Kenny Loggins is at Tropicana Field on May 11 -- Rejoice!

Mike Ehrmann

As Rays' attendance problems take a highway to the danger zone, a concert becomes symbolic of the problem of major-league baseball in Florida.

As the Rays' attendance figures typically attest, baseball isn't really a big draw at Tropicana Field. No wonder then, that the "Rays Summer Concert Series" has been created to provide that extra bang for the game-goer's buck -- buy a ticket, get to see the Rays play the Padres, and once that preliminary is out the way, catch some tunes! It's just one more way to get those recalcitrant residents of Tampa to cross the bridge and slum it in St. Pete.

As I live in the Northeast I would be blissfully unaware of all this had the Yankees not journeyed south to play the Rays last week. I watched all three games, 27 innings-worth of baseball totaling an even 200 plate appearances and 757 pitches. Behind home plate, for every single one of them, was a sign: KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.

Rivera_and_loggins_medium

Looking at anything 757 times over three days can be upsetting. You start to doubt your sanity fairly early in the process, perhaps as soon as the 35th or 40th Loggins of the day. At first you think, "Oh, so that's what Kenny Loggins is up to." Then, unbidden, the thoughts begin to come: "Will he play the one from ‘Caddyshack?' He kind of has to, right?" You might get up and make a drink at that point, still wondering how it would feel to actually be there, watching, say, Jedd Gyorko batting in the top of the ninth, two strikes on him, the Padres down 3-1, knowing that the game will soon be over and at any moment thereafter, the rocktacular Loggins experience could begin. You might scream, orgasm, and cut your throat all at once.

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I imagine this was the giddy feeling that Nick Lowe was -- okay, wasn't referring to when he wrote the giddily sarcastic "Rollers Show" for the "Jesus of Cool"/"Pure Pop for Now People" album:

Calling out across the land
Calling every single Roller fan
School's been a drag
But that's alright
'Cause we're gonna see Woody on stage tonight

Gonna see the Rollers
Got a ticket for the Bay City Rollers...

Having lived through the heyday of the 80s soundtrack album the first time around, the thought of being a captive audience for one more rendition of "Danger Zone" fills me with a sense of dread. Sure, not all of Loggins' many soundtrack contributions are bad -- "Footloose" is a song that far exceeds the weak film from which it originated (a film about teenage rebellion expressed through dancing which builds to a climactic dance sequence without very much dancing in it), and "I'm Alright" captures the anarchic spirit of "Caddyshack." I never need hear "Your Mama Don't Dance" again, nor much of the material from the painfully-seventies Loggins & Messina period, but 'll make an exception for the sweet "House at Pooh Corner," with its hooky chord change on "count all the bees in the hive."

I'm not trying to denigrate Kenny Loggins as an artist at all. In writing up this article I plugged Mr. Loggins' name into YouTube and came up with numerous clips of him showing up places to perform his hits, and he seems to be having a good time entertaining people with his brand of catchy, good-time music. There's a place for that, and maybe that place is in Florida just after Fernando Rodney has blown a save. If ever an oppressed people needed uplift, it would be then. And yet, this is not Bob Dylan, with songs that are going to make you rethink American history and culture, or the Rolling Stones, who even in their ancient, shrunken bodies can still make you question your own morality because you're cheerfully sympathizing with the Devil and putting women under your thumb -- "Wait, I just joined the cheering section for misogynistic sadism when I sang along with that last one, didn't I?" He's Kenny Loggins, FM hero, and normally that's enough, but when you take that and say

KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.
KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.
KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.
KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.
KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.
KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11.

it's asking too much of him. As a baseball fan, it's embarrassing when the tail wags the dog. The Padres aren't exactly a big road draw, the Rays aren't a big home draw, and so any bump on May 11 is going to be purely due to Mr. Loggins' appearance. But it's Kenny Loggins, chart heyday 1972-1986. Flog the appearance all you want, but the bump is only going to be so big, and each additional glimpse of KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11 adds to the feeling of desperation.

Maybe it's just that it was a physical sign, not a rotating billboard or a changing scoreboard display. It just sat there, static, as unyielding as CLOSED or GONE FISHIN' or that moment you stop by your dry cleaner at 2:15 and the sign on the door says BACK AT 2:00.

Logggins_medium
Wikimedia Commons

The Rays' lack of attendance is frustrating both because a good product should be rewarded and a lot of good baseball is going unwitnessed, at least in the modern sense of the term. There were games during Joe DiMaggio's 1941 hitting streak in which his exploits were witnessed by about 2000 fans. There were years in the 1930s when the Browns drew 81,000 fans total for 77 home games. If Lou Gehrig hit three home runs during one of those games, he did it pretty much for his private enjoyment. It's like baseball's answer to "if a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?" If Lou Gehrig hits three home runs and nobody sees it, did it happen? Evan Longoria doesn't have quite the same problem due to modern media -- more eyes will see him on television than ever will in person -- but it's about as close as we come.

The Rays are actually up a bit in attendance -- they've picked up 500 fans per game over last season, and currently rank ninth out of 15 AL teams in per-game attendance. It's a pace for about 1.7 million, and if they actually finish ninth in overall AL attendance with that total, you might see Bud Selig jump out a window because it will mean MLB had a seriously down year .

Twenty years in, the viability of major-league baseball is still an unproven proposition. The Rays ranked seventh in overall attendance in their inaugural season and have climbed above 10th place just once (in 2010) since then. The Marlins ranked as high as fifth three times back in the 1990s, but have otherwise been more or less stapled to the bottom of the standings. Certainly both franchises have been saddled with owners that abused the good will of the locals (the Rays in the past, the Marlins pretty much always). Building new ballparks is a very expensive way to test the worthiness of a market, which is why it might make more sense for everyone involved to let the Rays move on -- even if that means St. Petersburg giving up its ironclad lease, which prevents the Rays from even talking about moving. Better to endure the short-term pain of losing a team than the long-term pain of saddling taxpayers with long-term debt that really doesn't accomplish anything.

Until that day comes to pass -- and it will, even if the Rays have to declare bankruptcy to get out from under the lease -- we'll have a lot more KENNY LOGGINS MAY 11. I know every team and ballpark does this to squeeze in extra revenue on off days, but rarely does it feel so central to their efforts. If the Red Sox or the Tigers have a show on May 11, it's ancillary. They're going to play a game the next day and it's going to draw well. The Rays have no choice but to cut footloose.

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