Infectious: The Magic of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s not just football
Even though Tampa Bay lost big today it is important to have adversity because it builds character, and when a young team like the Bucs are have been winning at will, they sometimes take things for granted. So losses are opportunities to build character, because the overall franchise is more than one game and this article is about the “bigger picture.” The young kids will bounce back and solve their problems, because the foundation beneath the loss is of high quality. And such a lesson is one everyone faces at some time or another whether it be an individual, or an organization. Winning all the time does not challenge the soul, overcoming something that shakes your foundations do. And with all the talk on this site about failure in government, it is because they do not go back to the film room and figure out why. They just ask for a “bailout,” and lose time and again without improvement and use higher taxes to prop up their self-esteem. A football team does not have the option of raising taxes. They have to dig deep and improve themselves.
To understand why any group or other interest that stands in the way of innovation infuriates me to the levels it does, I feel I must open the door just a bit more into my personal beliefs since you and I know each other just a bit better than we used to. In my life I am attracted to personalities who reach beyond the static patterns of convention, and in my opinion nothing else is worthy of my attention. I feel that way about my entertainment, my politics, my friends, and my sports. So I ask you dear reader to suspend your thoughts for just a moment, long enough to read this article. It doesn’t matter if you like a different NFL team than me, or even have different politics than I do, just suspend your beliefs for just a while and let me take you into the great temple which is Raymond James Stadium and let me share with you the richness you will find there. Click the video below to see how a football game begins in that palace of ingenuity. (THAT’S WHAT APPEARS ON THE JUMBO TRON)
On any given Sunday in the falling leaves of autumn, at the end of my driveway you will see two flags. You will also see flags all the way up my driveway and on the porch of my house also. And in the living room on football Sunday, it’s always Halloween, even at Christmas, as skulls, smoke machines and more flags are displayed. But the flags at the end of my driveway are special, very special, because they were given to me by the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers himself and are the focus of my enjoyment of that football team which is run by that very innovative and generous family in one of my favorite cities, Tampa Bay.
To understand the history of why I’m a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan, please see two of my previous articles on this subject.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an ownership represents much about my own style of management, and ideas about how all organizations should work They have as a franchise produced an extraordinary number of great players, coaches, and personalities who now populate the TV analyst’s booth on every sports channel. But they have done so without a lot of hoopla and fanfare, unless you happen to live in Tampa Bay. To the world outside of Tampa Bay, The Buccaneers are just another NFL team. The media doesn’t really understand why they are special, only that there is something unique going on in the Bay City of Florida that they sometimes contemplate with empty questions, and even emptier answers.
Players have come and gone, and coaches too, but in Tampa Bay there has been a consistency of always being competitive, of at least being an exciting team to watch no matter what year it was. The history of the team runs deep. Unfortunately, because NFL teams cannot afford to keep all their highly paid players, due to business limits, a team like the Buccaneers must always push the limits and dig deep to find ways to win even when they lose their best talent.
After losing coaches like John Gruden, which was a business decision, Monte Kiffin, the future Hall-of-Fame defensive coordinator, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks, (due to age) and many, many others including the power running full-back Mike Alstott, Tampa seemed out of cannon balls after nearly a decade of dominate defense and trend setting achievements as a franchise. All over the country, sports reporters were predicting doom and gloom for the Buccaneers. But I wasn’t, and neither were the Glazers. The Glazers knew they had been breeding talent down in Tampa for years and decided that if they were losing all that great talent on all sides of the ball, including coaches that they needed to look internally for the next great coach to build their team and maintain their reputation. The Glazers were not looking to an “outsider” to just merely win games in Tampa Bay. The Glazers wanted to preserve their culture that they had built, a static culture that required someone who had always been there and grown up in the organization all along, starting as a very young man.
It wasn’t hard for me to predict that Raheem Morris would be the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs had lost Mike Tomlin to the Pittsburg Steelers who was a coach in Tampa just a few years prior, and they weren’t going to lose the much sought after assistant coach in Raheem to another team, because Morris had grown up with all those great players and coaches on the inside, and the Glazers had enough understanding of what they brought to the NFL to keep a coach who could maintain their culture with a dynamic personality full of energy. So the Bucs promoted Raheem Morris to head coach and defensive coordinator, which was unprecedented in the NFL and drew much criticism from virtually every expert in the industry. Many were saying that Tampa Bay Buccaneer Football was on its way out.
