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Super Bowl XXXVII

Hope springs eternal, but a win sooner is better

Hope! Of all ills that men endure, The only cheap and universal cure.

By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2003

This needs to be said:

Tampa Bay is no better a place this morning than it was the morning before.

The water is no bluer. The climate is no milder. The manatees are no happier. The people are not one bit smarter, stronger or better-looking.

Yet, there is a difference still.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for long, long years the symbol of futility in sports -- the once-ridiculed symbol of our community itself -- won the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

The Bucs: champions of the National Football League.

Tampa Bay: Winnerville.

Oh, sweetness! The home team went to San Diego and dominated the competition, some team or another from California, and therefore won the highest honor possible in its field of human endeavor.

For the past glorious week, all of Tampa Bay wore red and pewter, and waved flags, and put signs outside homes and businesses, and spoke as one with hope. Maybe nothing in our history has so unified the bay area -- which is why the whole thing matters.

Hope. That's what Sunday really represented.

No one who has lived around here for any length of time can forget when there was no hope at all for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Super Bowl? Are you kidding? All we wanted was a season with fewer than 10 losses.

For a decade and a half, until their return to the playoffs in 1997, in terms of winning percentage the Bucs were the worst professional sports team in existence -- and not only in their own sport. The worst. Sports team. In existence.

Now, that is something to despair about: being the absolute worst in the world at the very thing you are trying to do. Lots of people can't bowl; not many of them happen to make a living as professional bowlers.

Why is the television show American Idol such a hit? Is it because we like to see talented people have a shot at fame and fortune? Maybe. But it's also the fascination of seeing people who are absolutely horrible at the thing they have chosen to try. Watching the bad auditions on Idol is not entirely unlike watching the Bucs play football in those long, dark years.

Those years mattered when it came to how Tampa Bay felt about itself, too.

They mattered because lots of people, and not just fanatics either, identify with sports teams. You could start the whole NFL all over again, and forget the cities and just name the teams Red, Blue, Green, Yellow and so on, and pretty soon there would be passionate Yellow fans getting into fierce arguments with Blues and Greens and Reds, and rejoicing in victory, and agonizing in defeat.

But all suffering passes, even in the National Football League, and so passed away our long era of bleakness. New owners brought new people, and made better use of the old people worth keeping. The team began its remarkable turnaround from worst to best. Finally, the Super Bowl.

The Bucs win the Super Bowl!

If that can happen, what else can happen?

Charlie Brown can win the heart of the little red-haired girl, that's what.

Men and women can figure out the Mars-Venus thing.

Somebody can invent cold fusion, and somebody else can invent pizza with negative calories.

Sisyphus can finally solve that rolling-the-rock-up-the-hill.

That's what else. It turns out that anything is possible after all. There is always hope.

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