Vice President Al Gore hoped the number on his new Bucs' jersey bore an omen for next Tuesday's election
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are surprised to find their record at just .500 halfway into the 2000 season, but they do lead the NFL in one high profile category: visitors from the White House.
Roughly three months after sitting president Bill Clinton visited a Buccaneers practice during training camp on July 31, his Vice President, Al Gore swung by another Tampa Bay workout at the team's headquarters on Wednesday. Gore's visit comes just six days before next week's presidential election, in which he is pitted against Republican nominee and Texas Governor George W. Bush.
This is actually Gore's second visit to a Buccaneers' practice, having also stopped by in October of 1997, just as Tampa Bay was coming off a season-opening five-game winning streak that had opened eyes around the NFL. This time, Gore was in town during his final swing through Florida, considered a critical state in the election.
Accompanied by his wife, Tipper, Gore arrived at the Buccaneers' practice field at approximately 3:00 p.m., halfway through the team's afternoon workout. After meeting with Buccaneer representatives and other guests on hand, Gore watched interestedly as Head Coach Tony Dungy and the Bucs finished up a section of team drills.
When Dungy called a break between sections, Gore gathered with the team at midfield and accepted a Buccaneer jersey bearing his name and the number one. "It's nice to be given number one for once," cracked Gore. "I was getting a little tired of always being number two or three."
With the team gathered around him in a semi-circle, Gore wished the Buccaneers luck and thanked Coach Dungy for allowing an interruption to practice. "We hate to change our routine," said Dungy, "but we had the Vice President here with a chance for our guys to meet him, and he was on a tight schedule, so we did let him sneak into the middle of practice. He was here earlier. It was actually before a Florida-Tennessee game, I think."
He also made a point of calling forward all of the current Buccaneers who played at schools in his home state of Tennessee, including former Volunteers Cosey Coleman and Steve White as well as Vanderbilt alums Jamie Duncan, Shelton Quarles, Eric Vance and Todd Yoder plus East Tennessee State product Donnie Abraham.
Gore also located WR Keyshawn Johnson and thanked him for talking to Gore's son on the phone last week.
Gore still trails Clinton by one Buccaneer visit. The day before the 1992 presidential election that first brought Clinton to the White House, the soon-to-be President Elect chatted briefly with about eight Buccaneer staffers on the tarmac at the nearby airport hangar. Clinton is good friends with former Buccaneer Special Teams Coach George Stewart, who arranged the meeting. In 1996, just before his second term, Clinton turned his motorcade around as it was headed past One Buccaneer Place and came onto the front lawn to shake hands.
In 1992, then-President George Bush, George W. Bush's father, slowed his own motorcade down as it passed One Buccaneer Place and used a loudspeaker to offer his encouragement to the team.