Kelly Bayly (center) has turned Fridays at Timbercrest Elementary into Buccaneer Day
Mr. Blackwell may not approve. Forget the color scheme – haute fashion critics aren't big on pewter – it's the high heels-sports apparel combo that would probably affront Blackwell's sensibilities.
Kelly Bayly could care less.
Excuse us, that's Mrs. Bayly, as she's known at Timberlake Elementary School in Deltona, Florida. In a sort of sports-themed 'Pay It Forward,' Bayly, an often-used substitute teacher at Timberlake, has fashioned a Buccaneer movement that threatens to take over the school.
Refer, if you will, to the picture above, in which Bayly is the centerpiece in a sea of red (look for her signature John Lynch jersey). Space constraints required cropping of the picture on each side, but take our word for it – the mass of red-clad students stretched out for tens of yards on each side. Waldo could have gotten lost in that crowd.
And it all started with Bayly and her Lynch jersey.
Kelly Bayly is the Buccaneers.com 'Fan of the Week,' thanks to the above photo and her compelling letter sent in for the Fan of the Week contest. Though a Buc fan since 1986, Bayly's passion has only recently spread to the rest of Timberlake.
Bayly started the movement by skirting the edges of the school's dress code. Before long, it was an expected sight – if it was Friday, Mrs. Bayly would be wearing her Lynch jersey. Her fever was contagious and, as any parent can tell you, a virus spreads through an elementary school quicker than Warrick Dunn slices through the line of scrimmage.
Or, as Bayly puts it, "The fanaticism seems to have caught fire."
There may be no stopping it now.
"Week by week, I have noticed increasingly more Buccaneer jerseys wandering the halls on Friday afternoons," wrote Bayly. "As we pass each other, high-fives ensue (behind-the-back sly ones when the principal is looking). All this while the season is still young. I look forward to nothing but a sea of black and red once we hit the playoffs."
Bayly penned her letter shortly before the Bucs took on the Green Bay Packers on October 7. To her great delight, Tampa Bay won that afternoon, 14-10, behind a fourth-quarter, 39-yard touchdown run by Mike Alstott. As fate would have it, Bayly is a big fan of an Alstott-driven Buccaneer offense; this and much more we learned through the traditional Fan of the Week 10 Questions. To see Bayly's thoughts on the Buccaneers and her 15-year passion for the team, please read that question-and-answer session below.
If you think you should be the Buccaneers' next Fan of the Week, there is still plenty of time to submit your entry. Each Fan of the Week is rewarded with an invite to a closed-to-the-public Buccaneers practice, if local. Fans who cannot attend a practice are sent a Buccaneers gift pack.
To learn how to enter the Fan of the Week contest, please click here, or visit Buccaneers.com any day and look for the Fan of the Week graphic on the right side of the home page.
How long have you been a Buccaneers fan and what is your first memory of rooting for the team?
Bayly: "I would have to say that the first time I really became a Buccaneers fan was in 1986. The first game I ever went to, the Bucs were playing the Chicago Bears. I think that has to be my most memorable experience as a fan, ever. Just to be there in the stadium, not just watching it on TV, was a totally different experience. I fell in love with them from that very moment."
(Editor's Note: The Bucs lost that game, 23-3, en route to a 2-14 season. That apparently didn't dampen Bayly's new-found enthusiasm.)
Bayly: "I am a Tampa Bay fan through and through, whether they're winning or not. That's the sign of a true fan, to stick with them when it's not going well, and that's me
What is your most prized Buccaneers possession?
Bayly: "That would probably be my John Lynch jersey. As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago I had a dream that I got his autograph on my jersey. If that could come true (at her visit to One Buccaneer Place), that would be awesome. But just seeing the guys would be wonderful, too.
"I've got Buccaneers.com as my home page, and I always go there and see all the wonderful things that John and the other guys do for the community. That just makes me love them all the more."
Do you have any superstitions or rituals that you follow for every game?
Bayly: "I wear my jersey every Friday to school when I teach. Some of the teachers look at me kind of funny because I walk in there every Friday during football season with my jersey on. Every single Friday. Even if I've got a skirt and heels on, I've got my jersey on."
"And that has really caught on at school. Now, there are 50 or 100 kids walking through the hallways on Fridays with their Buccaneer jerseys on. It's amazing."
Do you have a Buccaneers-decorated room? Please describe.
Bayly: "I don't have a room, but I have a display around my television set. I collect Buccaneer teddy bears, and I've been given several of them from students at school who know I'm such a big fan. I have a corner right next to the TV that's set up like a shrine. I've got the Bucs' schedule framed and on top of my TV, and I mark off the wins and losses – not that it really matters to me. And I've got the picture I submitted with my letter (see above) framed and up there. And then I've got all my bears that the kids have given me stacked up next to it."
Who is your favorite Buccaneers player, current and all-time?
Bayly: "That's just John Lynch, John Lynch, John Lynch. Period. I love almost every one of those players with all my heart. They're awesome."
If you were the Buccaneers general manager or coach for a day, what move(s) would you make?
Bayly: "I guess that would come down to what I said in my letter about Mike Alstott. Awhile, at the beginning of the season, they were throwing the ball to Mike a lot, rather than have them run it. With the power that he has, I'd have to say I would be consistent in letting him run the ball. There have been questions in the past about him having a problem with one of his hands and fumbling the ball a lot, but I think they're blowing that way out of proportion. The strength that he has in other areas overpowers that ten-fold. Let Mike run the ball."
Describe the items you wear (including any face paint or other skin adornments) on game day?
Bayly: "I paint 'Go Bucs' on my face if I go to the game. I usually don't do that in front of the TV set, but sometimes I paint my face and wear some beads I was giving for my birthday. I have two of the same t-shirts, so I can wear one when I'm washing the other one. I've got my football there and I'm ready to go."
How does your family feel about your Buccaneers obsession?
Bayly: "They love it. My husband is as big of a fan as I am, and we have two daughters, 10 and 8, and they're getting there. They dress up for the Buccaneers day at school. They made their hair red and painted their faces."
Describe the Bucs' most memorable game since you began rooting for the team?
Bayly: "That would still be that Chicago game, the first one I ever went to. I will never forget it as long as I live. That's when I developed my love for them, and I won't ever forget it.
"There were Chicago fans everywhere at that game, probably more of them than Buc fans. In fact, we went with a group of about 10 people and my husband – at the time, he was just my boyfriend – and I were the only two in our group that had on Tampa Bay colors. I couldn't believe they were all wearing Chicago clothes.
"It was awesome, I can't even tell you."
Simply put, why are you a Buccaneers fan?
Bayly: "I am a Buccaneers fan because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the best team ever, pure and simple. On the field, off the field, I'm proud of every single thing about the Bucs."