By TERRY TOMALIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 15, 2001
TAMPA -- The crowd at Champions thirsted for Raven blood.
"We don't want him back in Tampa," said Mike Colegrove, a die-hard Bucs fan who said he has seen enough of Baltimore's Trent Dilfer. "Nobody liked him then. Nobody likes him now."
Doug Williams, Steve Young, Chris Chandler, now Dilfer ... former Bucs quarterbacks who have gone on to bigger and better things.
"The curse has got to end somewhere," Colegrove said. "Let it end here. Let it end now."
Colegrove and his brother Bryan put on their Raiders hats once the hometown heroes were knocked out of the running in the first round of the playoffs. The boys from Oakland, they said, suited their personalities.
"We like to scream, yell, smoke cigarettes, break things and drink too much beer," he said. "The Oakland Raiders. They're our team."
Larry McCreary, another life-long Buccaneers fan, dreaded the prospect of a Dilfer return to Tampa Bay.
"Nobody wants to see his sorry a--," McCreary said. "Bring on the Raiders."
Forget the Giants and Vikings. At the sports bar beneath the official Super Bowl hotel, it was as if the AFC Championship was the only football game played Sunday.
"I'm a Baltimore fan," Patrick Gray admitted defiantly as opposing fans heckled him from all sides. "I suffered through some dark years. We deserve a break."
Gray stopped watching professional football when his beloved Colts were spirited away in the dead of night.
"We all felt betrayed," he said. "But this is a new team, a new beginning."
Dave Feddon, a plumber from St. Pete Beach, agreed.
"I want Dilfer to come back so the Bucs will see that they made a mistake," he said. "It's not the quarterback. It's not the offensive coordinator. It's the coach. (Tony) Dungy needs to stop playing not to lose to the game and start playing to win the game."
But as the tide turned against the men in black, Ginger Krouzek put on her Raiders helmet and hunkered down for a whooping.
"That's how I became a Raiders fan in the first place," she explained. "When I was 12 years old, the guy next door to me used to be a Raiders fan. We'd watch the games together and when they lost, he'd try all the wrestling moves."
Body slams. Sleeper holds. Noogies on the head.
"I had no choice," she said. "It was root for the Raiders or die."
Across town at the Press Box, a historic sports bar on Dale Mabry, the crowd was equally divided.
"Please, please, just no Trent Dilfer," said Jolene Gall, a Bucs season ticket holder who pounded pitchers of beer as the Ravens pounded the Raiders. "If he makes it to the Super Bowl, I'll have to make up some T-shirts."
Gall, a nurse practitioner, said the shirts would offer an unflattering, yet anatomicly correct portrayal of the former Bucs quarterback.
Meanwhile, Wayne Boyer and Anthony Alicea argued with fellow fire academy trainee T.J. Pinta over the merits of the Ravens QB.
"He tries hard," Boyer said.
"He s----," Pinta responded.
"He made it to the Pro Bowl," Alicea said.
"Still s----," Pinta said.
Williams. Young. Chandler. Vinny Testaverde. All ex-Bucs. All great quarterbacks, they said.
Shamus Hannigan, a transplant from a small town north of Dublin, Ireland, listened to the debate and said he didn't quite understand all the fuss.
"Now rugby ... that's a man's game," he said. "No pads."