The launch of McKay's Men
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to live a dream as my book, McKay’s Men, was released to the public. It was quite a heady week as I appeared on two talk shows and signed well over 200 copies of my book at It’s Bucs and Bulls Heaven.
After arriving in town I went straight from the airport to It’s Bucs and Bulls Heaven on North Florida Avenue. The store is also known as Authentic Team Merchandise and sells just about anything that has a Buccaneer or USF Bulls logo on it. It was here that I met Jeffrey Neil Fox for the first time. Mr. Fox has run the store for many years and is one of the most energetic people I have ever met. From the moment I walked in to the moment I left I very rarely saw Mr. Fox sit still.
It was also that day that I treated myself to something that I had wanted since I was a child. I purchased an authentic Bucco Bruce Riddell helmet. It now sits in a place of prominence in my home office. I am probably the only man in all of the Mahoning Valley to have a Bucco Bruce helmet.
The next day I went to the studios of Sports Radio 1470 WHBO in downtown Tampa to be interviewed by JP Peterson on “Hot Lunch.” The show is a great Tampa Bay centered sports talk show and utilizes the talents of not only JP Petersen, WFLA Channel 8’s sports anchor, but the comic ability of producer David Ortiz. I had a hard time answering questions because of the antics of “Big Papi” Ortiz, but I made it through okay.
On Friday morning I woke up amazingly early, but it was worth it to appear on AM Tampa Bay with broadcasting legend Jack Harris. Harris has been broadcasting in Tampa Bay since I was knee-high to Lee Roy Selmon. In fact, Harris hosted the old John McKay Show and has been involved with the Buccaneers since the beginning.
Friday night was the launch party at It’s Bucs and Bulls Heaven and this is when the real excitement began. Thanks to the efforts of Rex Sano, the vice president of the Tampa Chapter of the NFL Alumni Association, several former Buccaneers were on hand to sign autographs for fans and celebrate the history of the franchise.
Barry Smith, Council Rudolph, Steve Young (1976), Steve Wilson, Jimmy Dubose, Randy Crowder and Richard “Batman” Wood stayed all night to toast the accomplishments of Coach John McKay. With food provided by Champ’s Sports Bar the fans that stopped by did not merely pick up a book, receive a few autographs and reminisce, they also got one heck of a good meal!
Even though the evening was meant to celebrate the book and the first playoff team in franchise history there was a deeper meaning. Thanks to the efforts of the former players, Rex Sano and Jeffrey Neil Fox, more than $1,000.00 was raised for charity.
I finished the evening with a sore right wrist but was prouder than ever of my hometown team. Yes, the current edition of the Buccaneers is struggling and for the most part the orange clad teams of the 1980’s and 1990’s were a hard luck bunch. The 1970’s vintage Bucs however brought football to Tampa Bay and were ultimately winners on the field. As Friday night proved, they are still beloved by their fans and as the proceeds check is delivered to help the fight against cancer, they are winners today still.
I’ll never forget this night. I was able to meet childhood heroes, talk face-to-face with “Batman” Wood and Council Rudolph to personally thank them for being interviewed by me for both the book and Bucpower.com and spend an evening at a party that was my version of Cinderella’s ball. The conversations I got into that night with the ex-players will be with me a lot longer than any autographs.
I am also proud of my wife Amy for supporting me all this time. In the three years it took to write this book she was very understanding as I worked into the night, used up vacations days for research trips and was generally distracted from life by anything wearing orange. To top it all off, I whisked her away to Tampa and plopped her behind the cash register!!! I will always be indebted to her.
I want to thank Jack Harris, Daphne Wood, Jeffrey Neil Fox and his staff, WFLA, WHBO, WDAE and all the players who made the night a success. I also want to thank Paul Stewart for giving me the opportunity to prove myself as a writer on Bucpower.com. My thanks also to all of you who read and support Bucpower.com. Without you none of this would have had meaning.
Denis Crawford, December 2006