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What Happened to Game Day??

What happened this off-season? And I’m not talking about Brett Favre.


I don’t know if anyone else took notice of the goings-on at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that the higher-ups for the Buccaneers really have no interest in doing anything to cater to the fans.


While I would never go so far as to say that the experience at RJS is one of the NFL’s “must sees” – I would call it slightly above average at best – this season is just showing me that going to the stadium and enduring triple-digit heat and double-digit beer prices is just plain not worth it anymore.


I’ve heard season ticket holders say that they are canceling their tickets because of the hike in ticket prices, and that’s fine. Personally, I don’t think that voting with your dollar in a 65,000 seat stadium really does too much for you when there is a line 100,000 long (so they say) waiting for you.


But judging from the amount of empty seats in the third level on Sunday and the number of scalpers with stacks of tickets (not two or four, stacks. Like decks of cards.) it might just be the service that is scaring people away and not the prices.


Case in point: pulling in to the HCC lot on Sunday to find a spot to tailgate, it looked as if no one was in the lot. When we rounded the corner of the building it appeared that all the cars had been pushed up toward the stadium. Very methodically, the parking lot attendants were directing cars to most eastern spot of the lot, filling in every single spot.


Now, we have a tent for tailgating, and I have always liked parking next to a median to keep my tent out of the road and to keep from blocking traffic. As I tried to ask the attendant if I could park somewhere else, he just kept interrupting me, saying, “No sir. Park here. No sir. Park here. No sir. Park here,” like a parrot.


So now you can’t park close to an exit, or under/near a tree, or close to the garbage cans or a bathroom. You get the next spot and that’s that. Okay fine. Who knows the logic behind this move?


As we were setting up a tent, two kids from the cars next to us were tossing a football. Another fan came up to them and said, “You better put that ball away.” The kid’s father asked why. The other fan said that the Tampa Police Department was writing “warning” tickets to anyone who was throwing footballs in the HCC lot! A ticket! For throwing a football … at a football tailgate party?


In the words of Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on around here?”


So the TPD, the very organization that has legitimate problems setting up orange cones in a straight line, is writing tickets for throwing a football. Maybe that’s why Jeff Garcia had problems last week.


On the way into the stadium, I have to find one of the gate flunkies to check my bag. I carry a shoulder sling bag into the stadium to put my cell phone, binoculars, radio, and whatever giveaway they have that week inside so I’m not all over the place at my seat (you know, since the seats at RJS are so spacious). Now, this exact bag, I’ve been carrying into the stadium for almost two years. I approached the gate with my binoculars in hand for him to check (like I always do). This toothless drunk says, “You know, this can be considered a backpack.” To which I say, “So?” He says, “You have to put this in your car.” By now, I’m a volcano and I started screaming about how I’ve had this bag and brought it into the stadium every game for almost two years and now they are giving me flack about it? So you know what I did? I walked past the guy… with the bag.


He didn’t even look inside it. He didn’t even check my binoculars.


As I reached the gate where they were checking tickets, another security guard approached me. Oddly enough, this guy was someone that I know. He was one of those security guards who my wife and I said hello to often and he always had a witty, funny comment. Now he’s telling me that the bag is a “backpack.” What the hell?


I said, no it’s not. And not only is it NOT a backpack, I’ve been approved to take it into every game for 2 years, up until today. So I kept walking.

Oddly enough, as I waited to go up the escalator, I was looking at the bags that other people were carrying. I swear, you would think some people were getting on an airplane with the size of these bags.


If you ever get stopped for a bag violation, try a different gate. Don’t EVER go back to your car.


So now the game is over, and it’s time to make our way down the escalators from the 300 level. As usual, the escalator isn’t working so we have to wait ten minutes for them to fix it (you know, for a brand new stadium, there’s a lot of broken stuff there). They finally get the escalator going and it hits the bottom floor, where there is a gate around the base of the escalator keeping us from leaving. Now my wife wanted to use the ladies room before we walked back to the car. I asked another RJS employee if we could use the bathroom. “No, you have to leave the stadium.” I say, “C’mon guy. We’re going to the bathroom.” “You have to leave. Leave now.” What the hell?


You know, why subject yourself to this? It’s really easy to say, “Ticket prices are out of control.” And you know what, they are. Spending $100.00 per seat to see a football game (and more often than not, the Bucs – win or lose – do not give you a show worth that money. I’m not ripping the team, but their brand of football is not typically high-scoring and entertaining for a full sixty minutes). But to spend that money and to get treated like a homeless person in front of Saks Fifth Avenue… seriously, it’s time to reconsider who’s getting your cash.


And the Bucs don’t care. Why should they? They have corporations lining up for those tickets. They’re raising prices every year despite that they have put marginal talent on the field with rap sheets that are more impressive than their resumes. Don’t expect people to get fired or reprimanded or anything. No one will listen anyway.


But I’m glad you guys did. Thanks.