Ronde Barber had to win a lottery in order to play St. Andrews
(Editor's Note: Ronde Barber's European tour was first covered in Volume 3, Issue 1 of Buccaneers Review,* the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' ground-breaking answer to the traditional game program. Buccaneers Review is sold at every Tampa Bay home game and it includes entirely new material, cover to cover, every issue. The magazine-style publication includes exclusive interviews with Buccaneer players and their opponents; in-depth feature stories; a close look at the opponent and their key players; cheerleader features; columns by Head Coach Jon Gruden and long-time Buc standout Dave Moore; rosters, depth charts and much more. All year, Buccaneers Review will be looking at the more interesting things Buccaneer players did with their down time during the offseason in a series entitled, "What I Did Last Summer.")*
These days, playing football in the NFL is a 12-months-a-year occupation. Shortly after one season ends, players begin training for the next one — working out in the weight room, meeting with coaches, attending mini-camps and maintaining their conditioning throughout the year.
Still, the offseason is the time for players to take their vacations and pursue their non-football interests, since the season itself allows for almost no free time at all. This year in Buccaneers Review we'll take a look at how some Buccaneer players chose to spend some of their free time using that time-honored tradition from the first week of every new school year: "How I spent my summer vacation."
In this edition, veteran cornerback Ronde Barber describes in his own words a trip to Europe he took with friends and family, and how the experience has helped turn him into a passionate fan of that other form of "football.'
"This offseason, for the third year in a row, my wife and I and a couple of friends went to Europe. The last couple of years on our trips to Europe we had pretty much focused on London. This year the trip evolved into a London trip plus a golf trip. We actually went to Scotland for four days and played Kingsbarn, The Old Course and we played the two courses at the Fairmont St. Andrews. We ended up playing about five rounds of golf in four daysÃ¢â'¬Â¦it was a good trip. It was cold and windy as it always is, a true Scottish golf experience.
The town of St. Andrews is a quaint little village on the coast of the North Sea. It really is a beautiful place, steeped in golf history. The day we played The Old Course was actually nice. The sun was out and you could feel the presence of legends of the game and shots they've hit on the famed course.
One of the most unique things about it is that it is completely open to the public. It's basically a park and anyone can walk through the course. You can even drive through the 18th and 1st fairways. And get this, you can't just make a tee time there, you have to put yourself in a lottery. For two days we missed out, but on the third, we finally had our names drawn. Having never been there before, it was a surreal experience; standing in the footsteps of all the Open Championship history.
I wouldn't say the course was too difficult, but the greens were impossible and those famed bunkers...luckily I only found myself in one, hole number 12, it was one of those fairway bunkers everyone talks about. I had to chip out backwards and made bogey. It's completely mind boggling how vast the course isÃ¢â'¬Â¦it really makes for a unique golf experience.
In addition to the golf, we were fortunate enough to take in a Manchester United game. We have been before, but we had a chance to see the Red Devils at Chelsea. It was at the end of the year and I think the game tied up the table between the two teams, because Chelsea ended up beating Man U. It was a great game. We've been to Man U the past couple years, but this was the first time we got to stay in London and watch a game. I've taken an interest in Man U since our owners acquired the team. There are quite a few guys in the locker room that have gotten into the English Premier League. Chris Simms is a big Man U fan as well while Ike Hilliard is a huge Chelsea fan, you know he is a Blue, so we've got a little healthy rivalry going.
I've become a fan of many of the Manchester United players. I would say my favorite player is probably Wayne Rooney, he's just a brute. Of course Ronaldo is the best player in the world right now and he is unbelievable to watch also. It really is a fascinating sport over there, completely intertwined with their culture. Unless you have been there to experience it, it's impossible to comprehend the level at which the fans support their favorite football team. People think we have a lot of pride here in our teams, but every game is sold out over there. Every player over there is a superstar; because they start so young and move up through the ranks everybody knows about them so once they finally make it to the big time it's like everybody knows everything about them. Here it's a bit different, you have a number of superstars on each team but it's not so much revered as it is over there. It's a real fascinating experience, just the passion that they show for it.
One of the funniest moments of the trip was during the game we attended. Paul Scholes and Garry Neville, two players for Man U, weren't playing and I went up and introduced myself. I said, "I'm Ronde Barber, I am from the Glazers' other football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers." They looked at me like I was crazy and had no idea what I was talking about. It's just different. Soccer is king over there.
Overall, it was an awesome trip. Other than the 14-hour flights there and back, it was fun. My wife planned the trip and we've all turned into football fans since. Five years ago I don't know if I could have told you any player in any league around the world, but now it's definitely become a passion. It was certainly one of the highlights of my offseason. Hopefully I can make it over for some more games in the near futureÃ¢â'¬Â¦or even the World Cup in South Africa in 2010!"