Rays need a Chant Tradition

Some people within the Internet ranks have stated recently that the Tampa Bay Rays fan base has a extreme case of inferiority complex compared to the fans of the New York region. I have to admit, that definitely was true back before 2006 when New York Yankee fans used to refer to Tropicana Field as “Yankee Stadium South” because of the over flow of pinstripes and “Jeter” jerseys patrolling the hallways before a Rays versus Yankees contest. But that is not been true since 2008.

During 2005, a typical Yankee versus Rays game had more opposition crowd noise to almost make it sound like a home game for the Yankees. But slowly and surely the Rays hometown crowd has begun to get behind their team and even began to turn the crowd towards wearing Rays gear, with a smattering of Red Sox jerseys for color. And that is  huge loyalty adjustment for this region based on its fickle transient ways. There is such a large geographic-based cultural divide in the Tampa Bay area that  most of the Northern transplants hail from somewhere within the Northeast sections of the United States.

And with that number of transplants increasing yearly, this merry band of baseball fanatics have brought with them a clash of baseball traditions and team loyalties. I have no problems with a person who was born even within an hour or so of New York City wearing Yankee stripes. I also can totally honor and respect the idea of someone from Maine following the Red Sox even if they had never even been to Boston. That regional love fest is a gimme and totally acceptable in my book.  Regional pride is a good thing.

Personally, I feel that this inferiority garbage is totally in the past. I am serious. if you have attended either a Red Sox or a Yankees series at Tropicana Field since the start of the 2007 season, you will have noticed a slow reversal of the crowd noise depicting a mostly Yankee/Red Sox vibe in the stands. I am not trying to evoke that Rays fans have started to outnumber their pinstripe or brethren with with the red “B” on their caps, but they have definitely gotten into the vocal chimes and crowd actions to silence the opposition in recent years.

And you have to also throw in that winning has brought out more people to exhibit Rays pride, and even some of the rival crowd has been converted. I know personally a few fans who used to flaunt their Northern colors, but now only do it when their home team is in town. The rest of the season they fly Rays colors to support the local team. And that reaction took years, not just two winning seasons for them to show loyalties to both teams.

I am not implying that there is a Rays revival meeting going on  somewhere around the Trop. during every home game, but the passion for this team can be infectious sometimes. As the Rays also establish winning traditions on the field, the crowd will also develop and transform their own sense upon the game from the stands. But until that revolution happens, the Rays front office (Fan Experience) has given the Rays fans the perfect tool to irritate and bring some rival chants to a complete halt.

Most visiting fans throw the main culprit of this Rays noise revolution onto the innocent cowbell. Yes, that  shiny metal object that that can produce a sound found so revolting to rival fans they sometimes cringe when people pull them out of their bags. This small musical weapon has been their instrument of choice to helping the Rays gain back their home stadium edge.

I know most people will insist that it is the large Latin Percussion cowbell ( I used to bang one prior to 2009) wielding fans have drown out most of the opposing noise, but 8,000 little cowbells still make a heck of a racket when they are used during games.  And you would be surprised how fast the Rays Team Store sells out of any type of specially insignia cowbell. This one item has been instrumental in recent years of squashing noise and chants within the walls of the Trop.

And how many times have you heard a rival fan, MLB blogger, or even a network sports announcer curse and admonish the Rays fans because  of those little noisemakers. The simple cowbell has become the weapon of choice for Rays fans who do not have the time honored traditions and ceremonial cheers  established for decades by our rivals. Give the Rays fans time, and you know they will develop another set of cheers, then the  mighty cowbells will slowly die down as the new Rays noise makers takes control of the stadium.

Last season, the Raysvision crew and the Rays Fan Experience department made a short animated video showing the Maddon’s Maniac symbol Screamer mouthing the words and rhythms to the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”. This  song has been a traditional crowd favorite used all throughout the U.S. and Europe during soccer games and  seems to have caught on at Rays games in 2009. 

Not to say this will  translate into anything like the “official” Rays chant, but it is a starting point beyond swinging metal cowbells for 9 innings. But I have to admit, hearing the Rays crowd do the “Seven Nations Army” chant does make a perfectly awesome sound when you get at least 4,000 people voicing it over and over again during  the opposing pitching changes. Traditions take time to get  a foundation and to get firmly implanted in our minds and routinely followed by a team’s faithful fans.

I totally respect the Yankee Bleacher Creatures for their “Roll Call” chants during Yankee home games. It is a way for the fans and the players to interact without interfering directly with the game action. And that custom was developed over time. Sure one guy or a group of fans started it the first time, but with time it has grown into an honored Yankee tradition. And the Rays need to establish their own signature chant or cheer.  And with time, and trail and error, the Rays fans will find that perfect vocal response during games. And with that perfection will spawn more traditions.

Over the last few years the Rays have used a number of ways for the fans to react during games, and the one that seems to have gained some  ground floor sentiment is the “Feel the Heat” campaign. During Rays big plays . the Raysvision crew has popped up the short and concise chant and Rays fans have adopted and even added a twist to it. People have begun to throw up  the classic surfer “Hang 10″ sign and turned it horizontal to look like a ray swimming. Sure it might be a bit quirky, and some say “totally ripped off”, but it is an honest start to establishing a lasting Rays tradition. 

