Flip flops and jerseys, pucks and palm trees. Say all you want about being a Tampa Bay sports fan, but in the end, I would not be anywhere else. I wrote an article about why it stinks to be a Tampa Bay sports fan. Everything has two sides. The good out weighs the bad heavily, and I was happy to see the tons of negative response that the article drew on my Facebook threads and sports groups. Especially the WTB Chatters group. Wow. Passionate fans! Love it. I would honestly have been upset if the hornet’s nest wasn’t stirred by this article. Especially in the NHL, Tampa teams seem to the be red-headed step child of the major sports. It’s time that the fans stand up and defend our teams, just as they defend the ball/puck.
I asked the fans for help by telling me why, to them, it’s great to be a Tampa Bay fan in the WTB (What The Buc) Chatters, Rays The Roof, and Lightning Strikes groups. They were more than happy to help. Here is what they had to say:
First of all, thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers group WTB Chatters. They are the ones who really rallied up for this. I was going to write this article to counteract the other anyway, but I would fear having rocks thrown at me or pitchforks and torches chasing me when we attend a WTB tailgate party. Yeah. The feelings were that strong.
It is good to be a Buccaneer because no matter how long we are down, we will pick ourselves up and become a dominate force once again!!! I became a Buccaneer in ’96, presently I’m a Buc, and through the future I will be a Buc!!! -Linreccus Hampton
No long lines for autographs at free players’ events, affordable tickets, open (local) training camps -Cheryl Stewart (And then she posted a picture of a Patriot’s home game with SNOW!)
For me it has been fun going to games. I love most of the Bucs fans. I live in Phoenix and I get a big smile to see Bucs fans that do not live in Tampa. I used to get a lot of grief for being a Bucs fan but I have always been proud of my team no matter what. Bucs Pride!!!! -Eugene Thomas
Weather/Cheerleaders/Chezza -Jaimie Sinfield
Fans like the ones in this group, I feel like there are some extremely football savvy folks in here! -Joseph Bie
First and foremost it’s due to the Tampa Bay area being a great place to live. I could of relocated many times for much higher paying jobs, but I could not imagine living anywhere else but here. This area gives you the luxuries of a big city without the bic city feel as it’s so spread out and some of the best beaches in the world and tons of things to do with some of the best weather of any other place. Than you have the Professional sports to be able to follow which is a major plus. -Scott Captain Rino Dixon
Wearing shorts to a game in December, Having an awesome ticket rep who can answer every question, not only about tickets, but the team as well.We don’t throw batteries at Santa. -Brain B. Cizzle Connolly
Community, family, involvement. -Curt BucShot Creel
Growing up in Tampa, we didn’t have hockey until I was 14. There was no Rays team. I loved the Rowdies!! My mom used to take me to games. I can remember sitting up in the Old Sombrero and eating nachos while watching the games. However, nothing topped a good Bucs game. Back in the days of orange, when a couple of wins in a row was a big deal. No matter how the team played, even as a kid, I could see how Tampa fans loved their team. We would cheer them on no matter what. We would visit my grandparents every Sunday, and my uncle lived two blocks away. I would sneak off and spend the afternoons with him, watching the Bucs on TV or listening on the radio as he grilled out back. He would explain the game to me, and dare the phone ring or anyone come over… they got the curse of death for interrupting our game. Some of my fondest memories as a kid were watching Mike Alostott bore his way through a group of defending men and literally push the whole huddle forward. Bucs fans are true like no one else. We have amazing weather year round, and the nicest stadium. The pirate village, the giant pirate ship and cannons that boom so loudly you can hear them blocks away! Training camps are local and free. Especially lately, they are making a real effort to mingle with the fans. The players are amazing with fan relations. Most of them don’t hesitate to give an autograph or a quick picture. At training camp, there are times designated where the players actually run over with a Sharpie and sign autographs. Every single fan has the chance to meet their favorite players. They have always been amazing for doing things in our community and their charity work. Aside the great amount of money that the Glazers give, the players themselves have foundations and give of their money and their time freely. Legends like Derek Brooks, Tony Dungy, Mike Alstott… they all still give back with a smile on their face.
