“The First Exit On The Highway Of Excuses”

April 19th, 2011

Local sports fans have heard all the reasons/excuses from Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Buccaneers management that allegedly explain why those teams can’t sell more tickets.

The list is easy for any local to rattle off. Frankly, they’ve never sat well with Joe.

Joe thinks those organizations are far too focused on external factors affecting them versus internal systems and philosphies that drive the business success. As Joe wrote last week after word broke of the Bucs game in England, it didn’t feel right to Joe that the Bucs already seemed resigned to blackouts in 2011 — in April. 

Through most of 2007-2010, Joe worked in sales for a national company whose business was directly tied to — and negatively affected by — the plummeting real estate market nationwide. However, the company philosophy in its high-pressure sales environment was simple; massive sales growth would be achieved because the alternative was not an option.

The goals were reached, while competitors crumbled and the real estate market further tanked to record levels. 

In the face of a challenging business environment, there are always winners, just fewer of them. Why can’t the Bucs or Rays overcome, or at least perform much better?

Last night, former Seattle Seahawks and current Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Todd Leiweke took to the airwaves for an interview with JP Peterson on 1010 AM.

Leiweke painted a picture of Tampa Bay currently being an excellent market for professional sports and entertainment. He referenced sellouts at the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Lady Gaga, Iron Maiden and the Lightning, respectively. “We’re the fifth or sixth busiest arena [in the country],” he said.

Peterson pushed Leiweke to talk about the Tampa Bay market for sports teams and contrast it with his tenure in Seattle.

Leiweke said blaming fans and market conditions is “the first exit on the highway of excuses.”

He went on to talk about a season ticket base of “about 33,000” when he joined the Seahawks in 2003, during far better economic times. When Leiweke left Seattle in 2010 to join the Lightning, the Seahawks (fresh off two losing seasons) were raising ticket prices, had sold their maximum of 61,000 allocated season tickets, and had a waiting list of 10,000, per The Seattle Times.

Leiweke went on to say he expects the Lightning, whose attendance is up about 12 percent from last season, to enjoy sellouts throughout next season.


Joe thinks it’s time the Rays and Bucs change their public attitude on attendance and crank up the heat and scrutiny inside their organizations. It sure couldn’t hurt.

A rough local economy can do a lot of things, but it can’t stifle marketing creativity, first-rate customer service, a healthy attitude and good old fashioned hustle, especially from wildly profitible enterprises like the Bucs and Rays.

19 Responses to ““The First Exit On The Highway Of Excuses””

  1. Gary Says:

    Huh? Those of us saying the economy is being used as an excuse have been roasted on here every time. Now Joe does a 180 and thinks the Bucs should stop using that as an excuse.

    The local Tampa economy is bad, worse than most of the country, but nobody wants to admit that even after that there should be no blackouts. Enough people have money to go to games, they choose not to. Why, because most fans are bandwagon. Truth, plain and simple.

  2. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    @Gary – You’re inferring the wrong thing here. The negative economic factors are real and were real for last season, yet some try to deny their impact completely and badger fans who don’t buy tickets without knowing their personal circumstances. Joe comes after those people.

    That’s not what Joe is saying here. The point of the post is to deliver Leiweke’s relevant comments on the sports market from a guy with direct experience. And to further illustrate that the Bucs and Rays publicly use those economic factors to perhaps explain away far too much of their troubles. Joe doesn’t think that’s a healthy business attitude. Does that mean the Bucs should sell out every game? Of course, not.

    And the fact is the economy is improving. Reams of folks around these parts have made a killing in the stock market over the past 1 year+, employment numbers have improved since last year. Combine that with the Bucs slashing ticket prices and a legitimate team with real star power for the Bucs to market and sell, the landscape for the 2011 season is and should be different/better than 2010. Let’s see what the team does with that.

  3. BigMacAttack Says:

    The St Pete Times Forum was packed last night. Too bad we lost. Good lower seats are cheaper than going to a Bucs’ game and Marti is phenomenal. Could I afford to go to the game, on top of my Bucs’ tickets too? No, but I went anyway. Bologna sandwiches it is.

  4. gbuc Says:

    Yep, customer service. The Bucs “forgot” to give me an extra $18 they owed for my yearly 5% deposit refund. That was in February. E-mailed them to inform them of the mistake. Waited 4 weeks, no reply. Went to the Ticket office, was told there must have been a mess-up with the computer system and that I would get a check in the mail in 2-4 weeks. Still waiting. Yep, customer service.
    And no, Bucs, I don’t want a “credit” for the Bucs-Bears game ticket. Send me a refund check now!

