Yes, I'm that worst of all things, that thing most sports fans will struggle endlessly to deny being: I'm a fair weather fan. When the Bucs are winning, I'm right in there screaming, watching their games avidly, talking it up at work, reading the sports pages, checking out websites on the team. When they lose, I bail. And I bail fast.
I used to try to justify this. I'd point out to people (I've done it on past blogs) that while I only became a Bux fan at the beginning of last season (at the end of which the Bux won the Super Bowl) it wasn't that I was a fair weather fan, I simply hadn't liked Tony Dungy. (And I did not.) When they traded in Dungy for a coach I found more charismatic, I finally allowed myself to invest some hope in the franchise, and I hung in there all through the first half of last season, because, well, the Bucs WON. They won ugly, they looked really bad and inept and terrible winning, nobody thought they could go the distance because their offense was mostly prostrate and the defense was doing all the scoring, but still... they won. You could get to the end of a Bux game and not feel as if you'd been run through an emotional mangle, because, well, for all the ups and downs and for all the sheer frustrating lack of anything remotely like a break out offensive performance the Bux put on, nonetheless, they WON.
Now, there are a lot of fanatical Bux fans out there, who have stuck with the franchise through thick and thin, who are there every week regardless of whether the team is winning or not, who gamely wore their Bucs jerseys out in public even when the Bux were the joke of the NFL, and they have nothing but contempt and odium for me at this moment. And to them, I can say only this:
Look, you mooks... a sports franchise is
A sports franchise is owned by someone who is running it for a profit. He, and everyone involved with the franchise, wants your money. To the end of getting your money, they deliberately foster this notion that the local team is your pal and there is something deeply wrong with you as a human being, something horribly flawed about your essential character, if you are letting your buddy down by only supporting him when he is on top.
Well, I'm here to tell you, that's specious and stupid. The actual deal is very simple: when the team wins, I support them. When they lose, I do not.
I am not married to the Bucs, I am not dating the Bucs. I don't owe them any loyalty; as far as I know, none of them are willing to lend me money or help me move. So they get my support when they make me feel good, and they make me feel good when they win games.
Now, if you want to give your loyal, avid, partisan support to a bunch of mercenaries who don't even live in town most of the year and who only play in Tampa because Tampa pays them the most money, and who will pack their shit and git in a heartbeat the instant their agent negotiates them a better deal from some other franchise somewhere else (ask Lawyer Malloy if you don't believe me), well, that's on you.
But I'm a bandwagon Bux fan. I'm a fair weather friend to the team. When they win, I'm right there screaming with the best of y'all. When they lose, I'm nowhere to be found.
You, on the other hand, the dedicated devotee to your local sports franchise who is there no matter what, day in and day out, spending your money, wearing your merchandise, diligently changing the names on your home made fan banners to match up with whatever the latest business dictated roster shifts may be... you, mon frere, are one of those folks P.T. Barnum once pointed out that there was one born of, every minute.
Adding to that:
Today, I am not a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.
It's not just because they lost yesterday. It's because they didn't have to.
This season, the San Francisco 49ers are one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Bucs are Division Champions of the NFC South. The Bucs should have easily beaten the 49ers; the fact that the Bucs didn't beat the 49ers is utterly humiliating. Jon Gruden chose that humiliation for his playoff bound team by deciding to rest most of his starters for the entire second half.
What did he prove? That Tampa Bay's bench is unable to beat one of the worst teams in the NFL. Hey, that's a ringing battle cry to head into the play offs with.
I cannot tell you how much it disgusts me that Gruden chose to do the 'smart thing' and have his team phone this one in. I have to assume that it disgusts the Bucs themselves almost equally. The Bucs pulled to within three points of beating the wretched wretched 49ers; it could not be clearer that, had Gruden actually allowed his team to compete, the Bucs would have crushed the 49ers.
Had the Bucs crushed the 49ers, they would now be 10-5, which is very respectable. They could have gone on to finish the season 11-5, which is even better.
As it is, though, they are 9-6. Gruden has said we should expect more of the same 'strategy' in next week's equally 'meaningless' game against the Carolina Panthers.
Very likely, then, the Bucs will end up 9-7 for the season.
9-7 is fucking mediocre. 11-5 is awesome.
I put 'meaningless' up above in quotes. I don't think any game is ever 'meaningless'. How important is morale? I don't know, but I suspect it's pretty important, and I do know this -- a loss is always demoralizing. Two losses in a row, going into the play offs? When both losses were completely avoidable?
A few years ago, I wrote that I am only a Bucs fan when they win. Today I would add to that -- I am only a Bucs fan when they try to win. Going through the motions... putting on a show... this is fucking bullshit.
I don't know who the Bucs are going to end up battling in the first round of the play offs, Washington or New York. If it's Washington, and they knock the Bucs off, that will be history repeating itself, as it's exactly what happened two years ago. And the Bucs will deserve it; Washington has gone out there every week and fought for it's life, while the Bucs are just dancing.
Whoever it is, it won't matter. If the Bucs get by them, then in the second round they have to face either the 13-2 Cowboys or the 12-3 Packers. And here's what I do know:
9-7 teams don't win Super Bowls.
9-7 teams don't win conference championships -- not against this years Cowboys or Packers.
I will get to watch one, maybe two Bucs games on national television in the play offs this year.
The problem is, I'm not even sure I want to, right now.
Buncha fuckin losers.