Area Bucs fans getting fired up
Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 12:52 a.m.
Racking up the Bucs
Both Oakland Raider and Tampa Bay Buccaneer merchandise ranked as top sellers in December on NFLShop.com, the National Football League's Web site.
Top five teams in merchandise sales for December 2002
1. Raiders 2. Bears 3. Buccaneers 4. 49ers 5. Dolphins Best-selling player jerseys in December 1. Brian Urlacher, Bears 2. Michael Vick, Falcons 3. Ricky Williams, Dolphins 4. Warren Sapp, Buccaneers 5. Jerry Rice, Raiders 6. Donovan McNabb, Eagles 7. Tom Brady, Patriots. 8. Mike Alstott, Buccaneers Source: National Football League
Of course, everyone loves a winner. And if the Bucs defeat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII on Sunday, chances are a lot more fans will be sporting the team's pewter and red colors around town.
Die-hard Bucs fans say just because you have to look harder to find them here, in the home of the Gator Nation, doesn't mean they are any less rabid about their team.
"I'm at least 10 times more of a Bucs fan than a Gator fan," said Alex Rangel, a University of Florida freshman and a Tampa native.
As a season ticket holder for Bucs games, Rangel said he wasn't one of the fans lucky enough to be selected by lottery for a chance to buy $400 Super Bowl tickets.
But that doesn't mean he's given up on finding a way to support his team.
"I really want to be there (in San Diego for the game)," he said. "I got my frequent flier miles all set up, I'm just in desperate need of a ticket."
Jeff Alexander, 45, grew up in the Tampa Bay area before moving to Gainesville in the 1980s. The Bucs' success is sweeter for those who have stuck with the team since it began as an expansion franchise in 1976, he said.
"It's been a long, slow climb to the top; I'm glad they're finally here (in the Super Bowl)," said Alexander, who said he still kept the newspaper from the day after the Bucs won their first game - after losing their first 26 - in December 1977.
Alexander said he'll be watching the game Sunday with other Bucs fans at Beef O'Brady's.
The Bucs in the Super Bowl adds "more of a local flavor" to the atmosphere for people who watch the game, said Danny McCann, general manager of the Millhopper Beef O'Brady's, who added that he expects a full house Sunday.
Booby Hadley, assistant manager at Hooters downtown, said even though the Super Bowl is the biggest national sporting event, a Florida team making it to the game means people are more likely to turn out in big numbers.
Kent Vann, 41, said even as a Gainesville native, he's been going to Buc home games since the 1970s and couldn't be happier that the Bucs have reached their first Super Bowl in 27 seasons.
"I still can't believe it," Vann said. "You wait all this time, and then it finally happens."
If the Bucs win, he said, he's already picked out the championship hat, T-shirt and license plate he wants to buy.
Sporting goods retailers said Tuesday that when a team wins, it usually brings out loyal fans as well as the bandwagon-jumpers, who make the difference in sales.
"We've always sold their (Bucs) stuff more than any other (NFL) team by far," said Kathy Hughes, store manager of Hibbett Sports at the Butler Plaza.
She declined to give numbers but said the new hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts the store got Tuesday morning to reflect the Bucs as conference champions after their win over Philadelphia on Sunday have been selling "extremely well."
If the Bucs win Sunday night, she said, the championship merchandise should start arriving as soon as Monday morning and start streaming out of the store soon after.
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