A bad day in Florida may beat a good day anywhere else, but it’s not all fun and games in the Sunshine State. With tough-as-nails mascot Captain Fear at the helm, the hardworking, swashbuckling, football-hustling Buccaneers of Tampa Bay have made many an enemy walk the plank.
Joining the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team, the Bucs won their first game during week 13 of their second season. In ’79, they achieved the best start in team history to date, a 5-0 record for consecutive victories that would later be matched in ’97. In 1981, the Bucs won their second NFC Central Division title in three years, partly because of a stunning 84-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Doug Williams to wide receiver Kevin House.
Some superstitious fans fear for the Bucs when they play away games in frigid temperatures. They must have forgotten the landmark 2002 game when the Bucs clobbered the Chicago Bears 15-0, finally breaking their streak. This was the first time Tampa ever outperformed a foe with temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff. However, the situation is reversed when opposing teams come to town, with the sweltering Florida weather serving up a stifling punishment. The Bucs have a history of playing in their white road uniforms at home games, forcing foes to wear heat-absorbing darker colors.
And Raymond James Stadium is not exactly an inviting haven for rivals. Known as the “crown jewel of the NFL,” this exciting, colossal venue features a 103-foot, 43-ton replica pirate ship complete with booming cannons and an animatronic parrot. But the visitors' bench is located on the east side -- the hot, sizzling side. This strategic positioning has caused many to suffer and whine during afternoon games under the oppressive sun, while the Bucs' bench is relatively cooler and much more comfortable.
During the 2002 season, Tampa Bay reveled in their most impressive achievement: winning their first-ever NFL Championship, Super Bowl XXXVII. Affectionately nicknamed “The Pirate Bowl,” this legendary showdown pitted the Bucs’ #1 ranked defense against the Oakland Raiders’ top-ranked offense. What’s more, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden served as the Raiders’ head coach until 2001, before coming to Tampa Bay in 2002. Gruden brought knowledge of his former team to his new one to great success: a decisive 48-21 victory. Not only did Gruden’s expertise bolster the Bucs, but so did the impressive and crisply coordinated efforts of several key players, including Dexter Jackson, who intercepted two passes from Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon during the first half of the game -- one of which led to a go-ahead field goal.
Through the highest of highs and lowest of lows, the Tampa Bay faithful can always count on the crystal-clear waters and white sandy beaches of the Bay. After a Bucs game, you might find them living it up in Ybor City, enjoying its rich Cuban, Spanish and Italian heritage as they recount the exploits of Dexter Jackson and others. Some fans migrate back to the Gulf Beaches to wrap up their weekend vacations. A brave few even finish the day aboard a Captain Memo’s pirate cruise, all the while looking forward to bright horizons filled with Bucs victories