Except me…….and I let Bryan Glazer know it after a series of terrible loses where the youngest head coach in the NFL was struggling through his first season with a decimated team lost to free agency, and age. But Raheem is the kind of guy who never quits, and his personality is as my wife says……infectious, so it was only a matter of time before Raheem turned things around and got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing the caliber of football everyone expected from this very dynamic organization, a team that could live up to that Jumbo Tron intro. Bryan sent me those flags in thanks because it was a tough time for he and his family. Virtually everyone was calling them stupid, cheap, and out-of-touch for hiring Morris when Bill Parcels had indicated he wanted the Tampa job, and news analysts were chipping away at the Glazer family credibility at every opportunity. But they trusted their instincts and stayed with Morris, and I thought a kind word would go a long way in their darkest hour. So Bryan sent me those flags in thanks. Those flags aren’t the kind you can buy from a street vender or even on EBay. They are only passed out during home playoff games, so they are very rare. Bryan gave me the ones he had on his desk.
Meet Raheem Morris here, and let him show you around the Tampa Bay Organization:
I love his energy! One of the first things he did after his first dismal season was draft Josh Freeman, which drew an extraordinary amount of criticism, because many felt that Freeman was not a marquee quarterback, because there were much higher profile quarterbacks on the block and that Morris was out-of-his mind for taking Freeman!
Most fans had the same reaction as that guy, but Raheem knew what he was doing and the Glazers trusted his decisions, even if everyone in the world thought Raheem Morris was out of his mind. In this early interview, you can see much of what Morris saw in the young Josh Freeman, a mature kid even-keeled who would not panic in the 4th quarter under pressure and would provide a stable platform all the other players could build themselves around.
Another controversial player that Raheem Morris went after which nobody understood was LeGarrette Blount, a fiery young running back from Oregon who seemed to have a very violent temper. Blount would have been drafted higher if not for this fight which would haunt him even to this very day, as sports analysts will not forget the incident. Blount is one of those people who were destined to fall between the cracks because nobody with any sort of vision would look beyond his brutal will to fight, which was mistaken as a ruthless will to win, at any cost.
I saw the game with Blount and I noticed how he squared his shoulders to invite the fight, and was not afraid. He seemed to run the ball the same way, without fear and with a fury. I saw something unique in the kid, and Morris obviously saw the same thing. But the Tennessee Titans missed this genius, because Blount’s fighting didn’t stop in the Titans training camp, again, here is a kid who will fight for every inch and does not understand what the word “quit” is. Here is Blount in just a practice where he loses his helmet and still won’t let the defense stop him, which triggers a violent exchange.
Raheem convinced the Buccaneer Organization to sign Blount as an unsigned free agent once the Titans cut him. Because Morris has such an “infectious” personality, Tampa Bay was able to get a hold of a player similar to Warren Sapp only on the offensive side of the ball. Tampa for the first time since Mike Alstott had a runner in the back-field that could pound the ball in a way the Buc fans had come to expect. Warren Sapp had the calm and cool Tony Dungy to keep Sapp from flying apart in rage. And Blount now had the bubbly and good personality of Morris to compliment his very natural aggression and provide leadership and direction so that LeGarrette Blount could be what he was built to be, one of the greatest running backs of this modern age.
LeGarrette Blount is pure, raw energy, but the credit to giving this kid a chance, belongs to Raheem Morris. Have a look at what Blount has been able to do for the Bucs.
The organization isn’t just those two guys. There are dozens of similar young people who have been quietly recruited into the Buccaneers and they are too numerous to list here. What becomes quickly apparent when studied is that Tampa Bay as a franchise recruits dynamic personalities into a static pattern established by the Glazer Family to use those dynamics to always push-off the competition within the NFL over a long period of time. It is within that statement that I am so passionate about Tampa Bay Buccaneer Football. I am not a person who cares for stats, or even individual players. I am all about dynamic patterns used to make a static pattern great, or better. (SEE THIS LINK TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I MEAN BY STATIC AND DYNAMIC PATTERNS.) In fact, even with all the great players and coaches, even when it came down to the treasured veteran linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was the ideal icon of the franchise, when he become too old to maintain the static pattern of expectation the Glazers let him go, just as they did Sapp, Lynch, Gruden and many others. It wasn’t out of disloyalty, although the fans did feel that way. It was that the Glazers put the high level static pattern of their team ahead of their loyalty to personalities. When the dynamic personalities are no longer effective, the Glazers look for new personalities to keep the Buccaneers continuously competitive.