  5. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    @gbuc – Joe has a story coming later about how the Bucs will be issuing refunds now for the Bears game.

  6. captain shane-O Says:

    I have to weigh in here…. The ticket sales are awful in Tampa to say the least. Blackouts only make them worse though! I understand that this is an NFL policy not the Glazers but it makes fans angry and they didnt get to see the product on the field! Last season was the best Buc football I’ve seen in years! Its really to bad that anyone that lived with 90 miles of the stadium didnt get to see any of it! If you want to sell Tickets to the fans then you have to make them (or at least give them the opertunity) to fall in love with Josh Freeman and the boyz the way I did last year.
    Dear Glazer family,
    I know it sounds exspensive but you have to buy out the remaining tix and give them to the young kids around Tampa! You are not only investing in future Bucs fans and getting your games televised but you are showing the Tampa fans the product on the field. And it is a GREAT product! Your doing all the right things with this youth movment… You just have to kick start it by spending some $ (not nesecarily on players salaries) and getting the games on TV! Go Bucs Forever!
    ps Thanks Joe for letting me say my piece on your comment board! I’d be willing to bet someone in the front office is reading this right now! So pass this on as your marketing idea!

  7. Joe Says:

    captain shane-O:

    Thanks Joe for letting me say my piece on your comment board! I’d be willing to bet someone in the front office is reading this right now!

    You’d be surprised.

  8. buckeyebob Says:

    Now is the time for the Bucs to do a marketing blitz. No players around so why not hold a series of open houses for folks to tour the facility. Make the staff available for folks to ask questions. Maybe hold a Football 101 nite for fans to try on equipment, go out on the field for drills, sit thru a position meeting.

    The owners should make themselves available for some quality time with fans at these type of functions. Mark and Rah do a nice job in the community…their marketing department should be meeting as much as the scouts, coaches and staff are now to get this fan base back. Make an effort and stop using the tough times as an excuse. Folks will come and spend some money if they are made to feel good about spending the cash.

  9. Dave Says:

    The Bucs could do ALOT more.

    The Rays have done alot since the new ownership group took over and it has paid off. Although they whine about attendance, they have gone from 16000 a night to 23000 a night over the last 5 years. They have risen almost every year and I inclined to think it would be higher by a few thousand if the economy was better.

    The lightning were crushed during the lockout after they won the cup and now have new ownership and philosophy and are coming back.

    The ECONOMY IS a major factor regardless but, yes, things can be done.

    The NFL is the biggest guilty party in pricing themselves out of markets and doing little by way of generating loyalty (blackouts?????? really?????)
    The average NFL team raised tickets damn near every year the past 8 years while most people saw salaries go stagnant. On top of that, the owners have the nerve to complain about player salaries when they brought it upon themsleves.

    One last point: I HATE the term bandwagon. Every single city in every sport is loaded with fans who would rather pay to see a contender or winner. Very few teams have the Cubs fan base.

    The bucs were not the only ones to not have sellouts last year, almost half the teams did not sellout most their games proving again: the economy is a big factor.

  10. fanofkit Says:

    The Tampa Bay areea has gotten a bad rap lately- an I believe undeservedly so. Attendance has been weak- yes. But lets look at the series of factors that led to this “perfect storm” of bad attendance-

    #1 the economy- The entire nation has been gut punched but this area has been socked harded than just about every other. Unemployent has hovered at 12% or more for years now- and that stat is woefully under reported, as anyone who knows anything about the economy and how such stats are generated. And before anyone says “but other teams….” consider this- the New York Giants one of the most storried franchises in all of sports, in th richest market in all the world, opening a billion plus dollar stadium on national TV could not sell out their games thi year- even their home opener. Yes that is true- no they were not blacked out, because the unsld seats were club seats and do not count for blackout purposes.

    #2 PSLs- As long as the PSLs were active there was a financial incentive to maintain the seats no matter how bad the product was. People can point to Detroit and say they sold out some or most of their games, but those people are still tied to the financial hitching post that NFL owners created.

    # 3 The product- Let face it 3-13 stinks and that came on the heels of a monumental December collapse in 08. Besides which the star power had long ago began to dwindle. For some time now the team has been bland and uninspiring.

