The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playing on their second Continent in their history this week! They make the trip across the pond to take on the New England Patriots in Old England on Sunday, and no one may be happier than Paul Stewart and his band of Bucs fans in the UK, where American Football is quite popular, and where English football fans are more knowledable that the average American counterpart gives them credit for.
I sat down with Paul this week (well, I assume he was sitting down when he emailed me!) and talked about this weeks Bucs game and Bucs UK in general.
Niko: First of all Paul...I think the average American when he learns about the Bucs UK says..."WOW! Bucs fans on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean! How did this come to be"?
Paul: Well Niko, American Football was first shown regularly in the UK in 1982 on a new TV station, Channel 4. It was a one-hour show with edited highlights of the previous week's Monday Night game, (along with) rules explanations and features. One of the first games they showed had Tampa Bay beating Miami 23-17 at the Old Sombrero. I was 17, watched it and thought "that team in orange must be pretty good, I'll support them" - Doh! I was writing for the first British American Football magazine in 1984 and asked if anyone else followed the Buccaneers. Six people replied and the Bucs let us start an official booster club. 25 years later, we're still going although now with over 300 (members).
More of this interview after the Jump...
Niko: How would you describe your feelings when you first heard the news the Bucs were coming to the UK?
Paul: I did have advance warning it was happening but it still left me stunned. Apparently the Bucs' front office were all wondering what I would think when I found out! All the years I've travelled across the Atlantic to see the Bucs, now they are going to be playing just 20 miles from where I live. Unreal.
Niko: How diverse is the American Football following in the UK? Is it just for the Bucs? Or are there fans for other teams?
Paul: The game at Wembley is a chance for fans of every team to get-together and support the NFL itself. Some teams are more popular than others (New England and Miami being favourites) but you will see jerseys of all 32 NFL teams, many college ones and those of British teams too. But when it comes to actual fan clubs, there is nothing else like the Bucs UK!
Niko: What are your favorite things to do when you come over here for a game?
Paul: Apart from the Mons Venus? Following the Bucs does make a vacation pretty easy in terms of other attractions. Theme parks, beaches, and the other sports teams are all general necessities for a true British Bucs' fan trip to the US.
Niko: Other than playoff games or the SuperBowl, what is your most memorable Bucs game of the last ten years you've been to and why?
Paul: The 1997 win over Miami falls just outside that remit but was special because it was the start of the turn-around of the franchise. That was the first time I met Bryan & Joel Glazer and they invited us back to the first game in the new stadium the following season. So we flew back over for that one and sat in the front row behind the Buccaneer bench. Two amazing games and great memories but a distant second to being in San Diego on January 26th, 2003.
Paul has invited me to join him and the Bucs UK on the field pre-game for the Green Bay game and the Orange Bucs uniforms. I've done this before, last year for the Seattle game, and I learned quickly the custom is, one of the Glazers will upgrade Bucs UK fans from where ever their tickets are, to Club seats on the 50 yard line!
Stewart is on local radio too, on AM 1010 each Monday on the JP Peterson show, where he has been a regular call in for years now. He had a section in the Bucs program, but as the entire program program ( I love when I can do that!) was canceled, so was that gig.
This week, Bucs radio headman Gene Deckerhoff will give way for Stewart to call some of the plays of the game from
Times are good for the Bucs UK fan club.
Now Paul, can you please return the team 1-6?
Paul and Bucs radio man Gene Deckerhoff, who will yield the mic for a few plays on Sunday.
Myself and Bucs UK 2nd in command Phil Jones, a man quite capable of putting down many
of those beverages!