Last night, local (WTVT, channel 13, Fox) anchorman John Wilson referred to the Rays as the team with whom the Yankees "share" the Tampa Bay area. The context was in a story about how it was ironic that the Rays would be the Yankees opponent in the first game played since owner George Steinbrenner passed away, a night filled with emotion and tributes for Steinbrenner, as well as longtime PA announcer Bob Sheppard, who passed away on July 11th.
Is that REALLY how the media sees the relationship between the two teams?
I understand, to some degree, the decidedly slanted viewpoint expressed by local media in the ongoing coverage of Steinbrenner's life and career. He did a lot of great (non MLB related) things for Tampa Bay, certainly more than most people who adopt the area as home. And this is by no means yet another diatribe about who Tampa Bay residents should or should not root for and against. That's just another boring, unwinnable debate better suited for downtime on sports talk radio.
This is about the indisputable fact that Tampa Bay is the unqualified home of only one Major League Baseball team, the Rays. That's the only team that wears white uniforms at Tropicana Field, the only team that wears "TB" on their caps and the only team that will ever have a parade here if they win a championship.
At this point, for our local media to suggest that the Rays somehow "share" the market with the Yankees is absurd. You know who the Yankees share a market with? The Mets. In New York.
It's also a slight to the Phillies and Blue Jays, two teams that also conduct spring training and minor league operations here and have much longer current residencies than the Yankees. The Phillies have conducted spring training and minor league operations in Clearwater since 1948, the Blue Jays in Dunedin since 1977 while the Yankees (who operated out of St. Pete off and on for 31 years between 1924 and 1961) have only been in Tampa since 1996, only two years before the Rays started playing full slates of 81 home games at the Trop.
Sincere condolences to the Steinbrenner family and to those who have benefited from his charitable efforts, and go ahead and root for whomever you want for whatever reason you want. Just understand that Tampa Bay has ONE home team... especially if you're in the media.