* I wrote this piece three years ago after attending the Buccaneers’ first round playoff game against the New York Giants. Things were different back then. Jon Gruden roamed the Tampa sidelines, Jeff Garcia was still taking snaps and the Giants were about to become Super Bowl champions. Since we’re currently in the midst of the NFL playoffs and this post was written P.S.C. (Pre-SportsChump), I thought I’d resurrect the story of how NOT to act at a professional sporting event. Enjoy.
(Tampa – January 6, 2008) There’s something to be said for sportsmanship…. just not at a Buccaneers game.
This past Sunday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the New York GEEEEEEE-Men in the new sombrero. To much of Tampa’s dismay, the Giants came out victorious in this match-up to advance in the NFL playoffs, and eventually win Super Bowl XLII.
On paper, the Giants were the better team and that translated onto the field. The Giants were underdogs that game, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who took the Bucs and laid the points. If they played that game again, the Giants would have won it again.
I had the pleasure of attending this game with a life-long friend, who happens to be a Giants fan born and bred. We hadn’t seen each other for a while and had talked about him flying down for the contest. Come game time, Jason was decked out in full Giants regalia, rockin’ the Strahan jersey with more Giants gear layered underneath.
Since we’re like brothers, and by kick-off quite whiskey-laden, he and I were trash-talking back and forth all morning. When the Bucs got off to a fast start, I heckled him, and Eli, mercilessly. But as the Bucs’ hopes started to fade later in the game, the Giants fans in the stadium became progressively louder.
Now sure, we were being a touch rowdy (after all, this was an NFL playoff game), but trust me, my friend is from New Jersey and I have seen him WAY more obnoxious…. which brings me to my point.
After the Giants won, Jason went down to the front rows to celebrate with other Giants fans after their victory. The guy seated to his left, who sported a John Lynch jersey (no longer on the Bucs, mind you), looked at me and said in total seriousness “I can’t believe you! You call yourself a Bucs fan?”
I looked at him in amazement, wondering what in the world he was talking about. I hadn’t spoken a word to this guy all game. He then asked how I could bring a Giants fan to a Buccaneers playoff game. As if the Bucs’ inadequate offense was a direct correlation to my friend’s seat assignment. Huh? Did I miss something? I asked him what he was talking about, telling him that J and I grew up together.
“Yeah, but your boy was obnoxious,” he went on, bowing up to me. Now I was about a pint and a half of whiskey in and was hardly about to back down to this putz. I told him to look around as there were at least 10,000 other obnoxious Giant fans around. They’re Giants fans… that’s what they do.
“Yeah, but you encouraged him.” I told that bonehead that J’s a friend and I was merely congratulating him on his victory. I’ll be darned if I’m going to let some stranger mess with my family, or my character.
I mean, you’ve got to me kidding me. We’re all avid sports fans but…. this is a game we’re talking about, right? Is there something wrong with congratulating a friend, an opponent, or someone you don’t even know on a hard-fought victory??
The guy continued on, but I kept my senses and wasn’t about to stoop to his level. When I met Jason in the aisle later on, he couldn’t believe it, laughing and telling me “Are you kidding me?? That guy was from Jersey!!”
So there you have it. Another episode of fan-hood gone horribly wrong. Let’s keep things in perspective here. Players shake hands with one another post-game to celebrate competition and fair play. Sport exists to remind us what truly matters… sportsmanship and courtesy, not resentment or bitterness.
The next time your team loses and you’re among strangers, try elevating YOUR game and recognize that you’re among fellow human beings with family and friends. You might just turn your loss into a well-earned victory.