It is true that this does hurt them at the ticket booth, as fans do fall in love with individual players, and many sports fans keep careful track of the various statistics of those players. But the Glazers have always maintained this discipline to their organization, which is unique to them. They fired my favorite coach in Sam Wyche to hire Tony Dungy. They fired Tony, even though they loved him in Tampa because Tony had stalled out and become less effective so they could hire John Gruden. And when Gruden had lost his touch with the players and become mediocre, Tampa fired Gruden, considered by many to be one of the best minds in football, to hire Raheem Morris, the young assistant who quietly absorbed all the greatness of the men who came before him. And Raheem knows that if he becomes complacent and stops bringing a dynamic to his team which protects the static pattern of quality that is expected with the Tampa Bay Franchise, he’ll be let go also. It’s not personal, but for the Glazers, they have a dedication to putting on the field at every level a quality product.
This mentality even extends to the Cheerleaders who are among the best of any NFL team. Not only are their costumes appropriate along that fine line between sex appeal, and family friendly style, but their choreography as a dance unit is top-notch, and has been since the construction of Raymond James Stadium. When attending a game at Ray Jay you will be treated to these cheerleaders who perform with precision in between plays in an overall show that is complete for the entire 3 to 4 hours you are inside that palace.
And it’s not unusual for the Buccaneer Cheerleaders to do many community events and appearances all over town exhibiting their quality performances as a dance team. The philosophy of these Buc Cheerleaders is to bring the sex appeal expected from a cheerleader in the NFL with a style and work ethic similar to a Broadway Dancer.
It’s in the details however that makes just an average organization great. It’s a multitude of little dynamics which tend to preserve the greatness of a static pattern in competition with other static patterns, and in the NFL all teams have great players and football minds that are seeking to destroy each other’s season. And in Tampa Bay if the cheerleaders don’t keep people excited about the product on the field during this epic battle between the players themselves, then the Pirate Ship that sites in Buccaneer Cove, which is a replica of a giant Caribbean Village, will. All the props in the stadium are built by the same company who builds for Walt Disney World and the Pirate Ship is one of the most unique features for a sports stadium in the entire world. There is nothing like it anywhere!
It was this Pirate Ship which earned my eternal loyalty to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Being from Cincinnati, I know the history of their stadium debacle up close, and the ironic thing is, before Paul Brown Stadium was built, the Bengals toured Raymond James Stadium for ideas, but they seemed to miss most everything in their interpretation. Raymond James Stadium is the centerpiece of activity in Tampa. When they aren’t playing football there for the Buccaneers, it might be football with the South Florida Bulls, or a Monster Truck event, or a concert, or an equestrian event, Raymond James Stadium hosts events all through the year, was built completely with community money but gives back to the community in so many ways without compromising the integrity of being the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Raymond James Stadium is the Crown Jewel of the NFL and all sports establishments. It is the best of the best even when others have tried to copy it. The difference is most ownerships attempt to duplicate the luxury boxes and vending sales, without understanding the dynamic relationship connected to the fan experience. This is why most have failed when attempting to duplicate the success of Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And this is why even when I don’t get to fly to Tampa for a game I duplicate the experience at my home on a Sunday afternoon. Because being a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is about more than a football team, it’s a celebration of the success of merging dynamic quality patterns with static patterns and how that balance can be achieved successfully.
