They don’t have Duck Boats in Tampa. Or Swan Boats. Or Harvard. Or Yo-Yo Ma. Or Fenway Park.
But you know what they do have?
Better teams than we have.
That’s right. In an unthinkable inversion, Tampa is Titletown and we are Loserville. I can’t seem to get my big head around this new reality. We’ve mocked them for decades. Now they own us. The Lightning beat the Bruins in the playoffs. The Rays beat the Red Sox every year. Tom Brady is going to the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
How does that taste, Boston?
Tampa always has been a place known for great weather, George Steinbrenner’s spring Yankees, Dick Vitale, shuffleboard, gator wrestling, and Wade Boggs starring at Plant High School. Tampa is where young Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth hit a prodigious home run at a racetrack diamond in the spring of 1919. It’s where our friends and relatives go to retire and play golf.
And now Tampa has Tom Brady, a Super Bowl, and a Super Bowl team.
It’s an upside-down world. North is south and south is … better than we are. We are Tampa’s pool boy. Next thing you know, they’ll be telling us that the Skyway Bridge is better than the Zakim, or that Tampa’s Bern’s Steakhouse is better than the Stockyard.
Brady and the Buccaneers play the Chiefs in the Super Bowl Sunday at Raymond James Stadium off Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The Bucs will be the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Meanwhile, the once-proud Patriots are coming off a dismal 7-9 season and have no idea who will be their starting quarterback in 2021.
Brady is king of the world, while Bill Belichick is suddenly scorned. Everybody is piling on. Danny Amendola said the Patriot Way is really the Brady Way. Matthew Stafford said he would go to any team other than the Patriots. Bucs coach Bruce Arians tells the world that he allows Brady to coach his football team. Unlike You Know Who.
That’s not all, folks. The Tampa Bay Lightning, co-founded by former Bruin Phil Esposito, are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and the class of the NHL. They defeated your Boston Bruins, four games to one, in the second round of last summer’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Imagine Tampa having a better hockey team than Boston? Ugh.
Oh, and remember Tampa-St. Pete’s ever-maligned baseball team? The Rays? The penny-pinching franchise that plays in a dingy aquarium/parking garage known as the Trop Dome? The cheapo Rays are the team that invented the “opener” so they wouldn’t have to pay high-priced starters. The Rays gave the world David Price and Carl Crawford. We have never liked them.
Well, those Rays have become the model organization for the wealthy Boston Red Sox. In 2021, the all-powerful, deep-pocketed Red Sox long to be exactly like the Rays — a draft-and-development machine that competes annually, then sells its best talent as soon as said talent is about to reach the free market.
The Sox hired one of Tampa’s front office Yalies, Chaim Bloom, to bring the Tampa Bay Way to Jersey Street. The Sox finished in the basement in 2020, but fans are supposed to be enthused because they have payroll flexibility to assemble a roster of cheap, anonymous talent nobody else wants. Happy days are here again.
For the record, the Rays made it to the sixth game of the World Series last year and have finished ahead of your Boston Red Sox in eight of the last 13 seasons. They also beat the defending world champion Red Sox (Terry Francona says that was his best team) in a seven-game ALCS in 2008.
Tampa Chic is all the rage, and it’s downright embarrassing for us here in cold, icy Boston.
I didn’t foresee this surge of success and popularity when Brady signed with the Bucs last March. In that moment, the Buccaneers were the losingest team (.387 since their birth in 1976) in the history of America’s big four sports. They lost the first 26 games in franchise history. They hadn’t won a playoff game since 2003. I thought they’d be a clown show in 2020-21.
They are not. The Bucs won three road playoff games (Washington, New Orleans, Green Bay). They have a chance to win the Super Bowl in their own stadium.
It turns out that we are the clowns.
Tom Brady and the folks of Tampa are on top of the sports world.
Sitting on the dock of the bay.
Laughing at us.