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Super Bowl XXXVII

Bucs fans well-behaved in victory celebrations

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 28, 2003

TAMPA -- They took to the streets by the thousands, honked horns, shouted, waved flags. Several even ran around naked.

But the fans who celebrated here after the Bucs Super Bowl win Sunday, unlike their counterparts in Oakland, caused no major damage or disturbances.

As fans go, Tampa was well-behaved.

"It was a celebratory crowd. They were friendly," said Lt. Rod Reder, Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman. "Even though we've been waiting 27 years (for a Super Bowl), that's a real testament to the class of the fans."

Hillsborough deputies arrested 37 people on charges of driving under the influence Sunday night, and charged two men with disorderly conduct after they pounded on a sheriff's patrol car and refused to leave Dale Mabry Highway.

In the city, Tampa police made about 25 DUI arrests. Officers in Pinellas County arrested 20 people on drunken driving charges during and after the Super Bowl.

But all that was mild in comparison to Oakland, where disgruntled fans set at least 10 vehicles on fire, broke the windows of a television news van, set debris on fire in the middle of a street and broke nearly every window at a McDonald's restaurant, which also was set on fire.

Hundreds of Oakland police officers responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. They arrested at least 25 people.

"That's what we did not want to happen, us having to go out there with helmets and shields," Reder said.

Tampa police prepared by putting about 100 extra officers on the streets. But they mostly spent time clearing the roads, not making arrests.

Seconds after the Bucs won, police erected barricades across Himes Avenue from Tampa Bay Boulevard to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

That was all part of the plan, said Lt. John Bennett.

"Lock down a little, and then monitor," he said. "Then lock down a little more."

After police shut down the roads immediately surrounding Raymond James Stadium, they watched as people inched down Dale Mabry Highway in their vehicles, celebrating all the way.

Some hung out the windows. Others skipped through traffic. Many took off their Bucs shirts and waved them in the air. Others swarmed street corners to cheer.

"Our goal was to keep traffic going and to keep people from overtaking the stadium," Bennett said.

Besides traffic control, officers had to deal with the large number of people drinking in public.

Officers asked people to pour out their alcoholic beverages, and in some instances, took cans of beer away. Still, no one was cited.

"We had a premeasured tolerance for celebration," said Bennett. "We understand that our team won."

By 2 a.m., nearly everyone had gone home.

Even in Ybor City, where the crowd was younger than at the stadium, people mostly wandered around and hollered at each other, not unlike a typical Saturday night.

One officer squirted pepper spray into a crowd when it got a little rowdy. But instead of protesting, most of the people in the crowd coughed, sneezed and dispersed.

"As long as everyone is just yelling and screaming, it's no big deal," said Officer John Swope.

Bennett agreed. Yelling and screaming is one thing. Acting as some did in Oakland would have been something else entirely.

"We're proud of our community that we responded in a positive way," Bennett said. "It was as orderly as you can get when you win the Super Bowl."

-- Times staff writer Chris Tisch contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press.

Back to the Super Bowl XXXVII
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Super Bowl XXXVII
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