We find ourselves at the end of another football season. I don’t know about you, but when I originally looked at the schedule for this year, I thought that the December 30th game against Atlanta would have playoff implications for one, if not both, of these NFC south opponents. Instead, this week’s game is more for bragging rights as to who is the best team in the division that does not play in New Orleans.
At 5-10, the Buccaneers find themselves one game behind the Falcons and the Panthers who finish their season against a Saints team that locked up a bye week and home field advantage with yesterday’s win over Pittsburgh. Instead of divisional bragging rights for the best team, this week’s game carries bragging rights for who is the worst team in the division. None of the three, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, or Carolina, can even play spoiler. There are draft considerations between finishing 2nd or 4th. I can assure you that every team not in the post season is already adjusting their draft board, waiting to see where the chips fall after this week’s games.
When I was just a little guy, it was usually the games where the playoffs were off the table that I most often got to go to. It was toward the end of the season, when the games seemed to be meaningless, that I would stand a little straighter, clean my room a little harder, and make sure I was right there when the tickets were doled out for the next home game.
There will be season ticket holders who decide not to go this week and will possibly put those tickets into the hands of individuals who may not even know yet that Buccaneer pride flows through their veins. They will walk out of the tunnel onto that expanse of beauty that is Raymond James Stadium and see the colors, smell the grass, hear the sounds that all of us have come to love so much. Even the smell of spilled beer, steamed hot dogs, and suntan lotion will leave an impression that never goes away. They will take mental pictures of the brilliant colors and competitiveness on the field. They will high five a family member or even a stranger after the Bucs make a great play. They will then begin to know what we diehard Buccaneers fans already know. They will begin to understand what “It’s a Buc Life” is all about.
So as the clock counts down to zero and the 2018 season comes to a merciful end, I take solace in knowing that as most of us start counting the days to the draft, summer camp, and start of next season, some newbies will be anxiously awaiting their next chance to siege the day.