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Fans don gear of old and new to bid Bucs adieu

By CURTIS KRUEGER, DAVID KARP, PATTY RYAN
© St. Petersburg Times
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published January 21, 2003

TAMPA -- Wearing player jerseys, black beads, even rubber pirate ships atop their heads, hundreds of Bucs fans thronged outside Raymond James Stadium on Monday and cheered wildly as their team headed for the Super Bowl in San Diego.

Cannons fired inside the stadium. Out came a bus with a placard reading, "2003 NFC Champions." And there, in front, a smiling Malcolm Glazer flashed a thumbs-up sign.

In the next bus, Sunday night's hero, Ronde Barber, could be seen videotaping the crowd that was videotaping him. And in the last bus, smiling quarterback Brad Johnson looked out.

Up went a cheer: "Su-per Bowl, Su-per Bowl."

Most in the crowd wore some form of red and pewter.

But Jerry Young wore his heart on his orange sleeve. The 56-year-old Tampa retiree was among a smattering of true diehards who brought out the old-time Bucs colors. He wore a knit hat with a red and orange pompom on top, and a red and orange jacket with the old knife-clenching "Buccaneer Bruce" logo.

"It was awesome," Young said of the NFC Championship Game. He even wore an impressive-looking laminated Super Bowl Pass. The bad news: He made it himself, for the fun of it, because he won't be going to San Diego.

"I can't afford it," Young said.

FESTIVE FOOD: Special advertised Monday at Malios Steak House in Tampa: "Fried eagle with Gruden Sauce."

TICKET SCRAMBLE: Season-ticket holders, selected by lottery, arrived at the south end of Raymond James to buy Super Bowl tickets. Fans without tickets pleaded for seats, while ticket brokers latched onto anyone moving across concrete, seeking tickets for sale.

Greg Gard was lucky enough to get chosen by the lottery and held the Holy Grail in his hand -- a $400 Super Bowl ticket. Unfortunately, he can't afford a trip to San Diego.

"I've got friends coming out of the woodwork. Friends I don't even know coming out of the woodwork," said Gard, 46, of Lutz.

Across the street, Michael Jackson, a forlorn-looking carpenter from St. Petersburg, pleaded for tickets.

"I want to take my wife," said Jackson, 33. "I'm not a scalper, I'm not a broker."

His wish: to find two tickets for a total of $1,200, then rent a car and make a three-day drive to San Diego.

DISAPPOINTED FANS: About 1:20 a.m Monday, long before the sun rose, fans still were waiting to greet their team on its return from Philadelphia.

Thousands had waited several hours, but most players got into their cars and left.

Fans were kept behind barricades yards from the players, too far for an autograph or a touch.

Only quarterback Shaun King waited around to sign autographs. That bothered many fans, who were hoping for a little love.

"They should have hung out longer," said Bryan Yoakum, 26, of Lutz.

Lisa Martin, who came in her slippers and red Bucs pajamas, couldn't see the players who spoke on a stage -- and could barely hear them.

Martin, 30, of Lutz, comforted her 7-year-old son, Austin, who didn't even get King's autograph.

TENTATIVE PARADE PLANS: The bay area likely will honor the Bucs with a parade next week after they return from San Diego. Tampa Sports Authority officials said tentative plans call for a parade Tuesday to celebrate the team's accomplishments. The parade route and times still are being worked out. Officials said an announcement should come during the next few days. "We don't have any definite plans," said Henry Saavedra, the Tampa Sports Authority executive director. "We are still working with the Bucs and the city."

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