This week I’ll change the subject a little bit; I was invited, last week, to go and see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Miami Dolphins. I don’t often go to NFL games but a local derby in any sport is always a good occasion – I was invited by Phil Jones, an avid Manchester United fan who just so happens to be the president of the Buccaneers’ UK supporters club, too.
Phil does a tremendous job of arranging large trips over with other supporters and I was delighted and honoured to be invited along. There was a tour around the ground, the changing rooms and medical facilities – in terms of the preparation and everything aside from the actual game, everything is so similar to proper football! The fields and training grounds are great.
Watching the training can be a fun experience; they run through drills and warm up’s in much the same way as in football yet seeing these guys without their padding on is quite different, let me tell you! Supporter culture is a little different; before the games, it’s quite normal for people to just stand and mingle with other fans, and then when it kicks off it’s not uncommon for rival supporters to sit amongst each other. It’s integration that you just don’t see in England and though it would harm the atmosphere over the UK, over in the NFL it’s so common that it doesn’t. The atmosphere was electric though I think it scared my wife a little bit; every time a touch down was scored by Tampa, a cannon went off!
There’s a lot of razzmatazz, as you might expect, but there’s a strong appreciation for heritage there (as showed when there was a ceremony to mark the retiring of Warren Sapp’s “No 99” jersey, and a recognition of their 2002 Super Bowl winning team) and when you have that kind of tradition and local pride at stake then you’re usually going to see a competitive game no matter what the sport. That didn’t spill over into any fisticuffs or anything like that even after Tampa won – there was a nice healthy conversation and sporting conversation to be had and heard everywhere.
The club took the time to interview me which can be found on their official website which was a nice experience; I want to say thanks to Brian Ford, the COO, who showed wonderful hospitality at number One Buccaneer Place.
My next plan is to go to the Buccs and see a training day; as a coach, observing their preparation and seeing what goes on behind the scenes there. I think it might be a little bit too late for me to get into that game but I think it’s entirely possible that I can pick up some ideas to put into what I do; the world’s a big place and you never stop learning!
Football was my first and true sporting love, but the American version ain’t too bad either.