quite pleasant and the Bucs are playing good ball.
But pay your mortgage and/or rent first. Don’t blow off work and get fired.
As much as we all love the Bucs, there are priorities. Joe wishes others would try to understand, the empty seats are simply about people not having the cash.
Don’t believe Joe; listen to John Boehner and Carville.
Sooner or later, the region’s businesses will rebound. Dominik is determined to build a team that will be a lasting contender. So far, it appears that will be the case.
It won’t be long before an empty red seat at the CITS will be about as common as a Bucs cheerleader knocking on Joe’s door seeking comfort.