Scott in Atlanta writes: Good article on the Bucs' trouble selling tickets and about all of the transplants. It's like that in all of the big cities in the South and Southwest. I'm a huge Atlanta sports fan and we have the same problem. Too many Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Red Wings, Giants, Steelers, etc... fans in the area. I'm glad you spoke up about it because most of the sports media is from the Northeast and they just don't understand how most of the large cities in the Sunbelt only recently became large cities due to so many people moving here. Huge growth in the last twenty years and mostly by people moving there.
Pat Yasinskas: All very true. I came to the Tampa Bay area for college back in the 1980s, covered the Buccaneers for a good chunk of the ‘90s before moving to Charlotte and covering the Panthers for nine seasons before returning to Tampa when I took this job. So I’ve seen this phenomenon up close and in several venues. Heck, in Charlotte, it seemed like half my neighbors were from Buffalo, and there still were a bunch of Redskins fans because Washington had been the unofficial team of North Carolina before the Panthers came into existence. Atlanta has a somewhat similar situation and, it’s especially pronounced in any Florida city because there are people from everywhere down here. Throw in the fact that the economic downturn has been more severe in Florida than in most places, and it’s no wonder the Bucs are facing the possibility of local television blackouts. I’m really curious to see how this plays out. I remember back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s when blackouts were the norm for the Bucs. It really wasn’t a big deal then, because that was expected. With the success the Bucs had over most of the past decade, I think the reaction will be stronger this time around. By the way, to get full NFC South representation on this matter, I should point out New Orleans is a little different than Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Carolina in this regard. The Saints, even through bad times, long have been a huge part of the fabric of their city, which includes a lot of people who were born and raised there.
Jeremy in Minneapolis writes: Pat PLEASE tell me something uplifting about this upcoming season for the Panthers that only the NFC South blogger would be able to say!
Pat Yasinskas: I know a lot of people are down on the Panthers because of their offseason purge and youth movement. I agree they’ve got some question marks, but I still think they can be a playoff contender. I know how Carolina general manager Marty Hurney thinks, and he’s of the school that you need somewhere around seven or eight blue-chip players on a roster. I’m looking at Carolina’s roster and seeing Steve Smith, Jordan Gross, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Kalil, Jeff Otah, Jon Beason and Chris Gamble. In my eyes, that’s a pretty good start. If a couple of young guys can step up, the Panthers will be fine. You want something else positive about the Panthers? They've got the best equipment manager in the history of the world. That's Jackie Miles, who already has taken over as the unofficial mayor of Spartanburg, S.C., as he gets everything set up for training camp.
Michael in North Hollywood, Calif. writes: Some of us started up a Facebook page called "5,000,000 NFL fans against 2012 lockout." Pretty self explanatory, but I'll explain anyway. We want to get five million NFL fans to join, then we'll pass it along to the NFLPA and NFL/Owners to let them know that the people responsible for all they have are not happy about their nonsense. If possible, would you mind passing this information along to your readers? The more we get, the louder we are.
Pat Yasinskas: Consider it passed along to the NFC South blog readership.
Stephanie in Hamden, Conn. writes: I live in Connecticut and would like to attend the Saints & Patriots practice. I have been unable to find out if the practice is open to the public. If so, what is the date?
Pat Yasinskas: Since the practices are on New England's turf, I just checked in with my buddy Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston and he said the practices are supposed to be open to the public. The dates are Aug. 10 and 11. The Patriots soon should be putting out official times for the practices, so keep an eye out.