No one who saw Raymond James Stadium that day will ever forget it. Derrick Brooks certainly hasn't.
When the NFL playoffs returned to Raymond James for the first time in three years on January 12, 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were ready, and so were their fans. On the field, Buccaneers visited a crushing, 31-6 defeat on the visiting San Francisco 49ers. In the seats, 65,000 rabid Tampa Bay fans provided a visual and auditory backdrop for the destructing, filling the role of 12th man as well as they ever have.
Buc fans are always loud, of course, but on this day they had help spurring on their team: a memorable stadium giveaway called Battle Flags that turned the crowd into a waving sea of red and white. It was a stunning sight, particularly from field level, where Brooks watched the fans turn into a single picture of support. It was also one of the first things he thought after Sunday's win over New Orleans, when the team learned they would be playing Washington at home on Saturday to open the playoffs.
"I remember that game and all those flags waving," he said. "It really got us fired up and I think it really got the fans into the game, too. I wanted to find out who was responsible for that last time and tell them to make sure they did it again. We need those flags."
Well, good news, Derrick: The Battle Flags are back!
Thanks to Pewter Partners Hess and Miller Lite, the latter of which was also a sponsor of the original flags, every fan who attends Saturday's Wild Card Playoff game against Washington on Saturday will once again find a Battle Flag in his or her seat.
This is the fans' chance to once again emerge as the loudest 12th man in the NFL during the playoffs. The San Francisco game three years ago launched the Buccaneers on their successful pursuit the Super Bowl XXXVII title; the Bucs are hoping their home game against the Redskins on Saturday is the start of another championship run.
As in 2003, an even number of red and white flags will be distributed throughout the stadium, producing the effect of rolling colors when they are waved in unison. The red flags bear the Bucs' skull-and-crossed-swords logo; the white flags are printed with the team's alternate ship logo.
The Buccaneer Battle Flags are 2 feet by 1.5 feet, making them an exceptional keepsake for after the game (you can wave them in your living room during the next round of the playoffs!). Because they are mounted on 16-inch wooden sticks, an item TSA prohibits from being brought into the stadium on game day, fans may not bring them back for subsequent games.
The Battle Flags will definitely make an impact on Saturday's contest, however. If you're attending the playoff game against the Redskins, get ready to raise your flag and be the 12th man!