FANS' BARBS MAKE McKAY'S EYES RED
As part of his policy of working a day at all manner of jobs, Gov. Bob Graham became a Tribune sports writer. His assignment was to interview, with others, John McKay after the Minnesota game.
The Buccaneer orange in John McKay's shirt paled to the red fire in his eyes as he testily confronted a milling crowd of reporters moments after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers' chance to clinch their first division championship slipped away in a 23-22 defeat to the Vikings. "We blocked bad. We were terrible on defense and our kicking game made up for it by being absolutely horrible,'' McKay barked. It had been a downhill day for a coach on the verge of the Bucs' afternoon of great glory. "we ran on the field fairly well,'' he said sarcastically. Nothing much else pleased McKay.
Three second-half Buc drives ended in the 23-22 frustration to the perennial champions of the National Football Conference's old "Black and Blue'' division. Fans leaning over the wall encircling the south-east tunnel to the Bucs locker room shouted verbal abuse at the coach as he led an emotionless stream of players off the field, defeated. At one point, McKay pointed to an abusing fan and returned the fire with a blue streak. "I'm sick and tired of people reacting toward me that way,'' McKay declared. "I don't know why the fans are down on me. I'm not the one playing. I'm tired of it, just plain tired.''
The interview session offered the stage … and four-inch orange platform at the rear of the 12x20 room adjacent to the closed Bucs locker room … for the curt McKay to make his statements. "We stunk,'' he began. "We wanted the people to give us the game they would not give it to us. We could not kick a field goal. We could not cover a kickoff. But we are big-timers. We get interviewed every day.'' Without waiting for a question, McKay went on, "I'm tired of the people booing me. I wish they would boo those who can't block.''
A haze of hostility, equal to that, which enveloped Tampa Stadium during the last 40 minutes of the game, spread out from the interview room. McKay learned back to the farthest corner of the cramped space. His white hat was all that protruded over the reporters, straining to record his comments. He was not prepared to be charitable to the Vikings. He brushed aside the suggestion that the purple defenders had ravaged the Buc offense during those last scoring drives that misfired with a missed field goal and missed extra point that was the final misdeed.
"They stopped nothing. We got plenty of points. We were idiotic, absolutely foolish. I saw nothing that delighted me,'' he sang out. The coach then wedged himself between the wall and the reporters who manoeuvred closest to his diminishing perimeter and somehow slipped through the door leading to the locker room. The four-minute interview didn't portend well for those who waited beyond.
Bob Graham The Tampa Tribune November 1979