I have always been a fan of professional sports. I grew up in Connecticut where you had three choices for baseball: The Boston Red Sox (my dad); the Brooklyn Dodgers (my mother); or the New York Yankees (me). My brother could have rooted for the New York Giants but he was only interested in cars and other mechanical stuff. To this very day, my greatest sports hero of all time is Mickey Mantle.
My family was split when it came to our limited ability to watch pro football because we could only get one channel from Schenectady, N.Y. My dad loved the Cleveland Browns and my mom and I loved the New York Giants. Here again, my brother could have cared less.
Everywhere I was stationed in the Air Force or have lived since that life was ended, I have rooted for the local teams. In Tennessee in the early 60’s, I followed the Vanderbilt University teams. Of course, in those days, Vanderbilt was better known for its doctors than its athletes.
When we moved to Lowry AFB in Denver, I became hooked on the Broncos for life. We left and came back but, overall we were there during the early years of the old American Football League, the “Orange Crush” era, and the five Super Bowl years.
After following the Broncos from afar (as in Bangkok, Thailand), we came back to the San Diego area where I was stationed at a radar station high atop Mount Laguna. I am ashamed to say that I became quite a fan of the San Diego Chargers while there. That is heresy for any true Bronco fan and I soon outgrew it when we got back to Denver.
My year in Osan, Korea was a hoot when it came to watching football on the Armed Forces Network. I think we got Monday Night Football about 9 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. I was the First Sergeant in the headquarters building and my office was ornate with “Orange Crush” mementos such as posters, autographed pictures and footballs, and a framed letter from Coach Red Miller expressing his appreciation for fans such as me.
Across the hall from my office, the Base Commander was a die-hard Dallas Cowboy fan and down the hall the Personnel Chief Master Sergeant was a die-hard New England Patriots fan. Don’t you know this led to some weekly banter and chest-pounding between the three of us and, occasionally, a dollar or two would change hands.
During our years on Golden Pond, I even developed an unexpected affinity of sorts for the Dallas Cowboys. That is a far cry from the days when I rooted for two teams every Sunday — the Denver Broncos and whoever was playing the Dallas Cowboys. I agonized, along with my neighbors, over the lack of fulfilled promise by Tony and “the Boys.”
Now, we are here in Sarasota where the Tampa Bay teams seem to enjoy home-town status. First a bit of a geography lesson is in order. Tampa Bay is not the name of a municipality — it is the name of a natural bay on the Gulf of Mexico with the city of Tampa as its hub along with cities like St. Petersburg and Clearwater. For some reason, most of the folks I know here in Sarasota follow the Tampa Bay teams instead of the Miami teams.
The Tampa Bay Rays had quite a run into the American League baseball playoffs and they were quite entertaining and easy to identify with. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the other hand, are pitttiiifulll! They have been plagued by scandal, disease in the locker room, and dysfunction on the field. The head coach, one Greg Schiano, had a falling out with the franchise quarterback, benched him, and then traded him off to Minnesota.
Under Coach Schiano, the Buccaneers have lost 11 of their last 12 games dating back to 2012 and they are currently 0 -7 this year. The Buccaneers have had a bunch of no-name coaches over the years but some really good ones like Sam Wyche, Jon Gruden, and Tony Dungy. The odds are pretty good that Schiano will not make it through the season. “Fire Schiano” billboards are sprouting like weeds around the Tampa Bay area and fans are coming to the games with bags on their heads.
One of the main attractions of Raymond James Stadium where the Buccaneers play is a huge replica pirate ship at one end which proudly flies the Jolly Roger. When the Bucks score, the cannons on the ship fire and spew soft rubber footballs and confetti all over the fans. Sad to say, the cannons have not gone off very often this year and the most popular sign in the stadium says, “Fire Schiano — then the cannon!”
I will continue to watch these poor souls as they struggle through the rest of the season. I really have no choice since our Fox Sports channel is from Tampa. I rejoice every week when I find that my Broncos have national coverage. I am tickled that this Sunday we will get the Dallas Cowboys at l p.m. and the Denver Broncos at 4:25 p.m. Here’s hoping the Broncos can do Dallas a favor and knock off the Washington Redskins.
Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on