Bucs fans in Orlando get in full party mode
by Melissa Harris of The Orlando Sentinel

Tampa Bay fans across Central Florida erupted in screams, whistles, chants and dances Sunday night as the Buccaneers snared two back-to-back touchdowns during the tense final moments against the Oakland Raiders.

"Hey, hey, hey, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay!" hundreds of football fans shouted at Friday's Front Row Bar & Grill on International Drive as the Bucs nailed their first Super Bowl triumph in the team's 27-year history.

Beer, ribs and chicken wings flowed as television sets blared at bars and house parties throughout the region. At home in Longwood, Chris Romer, 30, a former Tampa resident, said he hadn't had this much reason to celebrate in 10 years, so his party-planning skills were a little rusty.

"We didn't realize you had to reserve a keg in advance for Super Bowl Sunday," Romer said as he watched the game on a 6-inch television next to the keg. "We got the last keg Albertson's had." Romer, who had about 45 friends over for a combination Super Bowl party and chili contest, had to settle for Michelob Light to go with the 14 entries. "I'm a little worried for later," he said before halftime. "We only have two bathrooms, and we've all been eating chili."

But Gators Wings in the Waterford Lakes shopping center was prepared. The eatery ordered 60 extra cases -- or about 60,000 -- of the wings for the day. "On a busy day, we normally sell 12 boxes total, so you can see what how crazy it is," assistant manager Jay Dery said as the take-out line snaked out the door at 4:30 p.m.

At the Friday's in the heart of Orlando's tourist district, Bucs and Raiders fans alike paid $75 each for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet. Two members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Supporters Club UK -- which bills itself, at 300 members strong, as the biggest NFL fan club in the United Kingdom -- came from Buckingshire, England, to watch the game in Orlando.

"We just knew we had to actually come over and be a part of this," said Jayne Woollard, 34, as she and her husband, Mark, 35, snapped pictures and shook pom poms. "We didn't want to watch it in England because the atmosphere isn't there."

The Woollards, who got hooked on the Bucs during vacations to Central Florida, decided last week to party with Floridians for the Super Bowl as they watched their team snare the NFC Championship Game. "This is way better than soccer," Jayne Woollard said Sunday. "We live and die for this stuff."

Wherever one went it was difficult to escape the hoopla. Shoppers at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on U.S. Highway 192 in Kissimmee heard the game results announced over the loudspeaker. Even at the land of make-believe, Walt Disney World, big-screen TVs were tuned in to the game at the Old Key West Resort, the All Stars Resort food courts and other locations, spokeswoman Rena Callahan said.

Notably absent at many celebrations, however, were Bucs flags, jerseys and other paraphernalia, which apparently aren't easy to find thanks to decades of NFL futility. For the same reason, it was almost as difficult in some quarters to find Tampa Bay loyalists. "We only have one hard-core Bucs fan here," Jason Rosenblat, 21, a marketing student at the University of Central Florida and Oakland Raiders booster, said during his get-together. "Everyone else is just here to drink beer and watch the game."

Not so at Friday's, where Raiders fans sulked and Bucs backers exulted as Tampa Bay clinched its 48-21 win. When the Super Bowl clock turned to zeros, Mark Woollard picked his wife, Jayne, up over his head as screams and whistles filled restaurant and fireworks popped in the distance. "This is one of the best nights of my life," Jayne Woollard said. "Can you believe it? Tampa Bay made it all the way!"