Following the lead of MLB communities

A crowd of fans planned to be on hand at the St. Petersburg International Airport Sunday night to welcome home the American League East Champion Tampa Bay Rays from their weekend series in Detroit.

This token of community appreciation is one of nine ways to support the Rays, outlined by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and city councilman James Bennett, who have worked together to proclaim 2008 the Year of the Rays, according to a Bay News 9 story.

St. Petersburg, Fla., is going crazy with the Rays’ success and new look this season, so much so that blue lights will light up the St. Pete Pier nightly until the postseason is over.

Other things that Baker has suggested and is encouraging the community to get behind is to hang “St. Pete Loves the Rays — Go the Distance” banners and signs from office buildings, allowing free admission to other St. Pete tourist attractions if you wear Rays gear, making every day at work a Rays Casual Day and encouraging businesses to support the Rays on their marquee.

These displays of spirit are coming about in a community that is trying to build a baseball tradition in a city where many fans were ready to kick out the team after poor performances year-after-year since the team began in 1998.

So, if these get-behind-your team efforts are working a city of fair weather fans, how much more should they work in communities across Shelby County as we enter the last five weeks of football season?

Driving through Columbiana, I’d have no idea that the Shelby County Wildcats are off to a dominating, 5-0 start. Crimson ribbons and signs should adorn Main Street in Columbiana from this afternoon until the Wildcats’ run is over.

It’s becoming harder and harder for some schools to claim a business district for its own in North Shelby, but with Thompson and Pelham this week, we should be seeing Red/Black and Gold/Green everywhere we go in Alabaster and Pelham.

Vincent is off to its best start in years, so bring out the black and gold.

Football fans learned Saturday that sporting a color in excess doesn’t help a team win games, but as long as the team does what its supposed to, a united community spirit can help give teams an extra boost in crucial times this season.

Show your pride, and make every Friday a casual day for your team.

Outside the Lines is a weekly opinion column,