By Doug Kelly
Tampa Bay isn’t just the champions, we’re the national TAMPIONS in all pro sports. The Bucs win the Super Bowl. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup. The Rays go to the World Series, just missing a trifecta. And if our town had a pro basketball team, you could bet your skyhook that it would have been the best in the NBA this year. Yessir, to borrow an unoriginal moniker, we should be referred to as Champa Bay.
Not since the days of Jose Gaspar has buccaneer fever captured our minds and souls. After Sunday night’s victory over the Kansas City Chiefs by the surprising margin of 31 to 9, every Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan is basking in the reflected glory and digesting the sweet taste of victory.
How wonderfully things changed in this chaotic season amid a world rightly preoccupied with a pandemic. When the Bucs’ record stood at 7 and 5 after 12 games, no one in Las Vegas would have bet a buck on the Bucs even making the playoffs. Instead, those pugnacious pirates buckled their chin straps and made every team standing in their way walk the plank.
If we could just wind back the clock to November: I’d sell my car, house and every possession, fly to Las Vegas and place three – the Bucs to win, the Chiefs to score no touchdowns and the winning margin 22 points. If so, I’d have more money than Tom Brady.
What accounts for this unexpected turnaround and display of gridiron brilliance? Maybe the invigorating salt air? Fate? The enthusiasm derived from ingesting stone crabs? Maybe … ah hell, let’s just admit it … it’s mainly because of a lanky dude named Tom Brady and a surrounding cast of coaches and players we can lovingly call the Brady Brunch.
And what a bunch it is. One wouldn’t expect ruffians tough enough to trade licks with 300-pound-plus behemoths to possess unassuming names like Brown, White, Evans, Godwin, Jones and Edwards. But throw in transoceanic names such as Gronkowski, Suh, Fournette and Pierre-Paul, and you’ll know that these guys don’t engage in finesse, they specialize in being physical, tough, tenacious. They simply outmuscle, outrun and outplay the competition – just ask Patrick Mahomes.
Ah yes, my brothers and sisters, there’s not a speck of mud in Mudville today. Maybe mighty Casey struck out in Ernest Thayer’s famous baseball poem, but our mighty Tommy whistled that oblong spheroid in tight spirals over the heads of KC’s defenders. Three TD passes, two of them to his bro Gronk. Like no other man before him, Brady could wear seven diamond-studded SB rings, and one can only wonder if he’l end up with one for the other three fingers before he bids adieux. Let’s face it, if Casey enjoyed an irresistible force as a team offense and an immovable object for a defense, he’d have blasted a grand slam.
So, if after nearly two decades you still have on the wall the image of a Bucs Super Bowl victory from decades past, just leave it up there. Just grace your other wall with the toothy poster-boy smile of Tom Brady on the podium at Raymond James Stadium – our home stadium – as confetti fills the air like a New England blizzard.
The Lombardi Trophy, home again at last. Happiness. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Tom and the Brady Bunch.
Let’s do it again next year.
P.S. — In my last ColorfulClearwater.com blog (Super Bowl Champs!) with predictions by Clearwaterians of the final score, quite a few picked the right winning number of 31 for the Bucs: Chris Latvala, Frank Dame, Brian Aungst Jr., Dan Slaughter, Carl Schrader, Matt Noyes and Hoyt Hamilton. The person coming closest to the winning margin of victory of 22 points: Frank Chivas. Of course, no one in the world predicted the Chiefs would wind up with only nine points, thanks to a pugnacious performance by the Bucs defense.