Before I saw any Iowa Hawkeye fans here in Tampa for Outback Bowl week, I encountered a pair of Oakland Raider fans Saturday afternoon.
Neither were as divine-looking as the gentleman in the photo above. One wore the No. 24 jersey of Raiders defensive back Michael Huff. That was as far as the costume party went.
But make no mistake about it, some Raider loonies will be in Raymond James Stadium Sunday when 4-11 Oakland tries to spoil the playoff hopes of the 9-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As horrible as their team has been for several years, some Raider fans seem to make it to all the road games to leave their indelible impressions.
Meanwhile, a shuttle driver told me that for the first time in the history of the NFL in Tampa, local fans will be rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles eliminated Tampa Bay from the playoffs in January of 2000 and 2002, only to lose the NFC title game to the Bucs in January of ’03. Tampa Bay went on to win the Super Bowl that year, a feat the Eagles have never accomplished.
But if the Bucs beat Oakland as expected, they’ll need Philadelphia to win at home against Dallas to put Tampa Bay in the playoffs.
If you say this doesn’t matter, you are anywhere but Tampa. The Outback Bowl was page 10 sports news in Saturday’s Tampa Tribune.
Television commercials are airing trying to drum up interest in Outback Bowl tickets. It’s pretty much a given that the South Carolina fans who do come down to Tampa are mostly going to be ones who stay just one night.
This game has had better matchups than two unranked teams, Iowa and South Carolina, with a combined nine losses. It’s had many better matchups.
But you know what? The Hawkeyes and Gamecocks should surely put on a more competitive game Thursday in Raymond James than what the Raiders give the hometown Buccaneers Sunday.
If that’s not the case, either one of the two Outback teams will have laid a big egg, or the Bucs will have stumbled around in their regular-season finale.
I’ll be at the Raiders-Bucs game to provide Gazetteonline.com and The Gazette a piece on former East Buchanan High/University of Iowa standout Robert Gallery, who will be finishing his fifth season — all losing seasons.
In fact, Oakland is 19-60 since it took offensive lineman Gallery with the second pick of the NFL draft, ahead of Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, to name a few.
Not to lay blame on Gallery. Everyone who follows a little NFL football knows the Raiders’ franchise has been fouled up for a long time.