20 10 2008

What did the five fingers say to the face?!

Read this carefully people, it is not a typo: The Tampa Bay Rays have dethrowned the douchetastic Red Sox to win their first ever American League Championship! Seriously, I couldn’t make that shit up if I tried. To put this huge win into perspective and to understand just how Raymazing Tampa’s turn around really is, let me tell you a little tale of what it was like to be a young Rays fan spectator….back when the Devil was still involved.

When the Devil Rays came to Tampa in ’98, no one really gave a shit. If you were not a Marlins fan, which beleive me, were few and far between, than you cheered for the Braves (the bandwaggon team of the 90s.) Baseball fans in Florida, especially the Tampa area,  used to fuckin’ worship the Braves. In fact, most of my friends growing up fellated the Braves almost as much as the Gators. I never bought into that shit though. To be honest, I hated the Braves almost as much as I still despise the Gators. To this day, I continue to say slow ass Sid Bream was out at home in the ’92 NLCS. If you feel otherwise, we can no longer be friends.

While the Braves were dominating the late 90s, in came this expansion team to “Atlanta of the South”…aka Tampa. Devil Rays Owners and MLB Officials were each banking on the possibility that these Braves fans would all of a sudden jump ship and hop on the new bandwaggon for Tampa baseball. The problem was, it’s hard to jump on a bandwaggon when the wheels are already falling off.

As if the Braves fans were not enough, Devil Rays Execs also had to compete with the douchiest of douchey fans….The Yankees enthusiasts. See, Tampa is not only filled with a bunch of Braves-worshiping rednecks, but also a shitload of Yankees-worshiping snow birds. These New York snow birds are like geese in Tampa. They fly south for the winter and pretty much shit on everything.

The D-Rays owners tried to combat these problems with a string of putrid front office moves. When I say “putrid”, I literally mean “fucking horrible.” Instead of keeping the talented young players they acquired in their first draft, like Bobby Abreu,  the owners decided to trade for washed up players with names that fans would recognize. To bring in the snow-bird crowds to games, owners signed the New York favorite Wade Boggs. Don’t worry redneck Braves fans, D-Rays owners didn’t forget about you either. In hopes of winning over Braves fans, Tampa also signed the Crime Dog himself, Fred McGriff.

To cap off all their horrible front office decision-making skills, do you remember their gross jerseys? It looked like they couldn’t decide on only two or three colors, so they just said fuck it, we’ll use the entire rainbow!

Needless to say, it was tough to force fanhood on the early Devil Rays. My friends and I would go to the games just to see the opposing team, or to see how close we could sneak down to the dugout. With 2,300 people in attendance, it was pretty damn easy.  We would cheer on the D-Rays, but deep down we knew, it was inevitable they were going to lose 90 games a year. That was the mentality of every Devil Rays fan spectator. People in Tampa just never really gave a shit. That is, until this year.

The only game I went to this year was on Father’s Day. And let me start off by saying, everything was different this time in St. Pete.  No more Devil, no more rainbow colored unis, no more washed up players (with the exception of Troy Percival.) Even the Trop looked pretty nice this time around. New seats, concession stands and everything was painted with the new light blue and navy. People were cheering and cowbells were ringing. Most importantly, there were finally a collection of talented players on the Trop’s astroturf. For the first time in my life, a baseball game inside the old “Thunderdome” was lively, packed and filled with over 30,000 fans. I could feel all those years of laughing at the D-Rays for making errors and bloopers….. slowly fading away. 

I am not, nor will I ever be a frontrunner. I will not jump on bandwaggons and say things like “I’ve always been a Devil Rays fan.” That wouldn’t be accurate. Anyone from the Tampa area who tells you differently is lying out of their ass. Having said that, I can tell you this with certainty.  Speaking for all the people who struggled and laughed our way through the past 10 years of Devil Ray sucktitude, we were all merely spectators, not fans. There was never an inherent possibility that we could win, therefore we never had the excitement or ability to cheer.

 When you are shitty since the beginning, you have no good seasons to look back on and say “hey, remember when we made the playoffs, or remember when we didn’t suck.” There was no curse that we could use as a crutch and say, “well there’s always next year.” No Billy Goats or Curses of the Bambinos were reasons for how horrible the team was. There are few teams in any sports genre who can say, we have never been good. We have never had a winning season. We have never made the playoffs. What I’m trying to say is, there has never been such a magnitude of shittiness than the first ten years of Devil Ray baseball.

Yes, this is a long post and most of you probably stopped reading after the first two paragraphs, but there is an important point to be made. There is a resurgence in the Tampa Bay area now, and it is all thanks to the newly formatted Rays. For a team and organization that has done nothing but shit on the city and residents of the Tampa/St. Pete area, a successful 180 has been completed. People are buying Upton, Crawford and Longoria jerseys. The Rays have already sold more jerseys this year than the past 10 years combined! (Not exactly sure if that is accurate, but it sounds legit.)

So, thank you to the Rays for changing your colors (or at least for finally decidng on two.) Thank you for taking out the Devil and in replace, installing a legitimately competitive pitching staff and great young hitters. Thank you for not signing Barry Bonds even though it might have helped with ticket sales. Most importantly, thank you for making me care about baseball again. For someone who grew up playing the game through high school, it has certainly been a distant part of my life since then. Thank you for turning a previous Devil Rays spectator…….. into a Rays fan.





4 responses

20 10 2008
Mike Salamon

Another thing to keep in mind with this win is from now on no matter how small the market your team plays in and how long they’ve been bad (I’m looking at you Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati) that is no longer an excuse for consistent losing. The Rays built a pennant winner while playing in the toughest division in baseball with the league’s second lowest payroll and a fan base that for the first time ever is actually going to baseball games after spring training ends. If they can do it, anyone can do it.

21 10 2008

Cant you leave the New Yorkers out of this?! They have nothing to do with the rays and sox. And who wants to cheer for a fish anyway?? Go Yankees, go NY, I heart snow birds frig you jackson! Love Kathryn

21 10 2008

baseball still sucks… going to a game in person is cool if you have beer and get to act like an ass, but baseball still sucks…

21 10 2008
Mike D

long post. geez I almost shed a tear. As a Pinellas native, I can tell you that the first decade was pathetic. I went to three games last year and dont remember a single play. The whole thing kind of reminds me of two other Tampa teams, who sucked for a decade (or more for the swashbucklers) before finally changing their uniforms, upgrading the stadium, getting rid of the older washed up players and then…. like clockwork, actually stopped sucking and went on to be world champs. I’m not a genius, but if I owned the bengals, I’d be taking some F*king notes right now.

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