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The Buccaneers Have Assembled a Contender, but Will the Fans Respond in Kind?

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The Buccaneers Have Assembled a Contender, but Will the Fans Respond in Kind?
USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' weaknesses have been addressed, their fans' frustrations heard loud and clear. They've added depth and subtracted distractions, which, in theory, should multiply their chances for success this fall.

But while the Buccaneers have done their job and, on paper at least, will field a better, more competitive team this season, the question remains whether or not the fans will hold up their end of the bargain.

In short, will Bucs tickets be a hot commodity once again?

It wasn't long ago that the team claimed to have tens of thousands of fans on a season-ticket waiting list and landing a single-game ticket was tough to come by. 

That was so 2007, however, as the Bucs have struggled at the ticket counter lately.

In 2012, the team's average attendance was just 55,102 per home game, which was the second-worst in the NFL ahead of only the Oakland Raiders. In 2011, the Bucs' average attendance was 56,614 and in 2010 it was 49,314. All told, from 2010 through 2012, the Bucs averaged just 81.7 percent stadium capacity.

Compare that to 2007, when the team averaged 65,316 per home game, or 99.5 percent stadium capacity. 

And though there are many theories as to what may have contributed to such a precipitous drop in fan attendance, conventional wisdom would suggest the quality of product on the field was the biggest contributing factor. 

Sure, the economic downturn didn't help, nor did years of disenfranchisement from the seemingly ungrateful Glazer family, but the fact remains there wasn't much to be excited about on the roster.

That's not the case anymore.

USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Josh Freeman is coming off a career year in which he passed for 4,065 yards and 27 touchdowns. 

Running back Doug Martin is fresh off one of the finest rookie campaigns by a running back ever, tallying 1,926 total yards of offense and 12 touchdowns.

The Bucs set franchise marks in points scored (389) and finished with the ninth-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 363.8 yards per game. They enter 2013 under offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, their second season under his leadership. They should continue to be a strong, reliable force this season as a result.

Defensively, they have young, burgeoning stars in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster and second-year safety Mark Barron. They also added two All-Pro defensive backs in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, as well as rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks.

In other words, the idea that the ownership has turned its collective back on the quality of product is no longer a valid argument.

They've invested heavily in adding quality impact players on both sides of the ball and, as a result, have positioned the franchise for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Now the onus falls squarely on the fans.

Will they return in droves to support their team? How many television blackouts will there be? Better yet, how many blackouts would it take for 2013 to be considered a financial failure?

All are legitimate questions, of course. After all, if the past few seasons of sparse support were truly in protest to the front office, as I've suggested, then the prevailing theory would suggest a resurgence in attendance in direct response to, among other things, the reasons mentioned above.

Does that mean a return to the glory days of a jam-packed, hostile Raymond James Stadium? Perhaps.

Or is it more realistic to suggest a handful of blackouts, say two or three, before returning to consistent sellouts in 2014? Maybe. At the very least, a repeat of the recent attendance woes in 2013 would be disappointing.

Because the Buccaneers have built it—now they need the fans to buy in.

 

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