I have to give this quick story or my son Joshua will kill me. It was his first Bucs game, he was about 6 but he still remembers it well. We were waiting out back of the stadium for the chance to meet some players and get a couple of autographs. Joel Glazer walked out and everyone was screaming and asking him for an autograph. Josh held up his marker and asked “Please. Mr. Glazer?” he walked over to Josh, commented on his politeness, and signed his souvenir helmet. Josh thanked him and commented on his Buccaneers lapel pin that he wore on his jacket. Mr. Glazer thanked him and started to walk off, then paused. He came back to us and said “Do you really like it?” “Yes sir!” and Joel Glazer took the pin off of his won jacket, bent down, and pinned it on Josh’s jersey. That made a huge impression on me as a mom, but an even bigger impression on Joshua for his first NFL game. The story about him meeting Mike Alstott tops that, but I’ll save that for another time.
I know that I said that it was a bad thing that the Tampa Bay Rays are playing over the bridge. But honestly, I can’t see a stadium big enough to accommodate the Rays being in Tampa. It’s not that far a drive over the bridge, as long as it’s not rush hour traffic and you don’t get stuck on the bridge. St. Pete is part of Tampa Bay. We are all bay area communities. To take the Rays out of St. Pete would be denying local business over there the traffic that they need, that business over here already get from the Lightning and the Bucs. Many people on this side of the bridge go to local restaurants to watch the Rays as well. I love Tropicana Field. I know that the players would differ, but it has an old class about it. The best thing about it is that you can still have the game going on, no matter what the weather is like outside! Unless, of course, there is a power outage. That’s happened at games before. The Rays players are involved in the community as well. Here’s what the fans in Rays The Roof said:
Baseball is Fun in Tampa Bay. This is a tightly knit team. Quality baseball too. We are lucky here to have great players, coaching, management, ownership, and Farm system. Just would be nice to work out the stadium issue and get the championship. -R.j. Kerker
Because the rays have shown you dont have to live in a huge market and ruin the game (yankees) to be succesfull ! the rays bring a quality hometown atmospher to the game . as was intended ! they actually give me hope for a game id thought all but lost … “GO RAYS” -Johnny Bucsnation Dean
I love how the Rays find players that just shine when they play for us. Our guys play every game like its a championship game. Tickets are cheap and we never get rained out. I love that stadium is downtown so many great places to go before and after the game. We have a great team. Our players are fan friendly. I am proud to be a Rays fan! -Randi Muller Dixon
It’s great to be a Rays fan because the Rays are different form other MLB teams. What other team has a manager like Joe Maddon who works well with what he has & isn’t your traditional manager. The Rays find diamonds in the rough and some players turn out to be just as good as high paid superstars. Maddon also started a trend in Major League Baseball, his themed road trips. Rays players, fans and baseball media are always interested in what Maddon might come up with next. As Rays fans, we’re lucky to have some of the nicest and classiest players in all of baseball. From the front office, to management, to players and to fans, the Rays have some of the best. -Michelle Spring
There is nothing like a Ray! We have a team that turned baseball into RAYSball and every trip to a game is fun, exciting and entertaining. And we have THE most awesome fans around! You might not know the people sitting by you when you get to the game, but you’ll all be friends by the 3rd inning!
GO RAYS!!! GO RAYS FANS!!! *\o/* -Irene Szymczak
Sternberg is 360 opposite from Jeff Loria in Miami. Outside of the FL market, they always get negative press and always compare Sternberg to Loria (which is asinine). Sternberg is willing invest in the team first making it a fan friendly environment. Sternberg and Co. disinfected the polluted air that Vince Naimoli left in this organization with zero hope and left negativity to the franchise. -Rivera Edger
The Lighting. Oh my goodness, what can I say about the Lightning? I could make an entire article dedicated just to them. Never have I seen a sports organization hold so much class. From the fans to the forum workers to the players to the coaches to the management to the owners. The kindness that they showed my husband and I when we were married at the forum prior to a game parallels to none. We had team owner Jeff Vinik, CEO Tod Leiweke, and COO Steve Griggs present. I mean that just doesn’t happen for most fans! The players are amazing. They are extremely fan friendly and very approachable. You can go to any of the training camps, prospect camps, and practices when they are in Brandon for free. The players and coaches always interact with fans there. When they practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, before and after practices, a good number of them will stop and greet the fans. The same with after the home games. The whole organization is always giving back to the community during the season and offseason. Everyone knows about the Community Heroes program where the Lighting Foundation and Jeff Vinik gives a local hero $50,000 to give to the charity of their choice at every home game. Even with half the season gone, Mr. Vinik still gave to the heroes. He didn’t have to do that. They have the C.H.A.R.G.E. program where employees put in hours of doing community services and good deeds. Coach Boucher is amazing. He’s always so uplifting. You’ll be walking in the grocery store and pass him, and if he sees that you’ve recognized him, he will address you and give you his time. I say that private time is private time. Time away from the fans, away from the team, time spent with their families. That’s his time to be dad and husband, not coach and fan favorite.
