Even though the Tampa Bay Rays have had a breakout year in terms of performance, their attendance throughout the season has been dismal, some of the lowest in the league. Still, their attendance numbers substantially increased over last year as the team continued to win.
Entering the Playoffs, the Rays have surprised the league by being able to sell out their home games. Fans have come out in droves, many fairly new to both the team and the sport of baseball.
The Rays organization, fearing that their new fans were not knowledgeable enough to help them to a true home-field advantage, turned their fans loose in the worst way possible.
Many organizations in baseball and basketball have turned to childish, annoying ways to gain home-field or court advantage. I'm talking, of course, about the dreaded thundersticks. Two inflated sticks for mindless fans to bang together to make loud, distracting noises for the other team and for the true fans who want to watch the game.
Some of the worst offenders have been the "Los Angeles" Angels of Anaheim. Between their bright red thundersticks and the rally monkey, they are viewed as some of the most annoying fans in Major League Baseball, with Angel Stadium being a difficult place to truly enjoy a big-time game.
Angels fans have something to be happy about, however, as Rays fans are quickly passing them in terms or ruining the purity of the games at their home field. The only thing exhibited in a MLB game more obnoxious than the rally monkey and thundersticks this season has been the cowbells the fans rattle at Tropicana Field.
Now, bear in mind I'm not even bringing up the neon blue wigs. Though tacky, they do not have a drastic affect on the enjoyablity of the game, except for maybe the guy sitting behind you while you wear that ridiculous wig.
No, the cowbell is the real issue here. Not only does it affect the enjoyability of the game for anyone who is at the park, it affects the amount that I can enjoy the game as a true fan watching at home.
Watching the Rays play the White Sox, I wanted to root for the Rays, but the annoying cowbells made me wish for a Rays loss just so I would not have to see/hear that again. Nothing else in the sport has ever alienated me from a team as quickly as the cowbell has.
In any older, more traditional fanbase and baseball park home-field advantage is created by the fans themselves making as much noise as they can to support their team. Go to Fenway, Yankee Stadium, or Wrigley Field and listen to just how loud truly dedicated fans can get.
A true fan leaves a home game hoarse, barely able to speak. Their raw energy fuels their team to those crucial home wins that often decide the season. No gimmicks are needed, no one will ever bring a thunderstick or a cowbell into Fenway, but the Red Sox consistently have one of the best home records in the league.
So I say this to you Rays fans: Do you want to be the most annoying fanbase in Baseball? If not, put down that cowbell.