Friday, June 21, 2013

A Word on Being a Sports Fan in Florida

I went to a bar with some friends to watch the Heat beat the Spurs last night. Huge place, 10+ pool tables, darts, and T.V's in every conceivable corner. It was packed. I was surprised (or maybe not so much) to see about a 70/30 split in the establishment. The minority of Spurs fans were nearly as loud as the Heat fans in the place.

The thing about Florida, is that we are a special case when it comes to sports. Tampa and Orlando are hub cities. Many people move in for a few years, get on with their careers, and move away to another city. Many people who live in Florida are immigrants. Many people in Florida are snow birds come to retire and play golf in the sunshine state. Miami is basically another country. If you don't speak spanish, good luck.

The Tampa Bay Rays (that aren't even located IN Tampa) and Buccaneers are mocked around their leagues for lack of attendance. The only time those venues sell out are when the Yankees, Red Sox, or some other team from the northeast comes down. Buena suerte trying to sell out a Marlins or Dolphins game. The Dolphins and Bucs ranked 29th and 31st in attendance in 2012. Rays ranked dead last (luckily the organization still turns a profit) last year. The Marlins were 18th, and that's all from the first half of last year, before their epic fire sale. The Jaguars did alright at 20th, and are one Tim Tebow trade from being number one in attendance forever. The Magic were at 15th. To be honest for a lost year, I am impressed that they were so high.

Back to the bar. So the Heat win, and the place gets loud. Real loud. Like Miami loud. For a good five minutes, people are celebrating giving high fives, dancing, things you usually do when your team wins an NBA championship. About fifteen minutes after the game ended, the bar was less than half as full as it was while the game was going. Fifteen minutes! I know people have to work the next day, but for some reason I was disappointed that the celebrations didn't last.

Florida is a tough place to be a sports franchise. We have beaches, golf courses, the weather is wonderful most of the year. Our major cities are extremely spread out. Polar opposite of Boston or New York. It's extremely difficult to live without  a car here (funny, we have some of the highest interest rates in the country), and with sports closely follows drinking. It's not convenient to reach our stadiums, most people need to drive 30+ minutes to see their teams. Combined with most people living in Florida not being from Florida, we may have an explanation as to why Florida sports teams have such a difficult time filling their seats. Maybe this next generation of Floridians will change things. We're such a wonderful mix of cultures, and with sports being the one common denominator we can all share, it saddens me that many don't participate.

I was rooting for the Spurs.

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