Many who know me are baffled by the fact that I love the Buccaneers so much, because I tend to read a lot and don’t seem like the type of person who would enjoy “tailgating” and cheering for a player to carry a ball across a green field to cross a little line on the ground where the team gets points. (Such a thing is rather silly in the greater scheme of things) But in truth, some of my favorite people are in Florida, and Tampa has many people in it that I call my friends, and those friendships have in common a love of the Buccaneers because their success bleeds over into other aspects of life. And I don’t give out friendship easily. But in regard to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who even over their practice field fly a giant pirate flag that looms over the players to remind them of where they are and what they are expected to do, innovation and encouragement to reach deep inside to bring out greatness is encouraged in every act exerted. You can see that flag in the next clip. When people visiting Tampa Bay fly into the International Airport if they look out the east window of their craft, that flag is the first thing they will see in Tampa Bay, for it inundates the horizon.
But the secrets to a great organization are in many of the unsung positions, and the Buccaneers value their former players, even if they let them go to avoid salary cap problems where those players become too expensive for what they bring to the field of play. They promoted the linebacker Shelton Quarles to a scout which keeps his dynamic talent under the umbrella of the Buccaneer Franchise and allows the Bucs to locate passionate players who fit into the static expectations of the organization, because if anyone knows what kind of player should be in a Buccaneers locker room or on the field, it’s Shelton.
When I was growing up, as I pointed out in another article on the Buccaneers, my nickname was “Animal.” I like Blount had a problem with fighting. I could not take a hit without fighting back and I never knew when to quit. (I still don’t) because I would be bored in life without some kind of fight or another. No coach wanted me on a football team because I never took direction well, and I had no tolerance for the politics of school football. If I had met someone like a Raheem Morris when I was 16 through 22 I might have played football for a guy like that, because Morris, and the Glazers know how to tap into those types of individuals that other organizations overlook, or take for granted who move through life on the outside of establishment. And the Buccaneers know that it is in such dynamic people who a competitive edge over an opponent can be found. So it is with that in mind that I feel an affinity for LeGarrette Blount. I can relate to the kid. It will be interesting to see how he handles success, once money finds its way to him. I hope it doesn’t change the kind of man he has a chance to be. I’m sure that Raheem Morris is having those kinds of talks with the young man.
So as we contemplate education reform, and the role of government in society, I rest my mind from the burdens of the day and dedicate my valuable time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whenever they play because on every occasion that I doubt the validity of an idea I can look to that organization as a symbol of how things should or could be. I see upon that organization at every single level a passion for finding a dynamic which will make them better without compromising their static quality. I see an indulgence in more than just a game, but a philosophy that not only benefits the team and ownership of the Buccaneers, but the entire community themselves. It is the entire experience of the quality achieved at all these various levels which put the smile on a face of a young boy and ignite in him a hope that anything is possible. Or it brings delight to the over-weight middle-aged man stuck in a rut in his life to see gladiators give it their all on the field of battle, or the bored mother who holds up her hands to have beads thrown upon her head from the pirate ship in Buccaneer Cove. It is an entire city that is the better for the fact that the Buccaneers guard selfishly their unique brand of football in an NFL League that is all-too-focused on quarterbacks and statistics, that they often miss the magic of the dynamic in human spirit. Too often those types upon a confounded brow wonder how such characters came to be but for someone like the Glazer family created the conditions for the unique to blossom, and capture in those weekly battles a magic which enhances the lives of thousands.
Yo, ho, YO, HO, It’s a pirates life for me, and on Sunday’s I fly my flags proudly and think of Raymond James Stadium, the Glazer Family, the Pirate Ship, Raheem Morris and the various Buc players both past and present who live and fight the way I think all people should play at life, with passion, enthusiasm, and eternal hope, pounding one yard at a time for the end zones of life if only to hear the celebration of cannon fire and the cheering of a crowd under the gentle gaze of a October Sun.
Win, or lose, I am a fan of Buccaneer Football! Because it’s easy to be a fan when your team wins, or there is money in your pocket. But it is very hard to have courage and strength when things don’t go your way. That is the difference between success and failure and is the reason we play sports in society. It’s a measure of our ability to adapt and learn what we are made of, whether or not we will cry out for assistance, blame someone else, or look at ourselves in the mirror and grow better, and more hungry. It is in that process that everything becomes better. And because of everything I’ve said here about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a loss at this stage of their development is something that will burn in those young kids for years and make them veterans able to sustain victory long into the future. Unfortunately, our society does not apply this lesson to their everyday lives, because if they did, they would find that those lives would improve dramatically.