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Friday, August 31, 2012
Bucs might not sell out opener

By Pat Yasinskas

More than ever, I’m struggling to figure out why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have such a tough time at the box office.

That’s due to this report by Roy Cummings that says the Bucs still are 9,000 seats short of being able to sell out the Sept. 9 home opener with Carolina and prevent another in a long line of games that couldn’t be shown live on local television.

I’ve sympathized with fans the past two seasons as the Bucs have had only two sellouts at home. I live in Tampa and frequently ask people I meet why they don’t go to games regularly or even occasionally. The answers vary, but some or pretty common.

I’ve heard complaints about the economy, the product on the field, a curious and strong dislike for ownership and ambivalence from people that originally are from elsewhere and care more about the team they grew up following. I understand the logic, to some degree, but I really thought things would change this year.

But the Bucs are 9,000 seats short of selling out a regular-season opener against division-rival Carolina with quarterback Cam Newton, who comes with plenty of star power? That’s kind of amazing.

I don’t know that the economy has changed much from last year, but everything else has. The Glazer family, which owns the team, has been bashed in the past for not spending enough money. I don’t know if that label was ever really fair, but I think anyone who believes that now is way off base.

After going 4-12 last season, the Bucs sent coach Raheem Morris packing with several million dollars remaining on his contract. They hired Greg Schiano and are paying him millions. They also made a splurge in free agency, signing Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright to contracts that total more than $140 million. Throw in the contracts of top three draft picks Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David and the tab is more like $160 million.

The Glazers clearly have opened their checkbook. They also have lowered ticket prices and jumped on the NFL’s offer to opt to use 85 percent of non-premium seating as the baseline for a sellout. The Bucs have tried selling half-season passes and have added payment plans.

They even have planned a special promotion for the Carolina game to honor defensive back Ronde Barber, who will make his 200th career start. The Bucs will give away something to commemorate Barber’s feat, plus they’re offering half off food and beverages and free parking in designated lots. I’ve also seen plenty of television commercials aimed at boosting ticket sales.

Sounds to me like the Bucs have done just about everything you could ask.

But it also sounds like that isn’t registering with their fans and that’s why it’s so puzzling.

I guess this is a sign that fans are taking a “show me’’ attitude. In other words, they want to see the Bucs do some winning before they really embrace the team. The only problem with that is, they won’t be able to see it because it’s looking like there’s a very real chance the Carolina game won’t be on local television.