The view from the other side of the Atlantic
by Paul Stewart, special for The Tampa Tribune 24 January
Now let's just get this straight. The words "Tampa Bay Buccaneers" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentance. Wow.
No matter what language you speak, it's a magical thing to read and behold. And no matter where you support the Bucs from, the feeling is just the same. For across the Atlantic, the 200 plus members of the British Buccaneers Supporters Club were dancing around in celebration just like the hundreds of thousands across the Bay Area.
"The Eagles had rung our bell three times" said club Vice-President Phil Jones, nursing a hangover brought on by two bottles of Moet & Chandon champagne. "There was no way it was going to ring a fourth".
For the length and breadth of the British Isles, Buccaneer fans were going to bed at a very late hour bouyed by the incredible realisation that their team was going to play in the big one, the Super Bowl.
London, Manchester, Birmingham, Scotland, heck perhaps even Buckingham Palace echoed to screams of celebration when Ronde Barber picked off an errant Donovan McNabb pass and took it 92 yards for a score, and took Buc fans around the world into heaven.
"They say every dog has its day" said insurance consultant John Davies who took his annual vacation with his wife Alison for the Carolina and Gren Bay games earlier this season. "This dog has been waiting longer than most."
The game was shown live on British TV, but without its regular co-host. For yours truly, the British Buc fan who has been there for the past 20 years championing the Buccaneer cause in the UK, could not handle the occasion live in front of the viewing audience. Commentating on the win over the 49ers was one thing, a potential upset in Veterans Stadium? No way.
Yes way. All the way. Perhaps we'll all be driving down the Jon Gruden Expressway sometime in the future. Because after three straight losses in Philadelphia, and even after falling 7-0 down early, soccer was no longer king across the British Isles for one night.
The Bucpower.com website, averaging 10,000 hits a month during its first year of operation, took that many in the single weekend of the championship game. E-mails were flying electronically across the Atlantic faster than Joe Jurevicius can run 71 yards on 3rd down.
Gridiron chat forums across the UK were full of praise for not just the Buccaneer players, but their long-suffering fans too. "We've just been the brunt of the jokes for so long" said truck-driver Gary Botteley, a club member since 1986. "Everyone knows how much this must mean to all of us".
And it does. I was unashamedly crying tears of happiness when Barber crossed the goal-line. I counted down the final seconds to victory on the phone to another Buc fan 200 miles away. All those losses, all those seasons of frustration, even all those monthly magazines I wrote, 197 of them in all, every one dreaming of this day.
The Bucs are in the Super Bowl. Does it get any better than this? Not on this side of the Atlantic it doesn't.