From across the Atlantic Ocean, this is what it is like to rep the pewter and red and be a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the United Kingdom.
A black hoodie with a red pirate flag was where it started. An unseasonably cold Orlando evening in February 2011 led me to a local clothing store to find something warm to wear. What I stumbled upon was an item of clothing I still own to this day; A Tampa Bay Buccaneers hoodie featuring that distinctive logo.
Upon my return to the UK I started to follow the Buccaneers and learn the game of American Football. By the time I reached my next vacation in Orlando, I was ready to commit. My best friend and I had Buccaneer jerseys shipped from Raymond James Stadium directly to our villa and we instantly felt like real fans. Our joy didn’t last long as just days later we watched the Atlanta Falcons dismantle the Buccaneers in deadly fashion, 56 to 14.
The best viewing option for the true British NFL fan is ‘GamePass Europe’ which shows all the weekly games (with the exception of the three games being shown on Sky Sports each Sunday). I have been a loyal GamePass viewer for 5 years now, and will catch every Tampa Bay game from the comfort of my living room over a burger and a beer.
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The five hour time difference between the UK and Tampa can have its challenges though. Whilst the Buccaneers have regularly played at 1pm in the States (6pm on a Sunday in the UK), the second and third game windows will start at 9.30pm and 12.30am respectively, so it’s difficult to watch a solid day of football when you have to get to work in the morning. The Super Bowl? That finishes at 3am, UK time. You have to have dedication to follow the NFL over here!
Undoubtedly, the highlight of my Buccaneer fandom took place last year. Whilst my visit to Orlando didn’t coincide with a home game, we took in a tour of Raymond James Stadium. Driving from Orlando to Tampa felt like a pilgrimage and I had chills the first time I saw the stadium on the horizon.
Visiting areas of the stadium such as the pirate ship, the scoreboard, the executive suites, and the locker rooms was surreal. But the absolute highlight was being able to walk down the player tunnel and on to the field. The hallowed turf that has been the stage to so many memorable moments in history, and where Buccaneer legends are made.
In October, I will finally see the Buccaneers in person at Tottenham Stadium as they take on the Carolina Panthers. I can’t wait.