AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Byline: Brian Ettkin STAFF WRITER
A rare sellout crowd crammed Tropicana Field recently to watch the Tampa Bay Devil Rays play the New York Yankees, presumably to root for the home team. But it was difficult to tell which that was.
More people were clothed in Yankees apparel than Tampa Bay gear. Some fans cheered when New York scored its two runs. Others applauded the Devil Rays. And still others didn't care who won, as long as they didn't get stuck in a maze of traffic after the game.
Compare that experience to tailgating before a Tampa Bay Bucs game . . . swimming in a sea of aqua, coral, blue and white at Miami Dolphins games . . . getting swallowed up by the communion of a Florida Gators football freak-out . . . or tomahawking en masse at a Florida State Seminoles powwow.
Florida is a football-crazed state, but when it comes to the other three major U.S.-spectator team sports, Florida's sports fans are often asleep in the stands.
If they are there at all.
Tampa Bay officials fought 19 years for a Major League Baseball franchise, but home attendance in the first year has not justified their fervor. The Devil Rays are averaging 32,064 fans per game - league attendance figures are based on tickets sold, not on how many people actually come - well behind fellow first-year club the Arizona Diamondbacks (45,270), and the 1993 Colorado Rockies (55,350) and Florida Marlins (38,311), in their debut seasons.
The Rays are 12th in the majors in attendance this season; yet inexplicably, after selling out the season opener against the Tigers (45,369), they drew only 30,109 and 28,261 for the second and third games in franchise history. A Saturday night game against …