Lynch Raises The Title Flag At Last
John Lynch waited longer and went through more than anyone else on the Tampa Bay sideline to become a Super Bowl champion, and what he did after the final gun sounded on a 48-21 win against the Oakland Raiders surprised even him. He took charge of one of those mammoth Bucs flags that are run through the end zone after every Tampa Bay score.

``I grabbed one of our flags from a guy and found out it was pretty heavy,'' Lynch said. ``There were a lot of Raiders fans here, but to hold that flag was sweet. By the end of the game there were a lot of Bucs fans making noise.

"We had a lot of die-hards, but I'll take the bandwagon fans, too. The ones on that 40,000 waiting list for tickets. We're going home to Tampa to celebrate with them all.''

First he celebrated in his hometown with family and friends. Lynch became a literal flag- bearer for the franchise after years of figuratively waving one for the Bucs. He came from Stanford in 1993 and had losing records his first four seasons.

``I was so happy for John Lynch, watching him have so much fun after we won,'' said John Howell, his strong safety understudy. ``That man is the complete package, and nobody deserves it more than John Lynch.''

His emotions might have run deeper than anyone else's, but he was hardly alone. ``Beautiful! Beautiful!'' guard Cosey Coleman shouted, at decibels challenging the postgame concert by Bon Jovi. ``It's been a party all season, and what a way to end it.''

Offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker said: ``I'm speechless about all this.'' But only for a few seconds. ``This is everything you dream of and more,'' Walker said. ``To come in here and play like this as a team in this game is something. I rushed out after the game was over, looking for my family. I found my mom and my fiancee and hugged them both so tight.''

Linebacker Al Singleton said it was his first championship. ``I never played Pop Warner or anything,'' Singleton said. ``Never won one in high school, college or the pros. And to win the sweetest championship you can in football, I'm so blessed to be here.''

``Finally!'' linebacker Shelton Quarles shouted. ``My favorite moment of the whole game was looking up at the final score. I couldn't believe it. Guess I'll pinch myself later.''

It was time to hug and high- five. To smile and howl. And time to wave the flag.