Had I wanted to talk about sports enthusiasm, I said I could have mentioned both areas NFL teams, the Miami Heat in the NBA, or, as he did, the Lightning.
This is about baseball. South Florida has shown that, for whatever reasons, it’s not an MLB hotbed. Period.
Marlins never had great attendance under Huizinga, which is why he dismantled the team after each of their two WS titles.
To be fair, the Marlins weren’t horrible in attendance in 1997, their first World Series year: 2,364,387 (5th of 14).
But, they were in 2003: 1,303,215 (15th of 16).
That said, you can’t totally blame the post-1997 player sell-off for attendance.
In 1996, a “respectable” 80-82 team’s attendance: 1,746,767 (10th of 14). Attendance went back there in 1998. Yes, that team stunk, but out of the big player sell-off, while Jeff Conine and Moises Alou were traded at the end of 1997, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, and Gary Sheffield weren't shipped the 97/98 offseason. That trio got moved during the 1998 season, and at least one-quarter of the way into the season.
So, although you may not like it … there’s a lot of attendance figures that point up problems with baseball in South Florida.
In Miami, I'm only giving limited credence to the idea of blaming Jeff Loria as Marlins owner for attendance woes there.
The attendence before, and immediately after, the first WS title, is all on Huizinga. He didn’t sell the team, and to John Henry, current Boston owner, until after 1998. Loria didn’t buy them until the post-2001 offseason. And, the team won a title in 2003, and nobody came out … and Loria’s antics in Florida hadn’t been that long yet, or that bad.
I'm curious as to why the Rays fans I'm running into at NBC, at least, simply refuse to discuss this issue of general baseball support.
So, any other Rays fans … you want to honestly, openly discuss the issue of whether south Florida might just not be a baseball-friendly area?
Finally, to this person and other Rays fans, or Marlins fans, lest you think I’m picking on Tampa in particular, or South Florida?
As a diehard Cards fan, former St. Louis resident, relatives there, etc.?
St. Louis is a great baseball town, as outsiders know, too. It’s a very good hockey town. It’s a decent, at least, football town.
But … it’s not a basketball town. Never really has been. The Hawks only stayed a decade after moving from Milwaukee to go on to Atlanta. The Spirits never drew well in ABA days.
Cities, or regions, are like that … good sports teams in some sports, not in others.
Note that greater LA is more than a decade of being NFL-free, but not a lot of people there seem crushed by that.
So, again … seems like South Florida just ain’t baseball territory. I’m sorry for you as a strong Rays fan that you don’t have more compadres, but … that’s the facts of life.