Fact: I am a Buccaneer fan. Long time. Long suffering. My family had season tickets for the inaugural year of Bucs football, back when the team was in the AFC West (what was that about?), John McKay’s stogies were fresh and the Selmon brothers were our resident sporting celebrities.
Even though the team, well, frankly sucked, they were our team. Aside from the upstart, nouveaux sports from the Rowdies, the Bucs were the only pro sports team that belonged just to us. Tampa Bay. No spring training. No transplants. Ours. And we loved them, no matter how green and young and untested and awful they were.
In many ways, I’m still that young sports fan when it comes to the Bucs. I am a faithful, loyal supporter who will always cheer for them, regardless of how terrible they are (see: most of the ‘80s and early ‘90s as example)
But I may not always believe in what they’re doing – how they’re operating as a team, both from a management and personnel standpoint. (see: Leeman Bennett, Ray Perkins, et al)
At the beginning of this season, I looked at this to be just another typical Buccaneer year, hoping that the team, tagged by many with that “low expectations” label, would simply not suck. They were young in age and experience, from the guys on the field to the head coach, a guy who is a year younger than the franchise itself. My expectations were firmly managed.
Then the Bucs won the first game of the season. Yay! And the second. Alright! Lost a couple of big games but didn’t let that throw them off their stride. Hmmm. They bounced back and kept winning. Yes! Not always in a pretty fashion, but you don’t get style points in the NFL when it comes to records.
I’m watching – ok, listening (thanks NFL blackout rules!) to the games but my interest has gone from “this is good background noise” to “I need to stop multi-tasking and pay attention.”
And then there was a moment in the game against Atlanta. Third quarter. Lots of football still to play. And the Bucs try an onsides kick. We would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling refs. I’m still not convinced that Connor Barth’s leg touched the ball when it did, but that’s neither here nor there at this point.
Whoa. That was a game changer – maybe not for the scuffle on the field, but for me. Right then and there… I went from loyal fan to committed, invested fan.
I believed. Because it’s obvious the team itself believes. And is committed and invested.
I posted on Twitter not long after that play: dear santa, i want cojones as big as raheem's. enjoy the milk and cookies. love, janey #bucs
Yes, this team is still young. Still has many things to learn. Experience to gain. But they have heart. Confidence. And swagger. These guys play a kind of pure football – they’re not jaded veterans or overhyped superstars. When things are firing, they’re fun to watch. Josh Freeman to Mike Williams = great tandum (and I don’t feel that way just because they’re both starters on my fantasy football team, the Ignorant Sluts. OK, maybe just a little.) LaGarrett Blount. Rejus Benn. Potential.
I haven’t been this excited about a Buccaneer team in ages. Not because of what they might accomplish this year, but because of how they are going about accomplishing things. Sure, the defense has issues. And the offense needs some fine-tuning. But when a team is playing to be their best and expectations be damned, good things are going to happen.