NFL-'It means everything': Bucs delight fans with home Super Bowl win
By Gabriella Borter
TAMPA, Fla., Feb 7 (Reuters) - Sailing through to a 31-9 Super Bowl victory with a historic home field advantage, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the joy of fans who once considered such a fairytale ending for their team impossible.
Cannons fired, fireworks exploded and cheers rang out from the limited number of fans in attendance on Sunday as the Bucs' victory rounded out Tampa's year of sports prowess, after the Lightning won the NHL's Stanley Cup and the Rays reached MLB's World Series.
John Dewey, a 45-year-old civil engineer from Tampa, was among the fans who endured the 18-year stretch since the team's previous Super Bowl victory, during which time the Bucs suffered through one of the lowest winning percentages in all of North American professional sports.
"It means everything, man. I've been a Bucs fan for so long. We've been through some hard time," said Dewey.
Pivotal to the Bucs' changing fortunes was their acquisition of Tom Brady, widely considered the greatest quarterback of all time, and his former New England Patriots' teammate Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement this season.
Brady and Gronkowski connected for two touchdown passes during the first half, giving the Bucs the momentum they needed, while the defense neutralized the Chiefs' reputably strong offense led by last year's Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
"(Brady) has the ability to come in and have people follow him," said Tica Teal, a 46-year-old mortgage underwriter who flew in from Dallas to see her beloved Bucs play. "That definitely gave us exactly what we needed to be right here today."
By early Monday morning, car horns were honking and ecstatic crowds of fans were reveling in the streets of Tampa, and city officials chimed in on social media to share their joy.
"Despite every challenge, Team Tampa Bay worked hard, played hard, and came out on top...Tom Brady - see you in my office on Monday to discuss 'Tompa Bay,'" tweeted Tampa Mayor Jane Castor in reference to the joking moniker Brady fans have given the city.
Judy Fraser, a 70-year-old retired teacher, decided at the last minute to spend $7,000 on a ticket because she felt she could not miss out on seeing her team's fairytale complete.
She wasn't disappointed after watching the Bucs become the first team in the Super Bowl's 55-year history to play the championship game in their home stadium.
"It was better than I ever anticipated,” said Fraser. "Those two quarterbacks playing was a history-making thing, and then to have the home team in their home field, you may never see that again."
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Frank Pingue)
((Gabriella.Borter@thomsonreuters.com; 646 223 5942;))