Tampa Bay Buccaneers football fans are some of the best in the NFL.
They are very knowledgeable, as evidenced by this website. They follow every play, let you know when they aren't happy with a play, yet stick with their team no matter if they are 11-5 or 5-11.
It's called passion.
And I'm afraid the Glazers are trying to take that away.
Recently, it was reported that the Glazers were willing to work out a deal with the Tampa Sports Authority and Hillsborough County to pay for the necessary upgrades to Raymond James Stadium. The costs will end up being between $78 and $100 million.
But there is just a little catch.
The Glazers want to play at least 1 preseason and 2 regular season games away from Raymond James. Some county officials have been scratching their heads, wondering why the Glazers would ask for a such a request. Is it to get ready for a new stadium proposal around the time their lease expires in 2028? Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan definitely thinks so.
"I told them for us to even consider that, they would need to bring a Manchester United game here, or a Super Bowl, he told Fox 13 in Tampa. "We would not let them play two games in the same city because our concern is that they could potentially build up a fan base in that community and then use that as leverage against us during future lease discussions."
Tactics like this are not new. Many NFL franchises have used many different tricks to try and get their cities to pay for a new stadium/arena. It's happened in Indianapolis with the Colts, it has occurred with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, and it also took place in Sacramento with the Kings. City officials, feeling that the teams are a huge part of the public trust, usually cave in, and end up paying for most or all of the cost of the stadium.
Problem is: the public has already paid for Raymond James Stadium.
The scuttlebutt for years has been that the Glazers, who also own the soccer club Manchester United, have wanted to move the Buccaneers to London.
In 2013, co-owner Joel Glazer tried to calm the fans fears by talking to the Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman.
"That's not even an issue,’’ Glazer said at the time. "We have worked as hard as anybody to get tickets sold. It's tough circumstances in Florida. The economy's not great and it's a changing world. We have to adapt to that changing world. I think we saw progress last year and fans are enthusiastic about the upcoming season.’’
That was then. This is now.
The NFL has been very open about their desires to put an NFL team in England. They continue to play regular season games there, and are trying to grow the game there as much as possible. Originally, NFL insiders thought the Jacksonville Jaguars would be ripe for relocation, but now, with these recent turn of events, the focus of relocation rumors turns back to Tampa Bay.
For the first decade and a half of their ownership, the Glazers were tremendous owners. Once they bought the team from the estate of Hugh Culverhouse, they started to draft really well, and hire really smart football people like Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin, Lovie Smith and later on, Jon Gruden. Their wise hirings paid off for the Buccaneers, who erased years of futility, made the playoffs in 1997 on the back of their unstoppable defense, and in 2003, crushed the Oakland Raiders for their first and only Super Bowl title.
But since then, the team has been snake bit by unsuccessful coaching hires (Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano), a rising quarterback who flamed out (Josh Freeman), and almost a decade of losing football. For a franchise that played so well during the late 90's and early 2000's, it's been a disappointing decade to say the least.
This is not to say the Glazers are trying to stick it to the Tampa St. Pete area. They are businessmen first and foremost, and if the situation isn't working, they'll try and figure out a different business model.
Problem is, most of the Buccaneers bumbles rest on their shoulders.
It would be truly a shame if the Glazers decided to one day move the franchise to London. Nothing against NFL fans in England (they run a really cool Buccaneers webpage called Bucpower.com), but it would be hard for me to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers relocate. Yes, it is a business, but the fans feel the effect once a team is gone, even though its out of their hands.
Which is why I wish they would sell the team.
A perfect scenario would be if they sold the franchise to Jeff Vinik, owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. He has surrounded himself with great hockey people (GM Steve Yzerman and Coach Jon Cooper), and tremendous talent like Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman and goalie Ben Bishop. The team won the Eastern Conference Championship last year, and look really good early in this NHL season.
I have drawn up a scenario for which the Glazers sell the Buccaneers. Keep in mind this is my dream, and it will probably never happen, but hey, it's my fantasy!
Jake's Fantasy Ownership Scenario for the Buccaneers
1-) The Glazers sell the team to Lightning owner Jeff Vinik (along with some investors), and the NFL grants them an expansion franchise for London.
2-) Vinik brings in Tony Dungy as President of Football Operations, and keeps Jason Licht as GM.
3-) The new ownership group makes the renovations to Raymond James Stadium.
4-) The Buccaneers do their Fan Fest every year-but switch off between Orlando and Tampa.
5-) Play 1 preseason game in London each year to say thank you to the England fans. Make it a weekend celebration, with a Fan Fest, where fans can meet all their favorite Bucs.
Look, this might be unrealistic, but I'm just a guy who doesn't want his team to move away. Like you, I have a lot of passion for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it wouldn't be the same if they relocated. Is there a lot of empty seats at Raymond James? Of course. But all this team needs is a little TLC.
And maybe Jeff Vinik.