Bucs fandom comes in all different forms. For some, it was time spent with a family member growing up, etching the Buccaneers into fond memories of their childhood. Others, it was upon the first sound of cannons booming inside Raymond James Stadium. Or maybe you've been around from the beginning, when the Buccaneers finally brought NFL football to Tampa Bay.
No matter your story, we want to help tell it. And so begins our series highlighting Buccaneers fans from around the Bay and beyond.
Meet David Cambridge. He belongs in the 'and beyond' category. David is from Hertfordshire, England and a proud member of the Bucs UK Fan Club. This is his fan story.
The First Wave
David came to be a Bucs fan at the very start of their best era of football. In 1995, following a draft class that saw the Bucs take both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the first round, David saw his first Buccaneers game live. He had been a fan of American football for over a decade at that point, but was lacking a team to support.
"NFL really took off in the 80's with televised coverage in the UK – Channel 4," David said. "I have to say I didn't really have a particular team at that stage, it was really just getting into it, understanding it. It was impossible to really find out about teams and what was going on – it was long before the internet, social media, anything. I suppose it's very much like most UK fans, you come over to vacation in Orlando and Tampa is the first live game you get to see. We came down here for a game at the old 'Sombrero' and from then on it was hooked and it was Tampa all the way."
The atmosphere was unlike anything David had ever seen. He feels that American sports, and football in particular, is really put on for the fans. It's engaging and geared towards entertaining not only those at home, but those actually in the stadium. The breaks in play, the pregame and halftime periods; only the fans that are physically there are able to be a part of it. And when you're a part of something, you feel a sense of connection to it even more. That's what really hooked David to his now beloved Bucs.
"The stadium itself just looked fantastic," David says of attending that first game. "It was cool because the background of it was where the construction of Raymond James was just starting. You knew it was going to be big. To really enjoy a sport, you need to have a bit of ownership with a team. So when Bucs becomes your team, you just follow it. That was it from then on, just constantly focused on the Buccaneers."
Planting the Flag
David's fandom, along with many others in the UK, grew with the rise of the internet and social media. He's part of the Bucs UK Fan Club, originally started decades ago as a way to get information about the Bucs overseas. The club now boasts over 300 paying members and David is instrumental in its day-to-day operations. Now that all it takes is a simple Google search to get the information on the team, the club has evolved.
"It's a lot more fun now," David says of the club and being a fan these days. "All the hard work about finding out what on earth is happening with the franchise I remember – that's all gone now. That's the easy part. Everybody is telling us what's going on but it's all about the community now. It's just marvelous."
David himself has been to over 60 Bucs games live. During the regular season in previous years, he says, he goes to one game a month, usually getting to 4-5 games in a season. When he's home, he's one of the main organizers of watch parties for the fan club.
"So, every Sunday night when the games are on, because for us, if it's a 1 o'clock game, it starts 6 p.m. in the UK," David explains. "If it's later, the overnight games, we'll schedule it for the next morning, put Game Pass on the screen. We're all watching the Bucs live, got a live forum where everyone is following and sharing. The living room at home is like mission control, you've got one TV with Red Zone, one TV with Bucs and one on social media and everybody is watching and following the game, sharing emotions. It's a whole experience, even if you're not in Florida."
The Bucs UK Fan Club also makes the games at home interactive for members as well. They have over 300 members and as a way to keep people engaged, they give away prizes during games for certain 'competitions' as David calls them. Each game, in 'mission control' they pick categories and have people make their best guesses, things like how many rushing yards there will be in the game, how many sacks or passing yards, too. David says they try to make them generic so even the 'youngsters' can play. The prizes are signed memorabilia that David and others take it upon themselves to get every time they make a trip to see the Bucs play live.
One of his favorite signatures to get? David's favorite player, which is of course linebacker Lavonte David, whose jersey he was fittingly wearing at the time.
"David is my name so of course I have Lavonte on my jersey," he says.
He also had the opportunity to meet tight end Cameron Brate when Cam was overseas this past summer ahead of the Bucs' contest in London this year. That will be a thrill all on its own as the Bucs make their first trip back to London since 2011.
"We have 214 members already with tickets coming in two designated blocks in the stadium, thanks really to the Buccaneer organization and NFL UK really working with us to do that," David said. "We just have the most amazing relationship with Buccaneers as well. The front office is just fantastic to us and it's a real big thrill again that they're coming back again to London this October."
Though physical distance has separated David from his favorite team, the connection he has with other fans, near and far is what keeps him coming back again and again.
"We've got so many friends both sides of the pond now," David says. "I've been coming here forever. Everybody, we all see each other, we recognize each other, we've been going to games. It's not just the football on the field, it's about being part of something, being part of the franchise, of the team."