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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Lovie's great, but will even winning be enough?

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The first rule of public relations disasters is to change the narrative as quickly as possible. With that in mind, I'll give Family Glazer a cookie for their rapid response in turning the 4-12 stench that was sooooo last season into a Loviefest.

Well done.

New coach Lovie Smith is a proven winner with local ties, and having a team that competes for the playoffs every year would certainly be refreshing.

Call me jaded, though, on at least one big point. I'm not sure even winning automatically will fill Raymond James Stadium every Sunday and beyond. I think fans are going to cheer with their hearts but stay skeptical with their wallets, at least for a while.

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That doesn't mean routine sellouts aren't possible in our market, but I think football fans in particular and sports fans in general have sized things up and have reached conclusions the National Football League better pay attention to.

I'll use my sister-in-law and her family of four as an example. I don't know anyone who loves Auburn University more than she does. She was at the Iron Bowl game with her hubby and two kids when the Tigers beat Alabama in that epic game. She has the means and the motivation to travel wherever her team plays.

Yet when she looked into going to the national championship game Monday in Pasadena, she figured it would cost about $10,000 for tickets, airfare from their home in Texas, lodging and food.

She bought an upgraded TV instead and has promised not to throw a brick through the screen if Florida State wins.

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What does this have to do with the Bucs?

Well, look around.

Ticket demand was running far below stadium capacity in three of this weekend's four playoff cities — even Green Bay, where loyal Packers fans would sit on an iceberg to watch their team.

It looks to me like more people are reaching the outer limits of what they can or will pay. In Green Bay, for instance, a search on Ticketmaster for the best available seat for the game between the Packers and San Francisco 49ers turned up one at $122.

The wind chill for Sunday's game there is supposed to be 30 degrees below zero. I have been to Green Bay for football in similar cold. It's ridiculous — trust me.

So, let me get this straight: You pay a lot of money, AND you get frostbite? I know Green Bay fans are a hearty lot, but c'mon. A hi-def TV, heated living room and a cooler of beer by your chair make a powerful argument for hoping someone else buys the tickets and that Aaron Rodgers can hear you yell from Appleton.

We know the struggle the Bucs have gone through to sell more tickets at Raymond James Stadium, and that brings us back to the news of the week. The hope is that Smith will usher in a back-to-the-future era of Bucs football we'll call Dungy 2.0.

Playoffs, championships, a return to greatness — good things, all.

Will all that keep the seats full, though?

I'll get back to you on that one.

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