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Super Bowl nets Glazers a clean slate

A successful season with a new coach has fans perceiving the Bucs owners in a light more glorious and less greedy.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2003


TAMPA -- As thousands cheered the Bucs return early Monday, a beaming Malcolm Glazer gave a thumbs-up to fans lined six-deep outside Raymond James Stadium. In the window of one of the team buses, someone had written, "Thank you, Glazers."

This week it is easier to love the Glazers.

A year ago, public feeling for the Tampa Bay Bucs' First Family seemed to have plunged to an all-time low. The Glazers had fired well-loved coach Tony Dungy in an ugly way. The search for his successor proved difficult. And people had not forgotten the Glazers' threats to move the team out of town barring a stadium upgrade.

Last year, Malcolm Glazer and his sons, Joel and Bryan, were "greedy," "short on class," and "cold," to hear fans tell it.

Talk to fans now, however, and it is a different story.

"I think going to the Super Bowl wipes everything clean, the bad blood, the bad press, everything," said Laz Lopez, 42, of Tampa. "If they hoist that Super Bowl trophy, nobody will work in this town for a week."

As football fans are the first to admit, their love can be bought. The asking price is a trip to the Super Bowl.

Longtime Bucs fans vividly recall the era of past owner Hugh Culverhouse, who, critics say, was too cheap to pay for a team that could win. The Glazers, by contrast, have paid dearly for top talent.

"Hugh Culverhouse was in it for the money," said George Canfield, 47, of Tampa. "Malcolm doesn't really need the money, and he wants a championship. Their business practices may leave a lot to be desired, but the bottom line is, it works."

Sally Warnock, 40, of Clearwater, who was at Raymond James Stadium to see the Bucs off to San Diego, said she almost "wrote off" the Glazers last year.

"I think what they did to Tony Dungy was appalling," she said. "But I'm not a business person. They wanted to bring us a Super Bowl, and they did it."

In late 1996, after the Glazers threatened to take the Bucs out of Tampa, Hillsborough County voters approved a half-cent sales tax that linked funding for a spectacular new stadium to improvements in schools, roads and public safety.

"I love the Glazers," said Steve Cueto, 40, of Tampa, pointing to Raymond James Stadium. "They said, "Half-penny tax' -- okay, beautiful, keep the Bucs in town. There's nothing else in Tampa that brings people closer than that stadium right there. They said, "How much will it cost to get us a Super Bowl?' and they did it."

Deigh Holland, 41, of Tampa still would like to see the Glazers take a more public role.

"You don't see them at functions much," Holland said. "I think that will happen now, with the Super Bowl. They'll be on the A list."

She added, "I'd like them to be more part of the community, and we should welcome them if they make the effort."

But the newfound respect from fans has not spared the Glazers unexpected indignities.

At a Sunday night trophy presentation, Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer Willie Davis mistakenly called Malcolm Glazer "Marcus."

Those who do not follow football, like Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt, take a more sober view than those waving Bucs flags.

"Super Bowls are a flash in the pan," Platt said. "It may be wonderful this year, but it may be terrible next year. I'm elated the Bucs are going to the Super Bowl, but the community has paid a high price for them to go there."

-- Times staff writer David Karp contributed to this report. Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or goffard@sptimes.com

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