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Let's Make This Series A Celebration, Rays Fans

Let me state from the beginning that this is not yet another admonishment-disguised-as-an-appeal aimed at Rays fans who aren't attending as many games as certain media pundits would like. Believe me, I'm as sick of those as you are. Like you, I am also sick of the scorn and derision aimed solely at Tampa Bay when I see empty seats in pennant-contending ballparks in San Diego, Cincinnati and yes, The Almighty Cradle Of All Hubris aka The Bronx. And like you, I wonder why so many of these people from someplace else even care. Every region is different, every region has it's own unique problems. Baseball attendance is admittedly one of ours. We'll handle it...or we won't. Either way, we'll be the ones who pay the consequences and/or reap the rewards. The rest of you in other areas, shut up already. Damn.

Another one of our unique problems is that our unemployment rate in Tampa Bay is 12.6, nearly a full point higher than the rest of the state at 11.7, which currently ranks 5th (the badway) out of all 50 states. No doubt about it, times are indeed tough. Again, I'm not here to harp on you. I'm in the same boat as you are, struggling. The sense of relief I feel when I get my bills paid lasts less than five minutes before I'm worrying about next month.

Now, here's the thing...

We all know that nothing short of a total collapse plus at least two miracles will keep the Rays from making the playoffs, either as the Wildcard or the AL East division champions. No doubt many of you aren't even considering the purchase of playoff tickets at this point, and taking all things into consideration, that's understandable. The tickets certainly aren't going to be any cheaper than they are for the regular season. But before they get there, there's a three game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles and then a road trip to Kansas City to wrap it up. Three more regular season games at the Trop.

Here's my pitch (consider it a recommendation): If you can figure out some way to make it happen, get yourself to at least one of those games. It's still possible to get in for $10 each and you have a very high likelihood of being present when something really cool happens. Twice, maybe! The Wildcard could be locked up Monday night and the division could be settled Wednesday. Think about it; although this series is lacking the prestige and glitz of a playoff series, you could witness the Raysclinch only the second postseason berth in their history, allowing you to go nuts while you watch your team dogpileon one another in the middle of the field. Trust me, the opportunity to celebrate in person with thousands of like-minded friends and neighbors does not come along that often and is not to be missed if at all possible. You simply can't put a value on memories like that. Just imagine, some day when things are better (hopefully), your kids will remember when money was tight but mom and/or dad still managed to find a way to take them to see their Rays make history. That's a Hallmark moment, folks.

Again, if you can't swing it, hey, it's okay. There are far more important things in life than pro sports and there's no shame in keeping that in mind when making difficult decisions.

But if there's any way you can get there, to take it all in live and in person, you really, really should try to do so. That's all.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.