That's despite the fact that Carolina features one of the NFL's most exciting players, quarterback Cam Newton. Newton is the current GQ cover boy, at least on the issue I purchased (Tim Tebow is on the cover of other editions). The Panthers are also a strong rival of the Bucs in the NFC South.
Though people in this region talk about the possibility of Stu Sternberg and the Tampa Bay Rays going somewhere else if they can't get a new stadium, NBC football analyst Mike Florio wrote that a lack of fan participation could also spur the Bucs to look to a city that would better support the team.
Look, we like Tampa. The city did a great job hosting the Super Bowl. But regardless of the reason — local economy, apathy, whatever — if fans continue to fail to show up for the games, at some point the team needs to be moved to a place where the fans have the money, the time, and the inclination to attend games.
The Glazers get blamed for plenty of things. They bear no blame here. The Glazers have tried to improve the team and to make it more attractive to attend games. Eventually, the people need to respond.
There's no indication that the Glazers are looking to move the team. Given the manner in which the community continues to respond to the franchise, they'd be crazy if they weren't exploring their options.
This week, Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin wrote that watching NFL games from home, perhaps with a subscription to the Sunday Ticket on Direct TV and/or The Red Zone Channel, can be much more comfortable. It can also be cheaper with a better view when parking, excessive charges for beer and hot dogs, and bad site lines are taken into consideration.
NFL attendance has dropped for four straight seasons, though there are only a handful of teams that join the Bucs in having serious trouble selling out games.
So can I ask what's up with Tampa Bay fans?
I know people get sensitive about this, but I refuse to buy that the ongoing hangover of the 2009 recession is the single culprit. Go out much on weekends in Tampa? The bars, restaurants and nightclubs are packed. And 80 percent of the season ticket packages were reduced in price.
But as the Rays played a huge series with the New York Yankees this week, only 16,711 fans made it to Wednesday night's affair at Tropicana Field. Tuesday night was a little better with 17,652 fans.
With 13 home games left in the 2012 regular season, the Rays are staring at finishing last in home attendance.
Then again, last week's numbers were desultory when it came to RNC protesters in Tampa. By most estimates, only about 2,500 folks hit the streets to demonstrate. For some, that was fine. But part of our democracy's beauty is to have a robust opposition. There were more delegates (4,441) than activists, and apparently there weren't many protesters in Charlotte for the DNC, either.
So, what's this all mean? I'm not sure, but who wants to be last in anything?
There is one saving grace for those bummed out about not seeing the Bucs vs. Panthers this Sunday. The best NFL game of the weekend, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, will fill that time slot at 4:25 p.m. EST.
If the Bucs do get off to a good start, might they fill the stadium when they host Washington later this month, with the exciting Robert Griffin III at QB? Well, let's see how the team fares this Sunday. Or, for that matter, listen to how they fare.