I wasn’t born in Tampa, but I’ve lived here as long as I can remember. Growing up, I didn’t have any family members influencing me as far as what sports teams to cheer for. I got into sports because they just seemed appealing to me. Spending the majority of my childhood being raised by my mother and immigrant grandparents, and my only sibling being my older sister, sports weren’t important to anyone besides me. I loved sports though, and I loved the teams that I cheered for.
My favorite NFL team has always been the Denver Broncos, solely because of John Elway. As a kid, he was the best I’d ever seen. I have to say that to this day, I’m impressed with my eye for talent as a child, because that was a damn fine choice for a favorite football player. I never liked the Bucs, because they were horrible, and nobody cheered for them. Take into consideration that this was the mid-80’s, and that Elway hadn’t been to a Super Bowl yet. Say what you want about me being disloyal to my hometown, but to this day I’m not a Bucs fan. I wish them well, but my heart is still with the Broncos.
As far as college football goes, I’ve always been a University of Miami fan. This one did have an outside influence though. My older cousin was a Canes fan, and at the time they were great, so I went along with that. To be honest, I didn’t even know who the Gators and Seminoles were due to how young I was, and USF didn’t have a football team yet. Miami was already a powerhouse when I became a fan, but those days are over now, yet I remain loyal.
Baseball was my favorite sport as a kid, and my favorite team changed with the times. I first liked the Mets when they were stacked in the 80’s. Later I was drawn to the Athletics when they had Canseco, McGwire, and Henderson. After that team was disassembled, I basically just cheered for whatever team Canseco played for, and I also admired Tony Gwynn in San Diego. This was all before steroids were in issue in sports, so I didn’t see anything wrong with Jose Canseco. In retrospect, I would say that Gwynn is my favorite all-time baseball player.
Since the inception of pro baseball in Tampa, I have always been a fan of our team, the Rays, formerly the Devil Rays. This city fought so hard to get a baseball team, nearly taking the Giants from San Francisco in the early 90’s, so when we got the Devil Rays I felt that it was my duty to support our team, and I still feel the same today.
Hockey wasn’t a sport that I followed until middle school. I read a book about sports heroes in my school library, and the first person the book mentioned was Steve Yzerman, center for the Detroit Red Wings. I read about how he was the youngest captain in NHL history, and how great of a two-way player he was, along with his sportsmanship. Being a leader and a great sportsman is very important to me. If you’re a great player who behaves like a child, I don’t like you. I like the guy who shakes the players for the other team’s hands after the game. This was a year before the Lightning existed, so while I didn’t hate the Bolts, I was a Detroit fan. Last year Yzerman became the GM of the Lightning, and I hadn’t been following the NHL as closely as I used to, so I saw this as a great reason to watch hockey again, and start cheering for the home team. I’m glad I did too, because after going to some games last year, and seeing how great Yzerman is doing making the Bolts competitive again, hockey is a blast again. Martin St. Louis is amazing, far and away my favorite player. I see a lot of Yzerman’s qualities in him.
So recently, I’ve become frustrated with the state of sports in Tampa, mainly because of the fans. Some Tampa fans are great. I have some friends who love Tampa’s teams because they love the city they grew up in. That’s awesome to me. Although I’m still not a Bucs fan, I’d love for them to sell out every game and do well. I love USF football, and I wish them the best as well. I’m a UM fan first, but I do cheer for the Bulls. But the majority of Tampa fans are uneducated and disloyal people.
I took my wife to a Rays game for her birthday a year or 2 ago, because if anyone loves the Rays more than me, it’s her. She’s not your typical sports fan either, she knows her shit. (she also has more MMA knowledge than all of my male friends other than Brian, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s just an impressive tidbit) Anyway, we were going down to our seats at the Trop, and I noticed an obnoxious drunk skank was sitting in the row behind us, wearing a Florida Gators shirt. Within five minutes of sitting down, this bitch managed to spill a little of her beer on my wife. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to piss someone off. My wife isn’t confrontational, a quality I wish I had, but she turned around with a very angry look on her face. Before my wife said anything, the drunk skank said “Oh, I’m sorry!” My wife let it go, but I could tell she was annoyed. By the fifth inning this dumb cunt was singing a Florida Gators chant at a fucking Rays baseball game. “Now batting, number 3, Evan Longoria!” “Wooo! It’s great, to be, a Florida Gator!” What the fuck?! We’re at a pro baseball game, plus Longoria went to Long Beach State. Your chant is stupid in every way. Anyway, by the 8th inning, this skank was snoring. I can only hope that she was raped that night.
The Rays are a great baseball team now too. While our budget is horrible, because nobody goes to the games, our record in the AL East is outstanding. We play in the toughest division in baseball, if not all of sports. Ever since someone made the truly brilliant decision of hiring Joe Maddon as our manager, our team has been fantastic with 2 playoff trips, and even an appearance in the World Series. Attendance still sucks though, because most people in Tampa are either Yankees or Red Sox fans, or as I call them, horrible people with no heart. Tropicana Field doesn’t help either though. It’s the worst stadium in sports. Every time they show the Trop on national television, I get embarrassed. It’s like being on a first date, and getting her to come home with you, but you have a studio apartment in the projects.
But even the Bucs can’t sell out. They’re a great young football team! They went 10-6 last year, and some of their players had breakout seasons. The stadium is very nice, and it’s in a central location that’s very easy to get to. And the Bucs have a winning tradition now too, since they won a Super Bowl. There’s no excuse. A few of my friends say that it’s because Tampa sports haven’t been around long enough to have a tradition, but I think that’s just an excuse. People in this city are just ignorant, and dumb people make more dumb people. While it is true that in 50 years people might take sports here more seriously, that says nothing for the city itself, and more about how people’s values have changed. 50 years ago if I said that we’d have a black president one day, I’d get the shit kicked out of me. People are no better today, but a black man running shit is just easier to accept now. Even if my friends are right about things changing, that’s not an excuse for phony fans to be assholes and not support their team.
Some fans take it too far though, and are just ignorant homers. I remember watching the NFL draft at the bar when the Lions drafted Nick Fairley. I was blown away, so I said “Suh, Vanden Bosch, and now Fairley? Best defensive line in football!” This numb-nuts homer looks at me appalled and says “I don’t think so. I think it’s the Bucs.” The Bucs don’t even have one of the 10 best lines in football. Later that day, the same guy told me that Josh Freeman is already a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. Rodgers, Vick, Brady, Rivers, Brees, Esiason, Gannon, Dilfer, Leaf, Klingler, McNown, and George all think you’re a dipshit.
Really, the point I’m trying to make is that not only are Tampa fans disloyal, but they’re also stupid. A winning tradition shouldn’t be important. Chicago isn’t the winningest city in the US, but they have great fans. People love the Cubs, and they’re bad almost every year. They love their team because they love their city. People in Tampa love their teams, like the Yankees, Sox, Packers, Steelers, and Cowboys because they think that if their sports team is better than yours, then they have something over people like me. Nothing could be more wrong though, because I have something over them. It’s called “character”. A lack of character is something that gets passed down generations too, so I don’t see this trend changing any time soon.