It seems that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their owners are going out of their way to make it known that there will be blackouts in the 2010 season. I can't say that I'm surprised nor should anyone be taken back by this. With attendance being down last year, the team performing poorly and little draw for a lack of household names, blackouts were the obvious result of a down economy, subpar record, and no immediate bright spot to hold on to.
We've heard from the Glazers on a handful of occassions that as far as televised games go, 2009 will not happen again where they essentially picked up the tab for those of us within 75 miles to watch the game from the comfort of our own home. This year, they say, we can exepct blackouts with similar attendance (and quite frankly, I can't say I blame them).
The question becomes, how did we get here?
In discussing this matter with a buddy of mine the other day, I had a revelation that only hindsight would allow me to have. I think the suggestion could have been made last year, but I'm sure whomever would have made the suggestion would have been tarred and feathered. The suggestion was simply this: Why didn't we blackout the games last year?
We weren't under any grand delusions that the 2009 Bucs were Super Bowl contenders. Most people had them pegged at 6-10 or worse, obviously eliminating us from the playoffs. We were a young team with little star power to provide a draw. The economy was down, the team stunk, no one showed up to the games, all the elements were there to blackout the games and move on. Now, I commend the Glazers for doing what they thought was the right thing and allowing the games to be on TV, but let me pose this follow up question. Would you rather have had the 2009 or 2010 season blacked out in the Tampa market? Sure it's hindsight, but I'd much rather see this year's team that last year's team, and let me tell you why.
Last year there was no star power. We had no idea if Freeman would even get off the bench, We had K2 but weren't sure what he could do and the defensive side lacked any big names. This year, we have a growing Freeman (regardless of his performance in 2009 or playing time, the expectation is that this year, no matter what, he would be on the field). We have top draft picks making their debut at key positions, we have an extremely young team that we can all watch grow up. Rather than watch the hodge podge squad of 2009, I'd rather watch the foundation of our team grow. With the alleged blackouts this year, many fans will miss the debut or maturation of what should be the foundation of the Bucs for the next 5-7 years in Freeman, Benn, Williams, Benn, Price, McCoy and others.
The expectations this year are not 11-5 by any means, but certainly higher than last year, particularly after a strong finish to the season, the home finale not withstanding. Would you rather watch a team that has some form of hope (2010) or a team that everyone agrees is destined for the cellar (2009)? Again, the blackouts will hurt long term "fandom" here.
This is a key year for the Bucs both for the organization (business-wise), the team, the community and individual players. Now I'm not expecting a Super Bowl parade here, but with pessimism from the community surrounding the team being prevalent, the potential for a lockout, and the reasons listed above, this seems to be the worst year to announce blackouts may now be in place. As a fan, you want to watch the players, you want to grow with the team. As owners, you want the fans to see the young guys become solid players to becoming Pro Bowlers to becoming wily veterans. That process starts in 2010 for a good portion of our starting lineup, and sadly, it looks like most of us won't be privy to this experience.
Obviously we can't go back in time, but it's a shame, in my opinion, that 2010 will be marred with behaviour better suited for 2009.