Parade Of Champs
As far as parades go, Tampa has seen bigger and longer. But Tuesday's victory celebration for the Super Bowl XXXVII champions may go down in history as the city's most enthusiastic.
An estimated 100,000 fans - 30,000 more than police predicted, and some playing hooky from school or work - clamored along the route that began at Bayshore Boulevard and Swann Avenue and ended 40 minutes later at Lykes Gaslight Square.
They came in Buccaneers colors to give a noisy, rollicking show of support for a world-championship football team that has united a community for a Camelot moment. ``I'm still hoarse from screaming last night,'' said Troy Wygant, 26, of New Tampa. He and his wife, Randi, were among the 65,000 celebrants at Monday's welcome- home ceremony at Raymond James Stadium.
They wanted to keep the party alive, so they braved the bottleneck to come to Tuesday's parade. `This is our way of showing the world what this all means to us. It's not just about the sport, it's about a community coming together.''
The family-friendly fun erupted on both sides of the barricades. Some of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, charged with emotion, jumped from their cars and trucks in the motorcade to high-five fans and lead the flag-waving crowd in cheers. Many of the players captured the moment by scanning their video cameras onto the throngs of boisterous supporters. A few puffed on stogies. Confetti rained from the Fort Brooke parking garage when the National Football League's Defensive Player of the Year, Derrick Brooks, hopped out of his convertible to work the crowd. ``This is very cool to get so close to the players,'' said Richard Massaro of Riverview.
Iris Burkett and Tara Spicer of Tampa fashioned their own Super Bowl trophy, a tinfoil- wrapped football on a stand. ``Born and raised here, baby,'' Burkett screamed. ``I've been waiting 25 years.''
``Our trophy is pure silver from Tiffany just like the team,'' Spicer yelled.
Henry A. Brosnaham IV closed his Exit Realty Consultants in Brandon for the afternoon. ``I let all the employees come to the parade,'' he said. Brosnaham was holding September's issue of Sports Illustrated with Coach Jon Gruden (``He's Obsessed'') on the cover. ``If I would have known this,'' he said, ``I would have bought a hundred copies.''
City of Tampa office workers were hanging out of windows at the old city hall building. A neon sign at the Fort Brooke garage read: ``XXXVII Champions.'' Gruden and Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer rode in the lead car, a red convertible, followed by five carloads of other jubilant Glazer family members.
Costumes were plentiful, from a man sporting a foam- rubber goal post on his head to 19-year-old Adrian Smude of Plant City, who was hardly sporting anything. Smude wore only red-and-black body paint, bikini underwear and shoes as he trekked down Bayshore Boulevard, drawing cheers and some double takes. ``It was a lot colder at the stadium rally,'' said the Hillsborough Community College student, in his third day as the nearly naked ``Super Buc.'' He said he has had fun with his new persona but is ready to go back to wearing clothes.
It's not often you see a cotton-candy-slurping Warren Sapp sitting atop the shoulders of popular veteran safety John Lynch. Actually, it was Sam Sardegna, 35, of Tampa wearing a Lynch jersey, and his son, Giovanni, 2, in Sapp's No. 99 shirt. The whole family took the day off from its usual routine to get to the celebration, said Lisa Sardegna, Giovanni's mom. ``We didn't have a choice,'' Lisa Sardegna said, grinning. ``The kids go to a private school, and they got the day off. So we had to take the day off, too.''
Dorilin Maza, 22, works in the Hillsborough County clerk's office and was allowed to leave at 1 p.m. Tuesday. She said she isn't a huge football fan but admitted she's warming up to the Bucs in the wake of their success. She's even learning more about the sport. ``I've always loved Mike Alstott,'' she said, ``and Jon Gruden is the coolest person.''
Some fans arrived at the park before noon, setting up lawn chairs and blankets on prime space in anticipation of the team's arrival on the Franklin Street stage. Latecomers searched for a square foot of space to stand and catch a glimpse of their champions, but they were hard- pressed to see or hear the onstage celebration, which included words of praise from local dignitaries, a representative from Gov. Jeb Bush's office,
Glazer and a stream of players. Some, such as Jackie Eschen of Clearwater, thought the city could have done a better job to accommodate the crowd. ``Bleachers for the spectators would have been good,'' she said.
``I'm extremely disappointed,'' said Edwina Hampton of north Tampa. ``The [public address] system is terrible, and they could have elevated the players higher so we could see them.''
Some on the perimeter weren't aware the Bucs players were addressing the crowd. Those perched in the park's oak trees had the best vantage point. But most were like Robert Noland of Tampa, who was happy just to be a part of the celebration. ``I just came out here to hang out with a whole bunch of Bucs fans,'' he said. ``If I see anybody, it's a bonus.''