The fans rally together, we are truly a tight knit community. Through Facebook, Twitter, and attending events, we have made lifelong friends by simply wearing a Lightning jersey and being friendly. There is one thing for sure, most of us unite in our love for the Lightning and our hatred for the Bruins. Ok, not all of us, but most of us. Seriously. The team is constantly holding events such as radio shows in restaurants and watch parties. There are a few for season ticket members, but most of these are open to the public and free. Not everyone is able to be a season ticket member. They work, or live away from Tampa, or they financially can’t do it. The Lightning doesn’t look down on those people as not-as-big-of-fans as some organizations do. During the summer and the lockout they still had the chili’s radio show. They laid the ice down and held open skates for the public. They let local teams use it. The newly renovated Tampa Bay Times forum is such an amazing arena to experience. Between the huge pipe organ and the buzzing lightning bolts that shoot from the tesla coils, I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t wait to be able to attend games and see the gigantic video screen!
A big day in my mind is the day that the air plane landed from Boston, carrying the team after a tough loss of game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011. There were hundreds of fans there to greet them and cheer them on. They lost and the fans still rallied. The guys got out of their cars and walked down the line of fans. They made such a big deal of us being there. We went out to make them feel special, and in return, they made us feel special. We tried to greet them as celebrities, but they made us feel like celebrities. I just can’t explain it. Ask any one of the people who were there that day and they will tell you the same exact thing. It was awesome when they flew out for that same game, those of us who were able to make it (And a lot more in spirit who weren’t able to make it because it was during a week day) got together wearing Bolt Blue and formed a giant lightning bolt at the air port for the team to see as the plane ascended into the air. There is an electric charge when you attend a game, an energy that the fans generate. The team appreciates that and they radiate energy as well, returning the warm fuzzies.
Not only are the current players fan friendly, but a good number of the alumni are as well. Brian Bradley, Dave Andreychuk, and Chris Dingman are present at most events and always happy to interact with the fans. They also play for the alumni team which plays for charities. It’s really a great thing.
From Lightning Strikes:
Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, and Marty St. Louis are part of why I enjoy being a lightning fan. The other part is with the right kind of people in place, hockey can thrive anywhere even in a tropical climate. All over the place I hear “hockey don’t belong in Florida” and its so freaking annoying so for that I think it.s great to be a Lightning fan cuz we southerners get to share in a great sport in virtually the only southern state. -Raul Miguel Blevins
Great owner, one of the best if not the best owner in the league. A smart coach who can do his job and a gm that has a game plan on making us repeat contenders……..all of which the bucs lack. Also a club that cares about its community. Only negative is the lockout. (Granted, I asked before an agreement had been reached.) -Steven Cote
Meeting great friends/people, interacting with players (both past & present), having a rooftop party deck to watch the sunset before a game, Great ownership/coaching, a team that buys into that coaching style & loves being around one another which is one of the key ingredients to winning a championship!! Oh and fans that are loyal, passionate (sometimes too much), know the game and don’t stop attending games just when the teams in a slump or having a tough year!!! -Lauren Burg
Two words. Relentless. Passion. -Josh Reynolds
As far s the NBA goes, I still wish that we’d get a team here in Tampa. However, Orlando’s not that far away. The pattern that seems to repeat with all three teams is classy players, classy fans. Great weather, too! So yes, the good out weighs the bad by far.