It’s Super Bowl Weekend. Two teams are focused on their tasks at hand and a Nation is watching.
This is the one game where you don’t need to be a “fan” per se, of either team playing, heck not even a football fan; just a spectator looking on at the amazing spectacle of what’s become an American extravaganza.
This years games matches the best Defense versus the best Offense from the season.
It should. No, I’m not talking about last years number 1 rated Carolina Offense versus Denver’s number 1 ranked Defense; I’m talking 2002 Buccaneers versus Raiders. What a day that was for this old pirate…
Let me first give you some background on this old Buc’s warrior. I have been a fan since the kick off the 1976 season. Even before that actually, I’d say the first time I saw the new teams uniforms on ESPN.
I was born in Connecticut but moved to South Florida at a very young age. Growing up in South Florida in the mid-1970’s was all about one thing…The Miami Dolphins.
But not for me. I actually sort of hated the Dolphins. I grew up pulling for the underdogs, the David versus Goliath type of person, is who I was. The Dolphins were just coming off their back-to-back Super Bowl wins and had been a dominant team in the early 70’s. Then the Steelers sort of put a stop to that. Miami hasn’t been a real factor since.
But I digress….
I never got on the Miami Bandwagon. Just seemed so easy. So when in 1975 I saw the uniforms for this new team starting up across the State in Tampa, I was hooked. Bright, orange-lined on all white? A winking pirate clenching a knife in his teeth? How could you not love them?! I was a addict ever since.
And we started out in pre-season with a win and expectations ran high, but we all know what followed… 24 straight losses in the regular season, losing with amazing ineptitude and folly.
Nobody snatched defeat from the jaws of victory like my Bucs!
Expansion teams weren’t what they are now. Then you got cast offs from other teams and draft picks. Free Agency has changed the sport forever. This is why teams like Carolina and Jacksonville made the playoffs almost immediately. Their teams were competitive and stacked.
Both Tampa Bay and Seattle were, well, junk.
Seattle became contenders way before Tampa Bay, with Tampa’s brief flirtation with the playoffs and even a NFC Championship Game in 1979- being the only oasis of hope in a desert of despair.
But I stuck with them. After all, if you can still be a fan after 0-24 what can’t you live through? I survived the Leeman Bennetts and the Richard Williamsons. I lived through the Ray Perkins debacle, and watched Sam Wyche assemble key elements to our eventual phoenix rising from mediocrity in Sapp, Brooks, and Lynch. That Defense Wyche assembled flourished under Tony Dungy’s scheme. Dungy then got us competitive again, with playoff appearances (yet early exits), and Jon Gruden got us our ring.
That brings me back to this week.
As a lifelong Bucs fan, and when I say “fan” I mean the elongated “fanatic”, this week of 2002 held almost a dream like feel. My beloved Bucs, the team I had bled Orange and later Pewter for almost 30 years was in a Super Bowl. These sort of things didn’t happen to Bucs fans! Yet here were where….and what a scenario!
Oakland’s former Coach whom we poached the year before playing his old team, the Offense he created, the players he drafted or brought in, his own playbook, best versus best, Defense versus Offense.
And we kicked their ever loving rear-ends all over San Diego!
I had friends whom I hadn’t talked to in decades contacting me to congratulate me. Old shipmates from the Navy calling me to say how happy they were for me. They all remembered me wearing those God-awful orange creamsicle jerseys and shirts, and even the orange and white “Zumbazz” shorts and matching socks in the 80‘s (yes, I’m that old). My childhood friends all remember my little “Buccy” doll I had in my room when I was 10 (still got it).
It was as if I died and these people were giving my eulogy. How wonderful it felt to have to have that feeling of victory! Super Bowl Champions, the Lombardi Trophy was to be displayed in Tampa forever. It was surreal.
I don’t know who will win Sunday, couldn’t care less to be honest. I care about one team and one only. I’ll watch, of course, and I will enjoy it if it’s as good a game as last year’s was (seeing Cam Newton bounced off the turf 100 times helped for sure).
But once you’re a Super Bowl Champion, it can never been taken from you.
We have had much futility since that glorious day. Will we back in the “Big Show” again? I believe it. Not just fan talk here, we have the keys in place for a play-off caliber team. A few extra pieces here and there and we will be something special.
We are young, very young actually. Young talent is a wonderful thing. That means we can be good for a while.
We were, for intents and purposes, a missed extra point (Oakland game) from the playoffs this year.
What could have been huh? But if you are a Bucs fan for as long as I am, you have to have patience. Once we start to win consistently again, I will move over slightly to allow fans to jump on the bandwagon again. I have watched it empty and fill up quite a few times. My seat is permanent though. I ride or die with them.
But hey, there’s room enough for everyone.
So sit back and enjoy the game Sunday. Our day is coming, coming soon.
And if you are an old-timer like me, your phone will start to ring again and you will get Facebook messages (there wasn’t any Facebook last time we won) congratulating you on YOUR teams big day.
Oh yes, be patient Bucs Family. The cannons will fire and teams will be plundered for decades to come.