Personal memories - Paul Davison
24th of September 1989 - That was the fateful day upon which I became a Buccaneer fan. I know that because that was the day the Bucs beat the New Orleans Saints 20-10 at Tampa Stadium, my first ‘live’ NFL game.
1st of December 2008 - That was the day that it was announced that the said Buccaneers would be coming to the UK to play New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium.
In the period between those two dates, amongst other things I had joined the Bucs UK, been to Tampa four more times to see the Bucs, my wife had presented me with a son and heir (and my best mate) Alex, the other sporting loves of my life, Sunderland AFC, had been promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated and promoted again (perhaps that’s why the phrase ‘yo-yo club’ was invented), I had reached the final of BBC Sport Mastermind, the Bucs had won the Superbowl - perhaps even more unlikely the Rays had reached the World Series, and I had ‘retired’.
In other words a LOT of water had flowed under the bridge. During all of that time not once did it cross my mind that the Buccaneers would cross the Atlantic and play in the UK. Not once.
So after 20 years of loyal following the Bucs, through the lows of the early nineties to the highs of Superbowl, I set off on the near 300 mile journey to London last Saturday morning, greatly looking forward to the weekend. I was not disappointed (the result aside).
Due to my travel arrangements I was not able to go to the Bucs UK vs. Pats UK football match, so my first function was the Saturday night Bucs UK meal arranged by Wayne Hough. Had an excellent evening - met some really nice people - Wayne, Carrie, Dennis, Amy, Steve G, Graeme R, Big Dave (terrific shirt Dave!) amongst others (I was sitting next to some American and Italian guys too, who were very nice).
They were all still starry eyed over their afternoon meeting with Lee Roy, Mike, Shelton and co - despite being GREEN with envy, it was great just listening to their story and seeing the pleasure they had got from the event. Also enjoyed TJ Rives ‘tales from the sidelines‘.
I got a shock though when the President of Bucs UK asked me if I’d do an interview for NFL films - bloomin’ heck that’s not something that happens every day now is it? As I’d not come in my Bucs colours Paul gave me a Bucs UK shirt - thanks very much! The interview will probably get cut like - was my usual bumbling self!
After the meal I walked back to my digs with a spring in my step - even a disappointing defeat earlier in the day for Sunderland couldn’t spoil my day. After a long night, made longer by the clocks being put back, the big day arrived - before I left on the Sunday morning I took a few minutes just to post my feelings on the Bucs message board via my phone.
I had an early breakfast I had to do something to kill time, shopping’s not for me, so unencumbered by the family members who won’t walk anywhere!) I went for a walk round to view the tourist places in London - down to the Cleopatra’s Needle, Embankment, Golden Jubilee Bridge, London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace.
During that time, and on my umpteenth London visit, I realised what a con the Underground in Central London is. I mean you can walk just the same distance getting between places by walking the street as you can by descending to the bowels of the earth to get a train and then re-emerge on the other side - and it’s free!
Travelling to Wembley for the game was a different question - no chance of walking that one! So after a quick stop at Subway for lunch it was 12noon and time to make my way from Holborn to Wembley via Bond Street. A quick panic at Tottenham Court Road Station when it seemed like everyone wearing any NFL colours seemed to get off - was I going the right way? By 12.30 I’d arrived at Wembley Park and made my way to the tailgate queue.
And what a queue it was. Organised chaos - except there was no organisation! The queue seemed to snake up an down for ever and when I finally got to what I thought was the front we went round the corner and another 50 yards up the road. I know we Brits are renowned for our queuing, but that was RIDICULOUS!
En route I’d seen colours for most NFL teams (no Carolina mind Lee - so that has got to say something?), but of the two participating teams the majority were unquestionably in favour of the Pats.
A ’home’ game indeed?
In all truth, if I’d been a neutral, I don’t think I’d have stayed long, but …. this WAS the Bucs UK day, and once again it was a great pleasure and privilege to meet up and chat with fans from all over this country and some from abroad too. At just after two, the Bucs UK started to muster for some events, photos and more NFL-filming - again everyone in high spirits. Even the arrival of two gate crashing ‘Patriots’ only lifted the atmosphere!
I even had the pleasure of meeting up with three lovely Buccaneer Cheerleaders - it’s my son Alex who is green with envy now!! They were very chatty, and they genuinely seemed to be enjoying their time here as much as we were.
On my way round I also bumped into former WBA, Wolves and Sunderland striker Don Goodman, now a Sky football pundit, and stood chatting to him for a while - again found him a really nice lad, no airs and graces, happy to chat to a fan.
After all the photos and filming it was all off to the stadium for the big match. As someone who had been to the old Wembley several times (from the fantastic FA Cup final of 73 - sorry Steve had to mention it! - to heartbreaking defeat in the play off final in 1998), I have to say I was most impressed with the New Wembley. The old one had become a total dump with poor views and awful facilities. The new one may have cost a fortune, but in my opinion it was worth it.
Got over to the stadium early to take in all the pre match activities and just be part of the whole experience, and it was great just to see my team out there on the turf, and also to watch our esteemed President whirling around like a dervish - he’s here, he’s there, he’s every ******* where!!
I won’t dwell on the match too long - it’s more or less all been said really by people who are far more qualified than me to analyse. All I will say that whilst I acknowledge the Pats are a far better team, we can’t start to compete with any team in the NFL until we start doing the simple things right and on a regular basis.
Tackling properly and catching the ball seem to me to be basic fundamentals - too often this season our players have failed in these and other basic skills. The decision to punt when in the opposition half on 4th and whatever when we were 20 plus points down also mystified me and most of the people around me. Sometimes you just have to ‘hit and hope’….
It was a disappointing but, let’s face it, not unexpected - just a shame that the Bucs came over in a ‘rebuilding’ season. What would we have given to see the team over here, in the glory days of Alstott, Lynch, Brooks, Sapp et al?
Although the game was a bit of a damp squib, it was still a GREAT weekend, and just re-affirmed that this is and always will be my team, and after meeting many great people, how proud I am to be a member of the Bucs UK.