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Gristmill: Brady Ahoy

Wed, 02/10/2021 - 18:43
The late, lamented logo of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, retired in 1996.

Despite the dominating presence of Old Man Brady, who years ago wore out his welcome in the winning department, I was happy to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the Super Bowl.

Happy for veterans like Jason Pierre-Paul, the former New York Giants defensive end who once blew off his own digit with a firework, or the reclaimed running back from down on the bayou, Leonard Fournette, he of the slick-bald pate and thick nest of Abe Lincoln beard. Happy for the sports fans of Tampa, where time and again baseball’s Devil Rays have come up just short, title-wise, after deep runs into October fueled by grit and smarts and zero help from a rock-bottom payroll.

I was also happy because I once overheard that a figure from my youth, a friend’s late brother, had been a Bucs fan, a fact noted with some befuddlement by his father. I mentioned this to my own brother on the eve of the Super Bowl, and he speculated that the fondness, which he shared, was “because of the cool orange creamsicle jerseys” of the past, and the old helmets “with the Errol Flynn-style buccaneer on ’em — a look they shoulda brought back but with Brady’s face.”

Part of their charm then was how bad they were — there were those “Go for 0!” signs pushing something to root for, even something inverse. Not quite “the Aints” of the formerly godawful New Orleans Saints, back when fans would appear in the stands with paper bags over their heads, but close, and in the late ’70s the Bucs did almost make it through two entire seasons without winning a game.

Team attachments are a funny thing. Not long ago I saw a photo of myself as a chubby-faced little kid outside what was once the family house on Green Street in Sag Harbor wearing a “Property of New York Giants” T-shirt, which by all rights should be as loyalty-forming as it gets, and yet I’ve recently found my allegiance hewing to the Buffalo Bills, who are, as I like to call them, “New York’s only N.F.L. team.”

Consider the Jets, across the river in Jersey. They might be the least likable team in professional sports, but many of us would still be living and dying with them if only they’d stayed in Queens.

As it is, I’m hoping my daughter might go to college somewhere in the northern and western vastness of our state, giving me reason to double down on my new Bills fandom. Hey, home’s anywhere you hang your helmet.

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