© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2003
That didn't start out too well, did it?
But by the end, Fox's final football broadcast of the season turned out to be the most memorable for Bucs fans.
The Fox A-Team helped to some extent, but failed when it mattered most. Though the old clips of the Creamsicle Bucs were a nice touch, the trio of Joe Buck, Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman lacked the fire the moment called for.
Maybe you need to grow up in the Tampa Bay area to get it. And maybe the shots of the Bucs celebrating and coach Jon Gruden getting doused with ice water were sufficient. But the magnitude of the moment called for more, and viewers didn't get it.
Other thoughts and observations on the broadcast:
HERE WE GO AGAIN: Buck opened Sunday's NFC Championship Game broadcast ominously, saying "the cold hard facts here in Philadelphia -- 26 degrees."
Then 52 seconds later, the Bucs did the two things everyone feared they would -- allowed a killer kickoff return and an easy-looking 20-yard touchdown run up the middle.
"This is exactly what the Tampa Bay Bucs didn't want to have happen," Buck said. "The monkey on their back just gained about 100 pounds."
"As soon as you get behind like that, a lot of bad memories come to the surface," Aikman said.
TOP GUN: Collinsworth had a solid game with his analysis. He correctly pointed out how the Bucs' hurry-up offense and quick drops would stunt the Eagles blitz, put Joe Jurevicius' 71-yard catch into perspective, predicted there wouldn't be any sustained drives and the game would hinge on big plays, said the Eagles' inability to run played into the Tampa Bay defense's hands and was the first to jump on Ronde Barber's bandwagon.
IF IT FITS, YOU MUST DROP IT: Aikman twice questioned the use of a glove on the throwing hand of quarterback Brad Johnson, incorrectly saying it might be a bad move to wear it without having practiced with it. But Johnson told Terry Bradshaw in the postgame he practiced with it all week.
And the second time Aikman brought up it up, after Johnson threw behind Keyshawn Johnson, the quarterback completed his next three passes to the receiver -- the last for the touchdown that proved to be the winner.
NOT PERFECT: Collinsworth said the talk of the Bucs record in cold weather was driving him crazy and it "really comes down to the skills position players."
But the real difference in the game probably was the play of the Bucs offensive line, which everyone thought would give up at least one sack.
Collinsworth did give the line credit at the end of the broadcast, reading off each player's name.
WHERE'S THE REMOTE?: All the local stations cut in with their "Bucs to the Super Bowl" update, and WFLA's may have been the most embarrassing as news anchors Bob Hite and Jennifer Leigh interviewed ... themselves! In case you're wondering, Leigh only lasted a few seconds in Section 700, but Hite was a tad more courageous. Oh, and Hite is happy for the media -- the media! -- that next week's game is on neutral turf so he doesn't have to deal with the "homeys" of the opposing team.
Truly embarrassing. There wasn't a single Bucs fan they could have grabbed for an interview? Not one?
BEST LINE, PART I: Asked about Barber's play by Pam Oliver, Gruden said he's always loved Barber and that "he is one of the 50 best-looking guys in the world ... next to me."
BEST LINE, PART II: After Bobby Taylor bumped into Martin Gramatica after a field goal, the Bucs kicker did a pretty poor flop, prompting Buck to remark, "He may look like Roberto Benigni, but he sure can't act like him."
Benigni, an Italian actor, won an Oscar in 1998 for a movie that wouldn't make a bad name for the Bucs' season: Life is Beautiful.
BEST SHOT: Bucs reserve linebacker Jack Golden shouting, "good call, ref, good call" then patting him on the butt as he walked by.
CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME: As the third quarter ended and Fox went to commercial, Buck said, "Right now, it's 75 degrees in San Diego," setting up the final quarter wonderfully.