Bucs pre-season opener blacked out -- again; fans, businesses, not happy

6:30 AM, Aug 8, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- Another Bucs season. Another Bucs blackout.

The team says tomorrow's pre-season home opener against the Baltimore Ravens will not be shown on TV because not enough tickets have been sold to reach the league's 85 percent threshold.

Don't forget, If you plan to go to any event at Raymond James Stadium from now on, purses and backpacks have been banned. You have only four options to get your stuff in.

The Buccaneers don't lead the NFL in many statistics, but they own this one. They are the most blacked-out team in the league. Every pre-season home game for the past three years, and 19 of their last 23 regular season home games have been blacked out.

And tomorrow's game will be no different.

"I don't understand. I really don't," says Bucs fan Todd Crump.

Crump and his friends gathered for lunch today at the Press Box in South Tampa, still fuming about the news the team would be picking up right where it left off last year with the first home game of the pre-season blacked out.

"They should buy whatever is left Thursday at the deadline and air the games. Air the games!" says Crump.

Fans aren't the only ones upset.

Gemma Coulls, for example, waits tables. Like so many other workers and businesses in the Bay Area, Coulls loses out every time the Bucs' game gets blacked out. No TV, no fans. No fans, no business.

"Fewer tips, smaller tips. No tips at all if nobody comes in," she says.

The thing about it, say Bucs fans, is that public taxes built the very stadium the Bucs play in. It seems unfair, many say, that they should have to pay yet again.

"I do feel entitled that we should at least be able to watch it on TV if we don't want to go there," says Bucs fan Grant Nierengarten.

Scott Myers has published scathing blog articles on the blackouts, and the team's owners, the Glazers. He says the Bucs should be ashamed.

Take, for example, another Florida team, Myers says, the Miami Dolphins. They paid for 90 percent of their own stadium.

Even with lower attendance, the Dolphins, says Myers, do what the Bucs won't: buy up the remaining tickets (and more of them) to lift the blackout.

"Last year, they (Miami) averaged 76 percent capacity for their home games regular season. Bucs averaged 84 percent. Bucs had six blackouts. Dolphins had no blackouts. So obviously the owner was buying the tickets," says Myers.

There is an effort to ban blackouts at publically-funded stadiums.

U.S. Senator John McCain, (R) Arizona, has made it a part of his proposed Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013.

"It's unconscionable to deny those taxpayers who paid for it the ability to watch those games on television when they would otherwise be available," says McCain.

But putting the games on TV may not be an end-all answer either.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster just yesterday blamed the Tampa Bay Rays' low baseball attendance figures, in part, on televising the home games.

"It's too easy to watch it on a 52" plasma. The beer is cheaper, the bathrooms are cleaner, and you're in your Lazy Boy," says Foster.

Of course, there are a lot fewer football games than baseball games per season, and NFL teams get paid their share of the NFL's TV money whether they air the game locally or not.

We reached out to the Bucs for their take on all of this, but they declined to comment.

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