Rays Fever!

Nearly a third of the way through the season, the best record in baseball belongs to ... the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But the AP couldn't resist taking a dig at Rays fans yesterday:

While Tampa Bay is 11 games over .500 for the first time, the Rays drew an announced crowd of just 12,174 for the holiday game.

Baseball fandom depends on two things: The experience of the current season, and the memory of seasons past. The Rays finally have a current season worth getting excited about (at least so far), but they've been playing for a decade without producing a single non-embarrassing memorable moment - and they play in a city where half the population are transplanted Yankees, Mets and Red Sox fans, all of whose teams have been consistently interestingly for the past ten years. Speaking as a transplanted Sox fan myself, it would take more than two good months of baseball to make me start caring deeply about the fate of the Washington Nationals, and if the Nats subject us to another seven years of Rays-style baseball and then turn in two good months of play in the spring of 2015, I'll be even less likely to leap headlong on to the bandwagon. This isn't a brief for fair-weather fandom: I stuck with the Red Sox and Patriots through the mid-'90s lean years, and I'll happily stick with them long after the current run of championship play has come to an end. But there's a difference between sticking with your favorite team through thick and thin and signing up to root for a lousy team that's never had any thick at all. I have nothing but respect for those Tampans who do root for the Rays as passionately as any fan of a more distinguished franchise - their reward will be great in baseball heaven - and I'm pulling for their team to have a great year, for the same reason that I was pulling for the Rockies last season: I want to see a long-dreadful franchise make the Leap, I want to see Tampa fall in love with Scott Kazmir and James Shields and Evan (not Eva) Longoria, I want the '08 Rays to give future generations of Floridians a reason to identify with their hometown team. But I don't blame the people of Tampa for not showing up in droves just yet.

Update: Clearly the AP didn't get my memo.