The First Wave
For me, I was always a football fan. Played football when I was younger and being that this was my local team, I started following it. Me and my buddy, before we could afford season tickets, used to always go to the games, just he and I. We'd roll up to the stadium, pay our $20 and get in and go watch the game. The combination of being a football fan and it being my local team, it's what I grew up on.
I got my season tickets in 1997 and my buddy and I still sit at the games together. We've been the same since day one – my tickets are right behind his. Now, over the years, it's grown. When I first started going, I didn't have a family. As I've had children and a wife, I've increased my ticket count. Now, I'm up to five tickets. But around my little tickets, there's about 15 or 16 of us that are in the same zone because we've all grown and that's where we hang out.
Planting the Flag
I have a short bus that I've converted for tailgating. We take a short bus and an RV out there and we go to the Al Lopez Park area, we're right on the corner. The tailgating probably evolved maybe 15 years ago. It really started out with me bringing a grill in the back of my truck and with my wife at the time, no kids and just a couple of friends. There'd be like four of us. Now, it's evolved to 30, 40, 50 people. It's just a blast.
I will say, I had a big truck with the truck bed and I'd have to load a grill, some tables, chairs in there and I got tired of unloading my truck after every game. Originally, my ex-wife went online and found this short bus from a daycare. I ripped the back four, five rows of seats out and then everybody could sit up front and I could put everything in the back. I wouldn't have to unload it. It was already painted white so I added stickers and things like that. I used to be a USF season ticket holder, too, so the bus has USF and Bucs stickers all over it and kind of came out of convenience. A couple years later, I had this thing where I wanted to 'limo' it out a little bit and get it with seats and stereo and TV, so after one of the seasons, I ripped all the chairs out except for the driver's seat. I put in bench seats and TV and stereo and did it all myself which makes it even better. I put a back porch on it, so you're not a hillbilly unless you drive a short bus with a back porch on it [laughs]. That's where the grill stays. It was the best $5,000 ever spent.
I would say bringing people together is what Bucs games have evolved to. Half of it for us is the tailgate. We get there at 8:30 in the morning, we tailgate until the game starts and then we hang out for a little while after the game and then head home. It's definitely a means to get people together and just have fun.
From my perspective, the team since I've been there, there is not one employee, player, coach owner, nobody from the team has been there as long as I have. The team itself is always transforming, the organization is always transforming, the people that are there all the time are the fans. We never leave. So, for us, it's still our Buccaneers. The Buccaneers may look different, but it's our Buccaneers.
My daughters and I actually got involved in the brand campaign in 2014, too, we were at the commercial shoot for some of the branding done back then. My kids have never known anything besides the Bucs. They've grown up being that face of the Bucs and going to the games. I go back to review videos when my oldest child was there cheering at the games.
My favorite memory has to be the Super Bowl win and going through as a season ticket holder and the feeling that you got. I think it was, 'This is what I've been waiting for.' Like the players and the coaches, it's like we finally made it to the top. There's nobody better than us in the whole world, we did it. You know what I'm saying? That glory of being able to say for 365 days that ain't nobody better than us – 366? That's another story [laughs]. But for 365, there was nobody better than us.
Three-hundred and sixty-five days of glory is probably the sum up of that.