I can’t remember not being a Bucs fan. That’s how long I’ve been one. I remember ringing my bell for Ricky Bell and wearing my kid-size #63 jersey. I remember “Hey, Hey, Hey! We’re the Buccaneers…” I remember being in middle school and the mood of my Monday was determined by whether or not the Bucs won, so on many Mondays, I was a bit of a grump. I remember Bo telling us, “Thanks, but no.”
I remember writing an essay for an English class about why being a Bucs fan was so much better than being, let’s say a Cowboys fan. I wrote, “While Tampa Bay victories are few and far between, as a fan you learn to truly appreciate a win. And it makes you a stronger, more loyal person, sticking by a team that doesn’t always give you reason to cheer.” The high-fives after a James Wilder first down and the fly-overs were just enough to get us through the lean years…
Then I remember the gradual ascent―when orange started to stand for a rough and tough Cover 2 defense instead of losers of the Central Division. I remember my first game at brand new Raymond James Stadium, the coolest stadium in the NFL. I remember writing a two-page letter of appreciation to Tony Dungy when the Glazers let him go. And then the unimaginable happened. I will never forget…the Super Bowl season.
Of course, I remember Derrick Brooks was the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the final score of Super Bowl XXXVII (48-21) and that Dexter Jackson was MVP, but Dwight Smith made a case for the honor, as well. But I will never forget how I felt… laughing, crying and cheering with my friends and family, pinching myself and wondering if it was a dream. And if it wasn’t a dream and it was real, then it was a message that dreams can come true.
That was the last game I watched as a “fan.” At the time, I was trying with all my might (and not having much luck) to break into the TV business. The Bucs winning the Super Bowl gave me hope, belief and courage to keep pursuing my own personal dreams. By the beginning of the 2003 regular season, I’d landed my first real on-air TV job. The photo with John Lynch is the first day I ever walked onto the field at Raymond James stadium to do a post-game interview.
The celebration of the Bucs Super Bowl season this Sunday brings back so many memories. It’s hard to believe a decade has gone by. The Super Bowl victory meant so much to me, my family, and the Tampa Bay community. And let’s not forget what it meant to Doug Williams, Jimmie Giles, Batman Wood and many others. If you think sports don’t matter to a community and that sports don’t shape it and the indivduals that comprise it, think again. Fire the cannons!