    #4 The Media- Lets face it Cummings can wag his finger at the fans all he wants, but voices like his and Duemigs have bellyached for years now about the Glazers, about Gruden about the conspiracy charges of using the Bucs as an ATM to finance their English Kickball team. The local writers have never embraced the team warmly. Kaufman and Cumming in particular have had a field day questioning the motives of the Glazers, their character, even their personalities. In the St. Pete time Shelton and that other oaf make it a contest it seems to create the most inane insults to label the owners and coaches with. The writers are insulting hacks for the most part- in my hmble opinion. They use the shield of “impartiality” to attack and insult. These barrages of questions and charges take its toll on the psyche of the community. The complain about the empty seats but report only reasons to stay away.

    Any way, thats how I feel.

  11. WeNeedDefense Says:

    But HOW is he gonna do this? You threw up stats and numbers. HOW is this gonna happen? That would have made a better story, even just one example. ALSO 2003 is not 2011.

    “He went on to talk about a season ticket base of “about 33,000″ when he joined the Seahawks in 2003, during far better economic times. When Leiweke left Seattle in 2010 to join the Lightning, the Seahawks (fresh off two losing seasons) were raising ticket prices, had sold their maximum of 61,000 allocated season tickets, and had a waiting list of 10,000, per The Seattle Times.

    Leiweke went on to say he expects the Lightning, whose attendance is up about 12 percent from last season, to enjoy sellouts throughout next season.”

  12. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    @WeNeedDefense – “…would have made a better story.” Please. This is not the forum for Joe to start playing marketing VP and fire out a bunch of suggestions. Joe’s not writing for the fine folks of the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

  13. Roger Says:

    Well the forum holds 20,000 people and raymond james holds 68,000 so its kinda stupid to compare attendence.

  14. WeNeedDefense Says:

    “In the St. Pete time Shelton and that other oaf make it a contest it seems to create the most inane insults to label the owners and coaches with.”

    I think I’m gonna start getting my daily news from the Times online.

    Thanks fano!

    Adios JBF

  15. Thomas 2.2 Says:


    what lieweke said is all that I have been saying. the economy is a factor for every team in the league, and more so in jacksonville. the reason that the season ticket base went from 62k to 33k is in large part the raheem hiring, the failure to add big name players and the overall depletion of the product due to failing to pay average salary.

    these kids have promise but there are few big names for the community to get excited about enough to leave the ac and go to a game to watch raheem and his 23 year old buddies. Proven vet talent is necessary, the feeling that your roster is the substantial equivalent of the top teams in the league is vital for ticket sales.

    the hiring of rah rah sent the message that these guys were going “cheap” not going for lombardi trophies. some owners invest to win championships (some invest poorly but at least are willing to spend to win), others compete, and then the glazers just want to keep overhead low and pray that they win. that is unacceptable and blaming the economy is b.s.

  16. BigMacAttack Says:

    JBF posts more Bucs’ content in one day than the Times does all week, so good luck with that.

    The Rah hate from Sir D-Baggon is just unfathomable. The little twerp never passes on a chance to bash our Head Coach. It is the same old story every day, same words, same lines, same BS, and none of it has any basis or merit. Complete and utter garbage, all of it, all of the time. In what life was this punk a Bucs’ fan? Uh, never.

    Suck it, Thomas!!!

  17. Joe Says:

    Thanks BigMacAttack!

    Joe finds it amusing how Thomas 2.2 rails about how Rah was the reason the Bucs won three games in 2009 but he consistently refuses to answer Joe’s question about who should get the credit for the Bucs winning 10 games.

  18. BamBamBuc Says:

    Ha, Joe, you’ll never get the answer. Usually the answer is the 10 wins were due to schedule and playing backup QBs. But couldn’t the opposite be said of the 3-13 season? We played the NFC East (which was pretty good 2 years ago) and the AFC East (which is still pretty good, but was even better 2 years ago) and I’m not sure, but I don’t think we faced any backup QBs that year. We faced starters like Brady (in London), Romo, McNabb, E. Manning, Brees, Ryan, etc.

    They’d rather compare apples to oranges than answer your question. If we’re crediting schedule for victories, we should look at the schedule that lost so many games too. If we’re looking at QB faced for wins, the same should be done for losses the year before. If we’re blaming the coach for losses, he should be credited for wins.

  19. fanofkit Says:

    Hey Weneeddefense… was that “fano” a shot at me? And were you serious about the Times online comment? If so, adios my friend, this forum just improved….