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Hey Rays Fans, Turn On The TV, Will You?

I understand the reasons people give when the Rays' poor attendance is reported. The Trop is hard to get to, especially on weeknights. There aren't enough people who live within a certain distance from the stadium. There's traffic. You have to drive there in monsoon rains. The economy is bad. Money's tight and not everyone can afford to spend however many dollars to go to a baseball game. These are all valid to one degree or another.

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What I don't understand is why the Rays' local TV ratings are also down 37 percent this season.

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Sure, some people are getting rid of cable or satellite because they can't afford it, or because they can watch the shows and movies they want through Hulu or Netflix or other online subscriptions. But the great majority of people still have at least basic cable or satellite TV, and I doubt 37% of the people in the Rays' viewing area have cut the cord in one year.

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This infuriates me. What do the people who run this team have to do for you? Do you understand how miraculous it is that the Rays have won a pennant and two division titles in the last three years, in the same division with the Yankees and Red Sox and their unending supplies of money? Even in a so-called "rebuilding" year, the Rays are on pace to win close to 90 games. You would have killed to see the Devil Rays win 90 games just once, and now that it could happen three out of four years, you don't care? What in the hell is wrong with you? You don't even have to watch the game! Just turn the TV on and use it as background noise, or leave the room.

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If you don't think the TV ratings matter, well, they matter big time. You know where the Yankees and Red Sox mostly get their unending supplies of money from? Local TV. You know one reason the Rays have such a small payroll? Because their local TV deal is tiny, even for this market. The contract is due for renewal in a few years, but if you can't even be bothered to watch the games on TV, what reason does Sun Sports have to pay more money for the broadcast rights and give the Rays more money to work with? The value for them is in the advertising rates they can charge, but if no one watches the games, then they're not going to throw money away. Then it becomes even more difficult for the Rays to compete financially, and it increases the likelihood that the team is sold, or moved, or both.

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Tuning in to games is the one way nearly every Rays fan can support their team, and hopefully you understand what's at stake here in the long run. It's sort of like "Field of Dreams" in reverse -- if you don't watch it, they will go. Hopefully the economy turns around soon, and maybe everyone in the area figures out the best place for a new stadium, and who knows, we may even live long enough to see it built. But right now, it seems like all everyone is doing is proving that Tampa Bay really is a bad baseball market, because they can't even turn their TVs on and watch the Rays play.

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