The hotly-anticipated Marvel Comics movie "The Avengers" opened on Friday night, ending what seemed like an interminable wait for Marvel fanboys across the country. Any fear that such a long-awaited movie would be either a critical or box-office flop has been erased by universally positive reviews and the second biggest opening-day haul in cinematic history.
A complicated sequel-slash-union of such mostly-successful movie lines as Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America, the Avengers idea was a Holy Grail of sorts for Marvel fans, thus the hand-wringing. As far as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was concerned, however, there was no need to worry. He too had waited anxiously for years to see the final product, but he never doubted it would be a success.
"There's no way you can mess this movie up," said McCoy. "If all else fails, just have them fight the whole movie. You don't need a storyline – just go in the street and have them fight for two hours. I'd watch that."
Recently, McCoy came up with his own can't-miss idea that similarly pulled together some very passionate subjects. In his case, it was the intersection of the Buccaneers, The Avengers and that socially connecting thread, Twitter. McCoy loves all three, and he knew he wasn't alone. So he put them together and the result was one of the most unique packed-house screenings of the countless ones that took place on Friday night.
McCoy's idea was a contest on Twitter, where those who followed both him and the Buccaneers could enter a sweepstakes to potentially win two tickets to a private screening of The Avengers on opening night at the Veterans AMC 24 in North Tampa. Two hundred lucky Buccaneer/McCoy fans were selected, receiving invites to join McCoy and several of his Buc friends – defensive end Adrian Clayborn, linebacker Adam Hayward and running back Mossis Madu – at the theater on Friday.
They showed up in droves, and there was even a stand-by line in case any of the invited guests were unable to make it. As it turned out, everybody in the stand-by line was able to get in, and that's exactly what McCoy wanted. There was no other agenda on Friday night, just a chance for McCoy to meet some loyal Bucs fans, enjoy their shared love for Marvel Comics and cap the work week off the right way.
"It's Friday, and everybody probably had a hard week with whatever they do," said McCoy. "I know we had a hard week of practice. This is a night where people can come relax and enjoy a movie. Get some popcorn and a drink and you don't have to worry about anything. Just have fun."
The popcorn and drinks were provided by McCoy, too. Buccaneers personnel added a special touch to the theater by lining the walls with huge Buccaneer banners and putting a Buccaneer battle flag, alternating red and white, in every seat. After the theater was filled and before the lights went down, McCoy addressed the crowd, stoking their passion for the movie to begin. That was hardly necessary, of course, but McCoy also took the time to deliver a short message about treating each other with kindness.
McCoy did his best all evening to treat his invited guests well. He worked the long line before the theater opened, signing autographs and posing for pictures. He talked about the movie and Marvel Comics to fellow fans, even revealing that, while he was obviously clad in his new Nike Buccaneers jersey he was also wearing Marvel garments underneath. Specifically, ahem, a pair of superhero underwear.
McCoy and his fellow Buc players were the center of attention before the movie started (Hayward, in particular, did a particularly funny turn as the room's emcee while the theater was filling up), but McCoy simply wanted his guests to enjoy the evening, regardless of his presence.
"It's great, but it's not about me, it's about them," he said. "I didn't do it for me, I did it for them. It's about the fans. There would be no me if there was no them. They come out and support us every Sunday…and not just on Sunday. These fans, they ask me how practice is going. These are the best fans in the country, the best fans in the NFL. Buc Nation is a huge family and most people don't realize that. I'm very family-oriented and I want to keep it that way.
"They give up all their time to come watch us and support us. They're real fans. Before Gerald was here, these fans were here. And when Gerald is gone, these fans will still be here. Well, while I'm here I want to show them that I appreciate them."
Trey and Hayley, a young couple who won a spot at the premiere and drove in from Plant City to take part in the scene, definitely appreciated McCoy's generosity, and the specific decision to combine his love of the Buccaneers and Marvel Comics.
"We follow Gerald [on Twitter], all the players, Buccaneers.com, everything we can find," said Trey, 20. "We were going to go to the midnight premiere but then we won this and that was just perfect. The Bucs and the Avengers are kind of my two favorite things. Definitely Bucs number one – my whole room is done in Bucs stuff. I'm a giant Bucs fan, with a minor in Marvel. This is right up my alley.
"My friend went last night and he said this was perfect movie. It's surprisingly funny, lots of action, of course. Getting a chance to see it on the first night with Gerald McCoy? Nothing better."
Judging from the reactions during and after the actual screening of the movie, virtually everyone in the theater agreed with Trey's friend, as well as the assembled critics. McCoy nearly got his wish, as the movie featured numerous battles, and there were plenty of laughs as well. Many of them centered around McCoy's favorite Avenger, The Hulk.
"My favorite character is the Hulk, by far," said McCoy. "I'm actually related to him; most people don't know that. We grew up together. I found out last year that we were cousins. The Hulk, that's my guy."