My stepfather, Wayne Anthony Champ, passed away from a sudden heart attack last week at the relatively young age of 62. It came as a shock to our family and friends, and over the last week I have taken much time to reflect over the decade we knew each other and how he affected my life. Looking back over the time we spent together, it seems that he and I never had much in common other than our love for the Buccaneers, but that was more than enough. Virtually every memory I have of the man is tied intrinsically with Buc football (which isn't a bad thing).
Now that I've had time to consider our relationship, I guess you could say that he is the reason why I became such a passionate fan of TB. I was a fan of the team since the mid 90s, but I didn't become a "true fan" until moving down here in 2001. My stepfather was simply addicted to Tampa Bay football. He knew all the latest news as soon as it happened. He could recite the roster by heart. He was always quick to jump in when someone bashed Gruden and used to cuss at the guys on drive time radio that ticked him off. He was at every home game and quite a few of the away ones. I quickly found myself emulating his passion for the team.
I think I started following the Bucs so closely in order to bond with this man. It quickly became the theme of nearly every conversation we had together. Uncomfortable silences slowly gave way to intelligent debate and excited conjecture. We would discuss trades, free agent acquisitions, and draft picks as if we were the ones operating One Buc Place. He was at training camp every season, and when work permitted I was there with him. As the years progressed it got to be so that we would always try to one up each other with the latest Buc news we had discovered. He did fairly well until I discovered Buc 'Em and Pewter Report. One of my fondest memories of Wayne is sneaking into the house with him and watching football on my wedding day (which was on a Sunday, but we had a Monday night game that week).
Aside from being a great husband to my mother, Wayne eventually became a pretty great friend to me as well. I will miss him more than words can say. As the reality of a football season without him looms, I find myself questioning my passion for the team. I would never abandon ship. That would be dishonoring his memory, as well as selling myself short. I am simply having a hard time coping with the realization that this year is going to be much different. No more shared rides to RayJay. No more afternoons at Beef O'Brady's for away games. No more dinner talk about football while my mother rolls her eyes at us. Quite simply, no more Wayne.
So Buc 'Em. I decided to post my thoughts here in the hopes of honoring his memory. He was one of us through and through. He will be missed by my family of course, but guys like him should also be missed by all of us. True fans like him are few and far between, and I was lucky enough to have one as my step dad. R.I.P. Wayne (1947 - 2010).