TAMPA CELEBRATES

Bucs fans savor Super Bowl victory


Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 1:21 a.m.

TAMPA - More than 65,000 charged-up fans filled chilly Raymond James Stadium with camera flashes and deafening noise as the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers came home Monday night.

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Fans cheers as they enter Raymond James Stadium for a victory celebration with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night in Tampa. The Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, to win Super Bowl XXXVII on Sunday.

(AP Photo/Scott Martin)

Players were led to a stage on the field at 9 p.m. by team owner Malcolm Glazer, who hoisted the Super Bowl trophy over his head as the cannons on the end zone pirate ship blasted away in celebration.

"We did it Tampa!" shouted safety John Lynch, one standout on Tampa's vaunted defense. "We've come a long way, and now we're No. 1!"

Defensive tackle Warren Sapp held the trophy over his head and then planted a kiss on it.

"It's in its rightful place," Sapp told the crowd.

Head coach Jon Gruden led the crowd in chanting, "Pound that rock," which became an inspirational theme for his players this year.

"This is for you," Gruden said. "You ain't seen nothing yet, Tampa. We love you!"

Linebacker Derrick Brooks carried the trophy around the perimeter of the stadium so fans nearest to the field could get their hands on it.

"I just want you to keep the party alive," defensive back Ronde Barber said. "We'll find a way to celebrate with you."

Still reveling in the Bucs' 48-21 Super Bowl walloping of the Oakland Raiders, people waited in long lines that snaked around the stadium to get into the free celebration.

A huge turnout is also expected for a city-sponsored parade set for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"It feels like a new world in Tampa," said Clearwater resident Tony Lanza, 82, a season-ticket holder for the past 15 years.

Fans poured into the stadium when the gates opened at 6:30 p.m., including Norman Wright, a 23-year-old lifetime Buccaneers fan from Tampa who waited for more than two hours.

"How often does this happen?" Wright asked. "It's a long time coming."

The team's charter plane landed at Tampa International Airport around 8 p.m., minutes after pilots of the Continental jet amended course and flew over the stadium, drawing raucous cheers from the crowd.

"This is unbelievable. This is incredible," Tampa mayor Dick Greco said. "What a great city."

Long-suffering Bucs supporters waited 27 years for a championship. The frustration turned into elation Monday as they rushed to stores across the region to buy anything commemorating the Super Bowl triumph.

When the Buccaneer Heaven souvenir store opened its doors Monday morning, 400 to 500 fans were already waiting in line. Inside the store, the first shipment of 750 "locker room" T-shirts - the same ones worn by Bucs players after Sunday's game - were gone in 45 minutes at $20 each.

"There are a lot of folks who've got to have it and they've got to have it today," store manager Brad Cohen said.

Danny "Big Bop" Bethel, in his usual game-day outfit of Bucs jersey, jester's hat and painted face, arrived at 10 a.m. in his customized Bucs minibus and volunteered to help control crowds at the door. Fans shook his hand and clapped him on the back as they filed inside.

"There were like 65 people at my house (Sunday night)," said Bethel, 39, of Tampa. "It was a crazy time. We went out and did fireworks on the front lawn."

Such demonstrations were common across the region. Moments after the game ended, car horns began honking, rockets exploded overhead, and people spilled into the streets around the stadium and in the Ybor City entertainment district.

The Tampa Tribune's Monday edition featured a full-page photo of Bucs coach Jon Gruden hoisting the Super Bowl trophy, with the single-word headline: "Yes!" The St. Petersburg Times front said "Champs" over a photo Gruden embracing Bucs' defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

The Tribune's press run was 431,000, a 125,000 increase over a normal Monday, said circulation director David Kirkman.

The Times printed more than 29,000 bulldog editions for Sunday night, and 609,000 copies of the paper came off the presses Monday morning, said spokeswoman Anthea Penrose, who said that normal circulation for Monday papers is in the 300,000 range.

"They were going as fast as we could get them out there," she said.

In Tallahassee Monday, Gov. Jeb Bush congratulated Bucs fans and expressed relief for the win, which will earn him a Mexican dinner from California Gov. Gray Davis.

Bush lost his Fiesta Bowl bet to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. Ohio State beat Miami for the collegiate national championship, so Bush will wear a Buckeyes jersey at the next National Governor's Association meeting.

"I was about ready to stop betting governors on football games," Bush said.

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