So the Rays really do not have an inferiority complex, but a lack of a solid tradition and team personality that other teams have evolved and change for more than 100 years. This is not to say that within a year or maybe two the Rays will have an overpowering chant,cheer or even a stadium crowd event that will overwhelm rival teams fans.  But the machine is in motion, and with the off season comes a chance to experiment and maybe redefine Rays traditions.

When Stuart Sternberg and his crew took over the team they changes the logo, uniform colors and the general feel of the franchise from the ground up. This quick transition in November 2007 might have also stunted the growth of solid traditions for the team, but the newly established Rays franchise was evoking winning and a change of attitude from within the organization outward to the fans. It has been a success so far, and the future looks bright to see more exciting changes with the Rays fan base.

The first person who ever did “The Wave” must have had the people in the seating section next to him thinking he was an escaped mental patient, but slowly the crowd action caught on and it is now an International crowd event. When was the last time you went to any sporting event and someone did not try and start a “Wave”?

Oh, and for those people in the northeast regions of this country who hate those pesky cowbells. How soon you forget that the tradition started in the state of New York at Brooklyn Dodger baseball games by a little old lady who sat in the outfield used to ring her cowbell to show support for her team. Some traditions fall, some traditions linger. But the best traditions are the ones that get people excited and eager to participate every time someone starts them.

12 Comments

How would any chant be heard over the cowbells, anyway? ;)
I noticed that Aki Iwamura was traded to the Pirates. I gather that Aki-san was somewhat the odd-man-out, with the depth you seem to have at 2B.

Oh, I almost forgot–LOVE that photo with GEICO Cave-Man Dude! ;)

Greg,
Actually, I have a feeling the cowbell will begin to disappear when we get some comparable to the Boston and New York chants.
Nothing like hearing the Rays fans get louder right after the ” Let’s Go Red Sox/Yankees” chants in the Trop.
Sometimes you can hear them, but for the most part it is becoming a Rays crowd.
And that is a good thing. Rays attendance the last two seasons has risen about 35 percent according to the ABC coalition that is studying the Rays stadium issue.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Greg,
Thanks again.
The photo was taken when I interviewed him during a Rays game when he was sitting in the Checkers Bullpen Cafe.
And the run onto the turf at the Trop and attack the GIECO sign was amazing.
Just wish I had my Flip camera at the time and would have recorded the moment.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Greg,
The core of the fan base seems to be solid.
And with the next generation of Rays fans in their teens, the future is bright.
We just need to have a nice upswing in the next two years to keep the Rays front office at least positive in the area and the ability to get people in the stadium doors.
2010 is suppose to have a few more fan surprises, but it is too early to talk about them now.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Thanks for your response, Renegade. I genuinely do not like the cowbell, but I certainly agree that it can only be good for the entire division if you get steady fan support on a consistent basis. A catchy chant can help. I hope fan support does not diminish after the season you had in 08, since, even if fans don’t like this move or that move for players, the fans can see that the Rays are looking to remain competitive and challenge for the AL East crown. That should benefit the entire AL East. Take care.

Yes, of course, other fans hate the cowbell. But I hate the thunderstix at Angel Stadium too – and the white homer hankies at the Metrodome. It’s only natural for fans of one team to poke fun at the signature symbol of the others. So I say keep up the cowbells no matter what the rest of us say. It’s the Rays’ thing!

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

I totally dig the cowbells. If I’m in the other room with the MLB Tonight show on in the background I definitely know when they’re doing a live look-in at the trop because of that familiar sound… plus, it’s got a very world/euro/s. american feel to it… like all those soccer fans, y’know. MORE COWBELLS! Throw a chant in if ya want (you could start one, Cliff) but the bells are the thing and I dig it.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jane,
I left the Thuderstix out because I have a nice little story about them in 2009.
Twice a season the Rays have Park and Recreation Day at Trop games usually on Thursday afternoon.
Well, Kansas City was in town for one of them, and guess who was on the mound> Mr crowd anxiety himself Zack Geinke.
That was the game he scolded the Trop and the Rays after the game in an MLB.com article.
But I agree they have a deafening effect on everyone within two rows of the clapping plastic air baloons.
I know they drove you crazy in Angels Stadium with those things. Surprised no Angesl fans was hurt during the promo from oddly inserted Thunderstix.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
I have told people the cowbells are an acquired taste.
You bang them to upset rival fans, but sometimes people do not know “The Rules”.
Heck, the Rays Fan Experience crew actually made a Cowbell video with some common sense rules for fans.
Most play by the rules, but then you have some people who are above the law…..Judge Dred style.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

The cowbells are off-putting to me because they remind me of a hoedown or square dancing to bad music….LOL Ok, they are not so bad, just very loud!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Jenn,
It is funny how the small ones can cause the most noise if they get into unison.
But the people with the Big Latin Percussion bells get all the negative attention (Cowbell Kidd).
Well, we are Southern, so a hoedown is not always a bad thing (lol).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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