Tampa 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010 / Bloggified by Jake Bell /

In what has become a tradition--if "twice" qualifies as a tradition--I found myself in Tampa again this year for the Buccaneers season opener along with my friends, Ryno and Hollywood. The entire flight from Phoenix to Charlotte to Tampa, Ryno and I had been salivating for Lee Roy Selmon's and describing it to Hollywood, who hadn't been able to make the trip in 2009. So within 20 minutes of checking into our hotel, we were in a booth, eating pulled pork quesadillas, cornbread casserole, cheesy bacon grits, Mama Selmon's meatloaf. In the three days were were there, we ate four meals there. Last year, we ate three meals there between Saturday evening and noon Monday. That is how great this restaurant is.
In all seriousness, as important as going to the game in Raymond James Stadium is, eating until you are stuffed too full to move at Selmon's is neck and neck. If the game is priority #1, Selmon's is #1a.

Unfortunately, Scholastic couldn't get any of the Barnes & Nobles or Borders in Tampa to bring me in for a signing, but I still took some time on Friday afternoon to hit all the stores the GPS could find and sign whatever they had in stock. So if you're in Tampa, go check out the shelves. They're probably still there.

We went to a Bucs rally in St. Petersberg Friday night, but left after about fifteen minutes. The team clearly expected a smaller turnout that was there, so it was impossible to move. We did get to see some of the players and hear some ridiculous banter and bluster. For example, according to the local radio talkshow host emceeing the show, linebacker Quincy Black is "the guy people are talking about everywhere they talk about football. California... Mississippi..." Not sure why they don't talk about football anywhere else.

Also, head coach Raheem Morris assured us that he didn't care when quarterback Josh Freeman broke his finger in the preseason, which was kind of scary. If anyone on earth should care, I would suggest it's Raheem Morris. And for some reason, whenever one of the players couldn't think of anything to say, they would point at the star rookie receiver and ask the crowd to "Say hello to Mike Williams."

Saturday morning, we went shopping for Buccaneers paraphernalia since they don't carry shirts with Bucco Bruce on them at the Champs in Chandler Mall. Ryno decided we needed to take advantage of the hotel's pool and jacuzzi and bought us all matching Bucs swimsuits. In your best interest, no photos of us wearing them will be posted.

As we debated what to do for the evening, I threw out the idea of getting a tattoo of the old school Bucco Bruce logo. I was half-joking, saying that I didn't want to spent $150 on a tattoo.

The lesson here is be careful to whom you say, "Well, if you guys want to chip in, I'll get it," because if they have enough disposable income and find it amusing enough to watch you get stuck with needles for 45 minutes, you could wind up having your bluff called at a tattoo parlor in central Florida.
My artist, Javier, had done tattoos for running back Cadillac Williams and former defensive lineman Gaines Adams.
It's hard to smile, though I have to say this was one of the least painful tattoos I've ever gotten. Then again, I'm fatter than I ever was during previous tattoos and the fleshier the area being done, the less it hurts.
But, seriously, kids, don't give in to peer pressure. And stay in school. And don't run with scissors. And if you get a tattoo, don't tell your parents it's because I did it.
The finished product turned out a million times better than I thought it would, and Javy only charged me $100. I tipped him $20 and still managed to get out of there for $30 less than I'd guessed.
After the tattoo, we went to Derby Lane to watch greyhound racing, but a downpour hit after a race and a half, so we went back to Selmon's. Remember when I said we ate four meals there? Well, technically one was the dessert menu. Not certain items from the dessert menu. The entire dessert menu.
That's bread pudding, pecan pie, chocolate cake, and peach cobbler, with a tall glass of milk for each of us. Hard to believe three slim, sexy dudes like those guys above could pack away that much junk food, huh? I swear, between the swimsuits, the hours long shopping trips, and late night dessert, our trip was taking a dangerously "Sex and the City"-esque turn.

While we were there, the owner got to know us. Being three guys willing to fly across the country to watch a team expected to battle it out for last place in its division got us some attention. However, when we took this picture, I think he, too, was feeling that "Sex and the City" vibe as he told the waitress taking it, "Hurry up! Men shouldn't have their arms around each other for too long!"
The next morning, we decided to walk from our hotel to the stadium. It was almost two miles, but based on our experience the previous year, we figured it would be faster. Traffic near the stadium is terrible and while we had a shorter walk in 2009, we then sat at the car, unable to even pull out of our space for nearly an hour.

Plus the walk lent itself to comedy! Ha!
The police apparently found three guys from Arizona wearing old school Buccaneers jerseys suspicious, because they wanted to know why we ever started rooting for the team in the first place.
We got there almost three hours before kick off, and the gates open 90 minutes prior, so we wandered around. There's a nice wooden bridge, reminiscent of a pier, along the side of the stadium that's shady.
Finally, we arrived out front.
Waiting for the gates to open...
Why is Ray Jay the greatest stadium in the NFL? When the Steelers put a steel mill in Hines Field or the Packers put a meat packing plant in Lambeau, we'll talk. Until then, the title goes to the only stadium in the world with a cannon-firing pirate ship in one endzone.
Our seats were in the third row one section over from the Bucs' tunnel, so we got to see them take the field right in front of us.
Having those seats also got us on TV. It may not be as impressive as last year's appearance, but we did get texts and calls telling us we were on from people watching back home. But we didn't really know what they'd seen until we cued up the DVR after we returned.

In case you still couldn't see it with the zoom and the freeze...
At the half, Tampa Bay was trailing, but during halftime, a storm blew in. Fill in your own "changing winds" metaphor.
The rains throughout the second half made for a much more enjoyable game than in 2009. And the fact that the Bucs turned their game around, shut down Cleveland, and got a win for the first time in the four games we've gone to see them play helped, too.
All in all, this had to be one of the two greatest trips I've ever taken. Great food, great friends, great tattoo, more great food, free swimsuit, and a Buccaneers victory. It'll be hard to top this next year, but that won't stop us from trying.

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