We’re looking at both sides of the argument about whether or not the Bucs were smart to turn down a chance to be on Hard Knocks and while ultimately, I believe the Bucs acted intelligently, there’s plenty of reasons to be upset with the choice. Whether you’re a fan hoping to catch a dynamic young coach in action or as a proud resident of the Tampa Bay area just resigned to the fact your best chance to actually watch the Bucs was on HBO (before the blackouts start) you may be a little miffed by the Bucs decision to turn down the free publicity.
For starters, the Bucs could use the free PR. Right now the Bucs are coming off a 10-6 season with the youngest roster in football and yet analysts the nation-over can’t stop tripping over themselves to fellate the Detroit Lions. I’ve frankly never seen a 6-10 team coming out of a division with the defending Super Bowl champs (and three of the last four teams in the NFC Title game) getting more unwarranted attention. The Bucs could have gotten in on that act and been the biggest thing in the NFL every Sunday night in August if they took the Hard Knocks gig though, and yet they didn’t.
Not to mention the push it would give the team in ticket and merchandising sales, the recognition it would bring some of the Bucs’ talented young players and the discussions it would generate. Think about last year’s Hard Knocks when every Monday morning in August ESPN and every major sports site in the country would recap the episode and start tons of debate over the Jets and their potential. The Bucs could have had that, Josh Freeman could have shown the same personality Mark Sanchez got to show last year. Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount could have gotten some facetime to combat their image issues and show they’re good guys. Raheem Morris was quite literally made for TV.
But more than anything, as a fan, it just hurts. No fan-base got to see their team less than the Bucs’ fans did last year. If you lived in Tampa and couldn’t make it to the stadium you know how many home games you saw last year? A whopping zero. That means Bucs fans had the choice of watching a grainy internet feed, reading a box score or listening to Gene Deckerhoff’s once great commentary slowly continue to atrophy on the radio. Bucs fans were treated to eight games last season. The rest of the league got 16.
I don’t hold it against the team they had to black out games. I hold it against the NFL for putting the screws to one of the most economically depressed cities in the country (at least we’re not Detroit). The NFL knew the Tampa bay area had been hit hard and still sold it like the blackouts were the result of a poor fan-base. They sold that idea to the rest of the league.
But the Bucs, to a man, will tell you that’s not true and they have a very solid fan-base. This would have been a nice way for the Bucs to make nice with those fans. Because as I mentioned, more blackouts are coming. Bucs fans may get one or two home games to sell out this season, but chances are you won’t see more than ten games on the tube. It would have been nice to get Hard Knocks as a consolation. But unfortunately, Bucs fans don’t. And I’m sure the rest of the NFL would callously tell us that’s what we deserve.