For the past two months, Tampa has been the place to be for professional sports. The Wall Street Journal is calling Tampa the new “title town.” On Monday, Sept. 28, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup Finals for just the second time in franchise history. Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady has the Buccaneers in first place in the NFC South with a 4-2 record, most recently dominating the undefeated Green Bay Packers 38-10. The Tampa Bay Rays also won the American League Championship Series, clinching their first World Series appearance since 2008. Oh and no big deal or anything, but Tampa is also the host of this year’s Super Bowl. Tampa is the epicenter of the sports world right now.
However, despite the success of the teams, it feels like something is missing. With COVID-19 still ever present in the world, fans and students at The University of Tampa aren’t getting a full experience of being in “title town.” With the NHL creating a bubble and not allowing fan attendance, fans missed out on being able to attend the NHL playoffs and ultimately, see their team win a championship in person.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only allowing a very limited number of fans, which both increases ticket prices making them less accessible for fans, and takes away an electric home field advantage. The Bucs have the most nationally televised games this season and chances are, if they had a full stadium the atmosphere would be unmatched.
Major League Baseball (MLB) also did their version of a bubble, with each round being at a different neutral site, with the World Series being at the new Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. The MLB is allowing a limited number of fans, but for Rays fans, they would have to hop on a plane to attend.
As an avid sports fan and someone who has attended a number of sporting events including the 2015 NBA Finals and the 2018 Home Run Derby, missing out on being able to attend these events is so bitter-sweet. Obviously, it is still awesome seeing the Tampa teams succeed and watching it with friends, but it feels like we’re missing out. The Stanley Cup Finals and World Series are some of the most electric atmosphere’s in all of sports. Not being able to see fans explode whenever the Lightning score a goal or when the Rays hit a home run felt really weird.
Tom Brady is one of my idols and arguably the greatest football player of all-time. Not being able to see him play in person, unless I want to take out a loan, sucks. The atmosphere at Bucs games would have been off the rails.
I’m not saying I would have been able to go to every Stanley Cup Finals game, every World Series game, and every Bucs game, but being able to pack in parking lots and tailgate and in bars across Tampa and being able to have a home field advantage is something not only me but thousands of UT students and Tampa sports fans are missing out on.
Tampa has done a very great job in trying their best to make Tampa a sports town amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. A boat parade on the Hillsborough River was held for the Tampa Bay Lightning, giving fans an opportunity to see the players and the trophy. Places like Sparkman Wharf and the new pier at St. Pete are having limited, outdoor watch parties, allowing fans to get out but still be able to practice social distancing.
Fans aren’t the only ones missing out. Financially, the city of Tampa and their sports teams are missing out on a massive pay day. The Bucs have eight nationally televised games this year, the most in the NFL. Some of the matchups include the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Bucs would have for sure sold out on every game and their ticket sales would have skyrocketed. The city is also missing out financially because these big time events like the Stanley Cup Finals and the World Series would have brought tons of tourists to the city and national media coverage to the city. According to WTSP, the city has missed on a near $400 million pay day.
For now, fans will have to cheer on Tampa sports from home and have patience that they will be able to return to games soon. I can assure that once everything is at full capacity, Tampa sporting events will be some of the most electric atmospheres in America.