It's raining. Chilly. A typical fall evening in such a location as I exit the train and emerge from an underground subway station, throwing the hood of my black rain jacket over my head and subsequently, half my eyes. I duck around the open umbrellas of people bustling about the cobblestone streets and approach a corner bar with a familiar red glow.
I remove my hood as I walk through the doorway, which opens my eyes to the scene in front of me. I'm greeted by a big, burly, very friendly man in a black suit. "Go Bucs!" he says to me with a cheerful smile. This is The Admiralty in London, England, a quintessential British pub just off historic Trafalgar Square and over 4,000 miles from Tampa. This particular Friday night though, it's filled to the brim with Buccaneer fans from near and far.
You already know the Bucs are pirates and it turns out, their ship in all its swashbuckling glory navigates international waters and spans continents, after all. I mean, you didn't think it just stayed docked in Raymond James Stadium, did you? Allow me to inform you that it very much does not and the passion for the red and pewter, along with die-hard Bucs fandom, crosses oceans right along with it.
Fighting through the massive crowd, I'm not quite sure where to go first. I'm ushered upstairs where the Bucs UK Fan Club has set up shop and even facilitated a question-and-answer segment with Buccaneer-great Simeon Rice, with the help of the Bucs themselves. People clamor to get up close as Rice and team reporter Casey Phillips sit with a microphone and talk about their London experience, so far. It's an experience that will spill over to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the coming Sunday as part of the NFL's International Series.
It's the 26th NFL game to be played overseas and just the second to be played in the brand-new stadium, which was constructed with the NFL in mind. It's there that international Bucs fans, and fans of the NFL in general, turn out by the droves, amounting to over 60,000 in attendance to see the Week Six matchup between the 'home' Buccaneers and division-rival Carolina Panthers.
"It is different, but the passion is the same," says Angus Simpson, a London local and converted Bucs fan I run into on the sprawling concourse on the day of the game. "In the U.S. you guys are used to tailgating and things you've done for years. Here, it's really new so everyone is super excited every game, like 'oh my God, oh my God!'"
Simpson is decked out in Bucs gear, including a headband wrapped around his head that matches his wife, Christie, who is from the Tampa Bay area. She attended Florida State University and studied abroad, where she would meet her future husband and decide to stay. She brought her Buccaneers fandom with her and it rubbed off on Angus in a big way.
"My husband comes back to Tampa every time I come home every Christmas," Christie said. "He meets up with his friends who are from the Tampa Bay area and they go to Bucs games. It was a no brainer when the Bucs were in town to go to the game and so now, he's an obsessive Bucs fan—
"—Obsessed," Angus interjects. "I'll spend vast amounts of money to go to Bucs games, happily."
It's one of three games Angus will see live this season, actually. Angus will also be attending the last two home games of the year inside Raymond James Stadium on December 22 against the Houston Texans and December 29 against the Atlanta Falcons as the pair return to Christie's home for Christmas. But today, he didn't have to travel too far, and it became kind of a special moment for both he and his wife.
"It's my hometown team in my new hometown," says Christie.
And for the day, with all the Bucs bunting along the field and the passion emanating from the Tampa Bay fans cheering in the crowd, it was the Bucs' home, too.