Which play best defines Tampa Bay?

by Gary Shelton on January 30, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Was your favorite memory one of the Bucs?/JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

In Green Bay, the greatest play of all time went all of two feet. That’s how far Bart Starr ran as he wedged in behind guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman to win the Ice Bowl game over Dallas. There have been other titles, yes, but this is the one that still defines the elements and will of Green Bay.

In San Francisco, the greatest play in the world was a 10-yard pass from Joe Montana to John Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII. It capped a 92-yard drive and cemented Montana as Joe Cool. In San Francisco, they toast it still. (Even above Dwight Clark’s The Catch.)

In New England, the greatest play of all wasn’t called by Bill Belichick or run by Tom Brady, although both have a lot of candidates. The best play of all, however, was a goal-line interception by Malcolm Butler to win Super LI.

There is almost one per city, a play that defines the locals, a play above all the rest that underscores greatness, or frustration, or

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anger. We are not talking about a season here. We are not talking about a game. We are talking about a moment that lifted the local fans out of their seat, that made them shout in triumph, that defined that moment in their lives.

In Denver, the greatest thing that ever occurred was John Elway driving 98 yards down a frozen field in Cleveland. A lot of people no longer remember that Elway’s drive didn’t win the game — it went into overtime — but that was the moment he arrived as a star.

In Pittsburgh, the greatest moment of all was Bill Mazeroski’s bottom-of-the-ninth home run over the Yankees. It’s close, but it was a more defining play (with less luck) than Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception. You are allowed to disagree.

In Chicago, the finest snapshot ever came before the titles. It was Michael Jordan hitting The Shot in the fading seconds of a victory over Cleveland. The Bulls would go on to win six titles. The Cavs of that era, none.

So what would be the local choices for the play that captured a city’s heart?

My personal choice is the game-sealing interception by Ronde Barber against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles owned the Bucs in those days, remember? The Eagles had a chance to do it again until Barber picked off a pass by Donovan McNabb and ran it back 92 yards for a score. You have never heard such silence spread so quickly. It made us look sturdy. It made us look instinctive.

But there are other candidates, too. Marty St. Louis slapped in the winning goal in Game Six, the game that allowed the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup in 2004. It made us look dangerous. It made us look resilient. Derrick Brooks had a game-sealing interception in the Super Bowl win over Oakland. It made us look sleek. It made us look strong. Evan Longoria hit a winning home run in Game 162 for the Rays. It made us look clutch. It made us look powerful.

If you want frustration, you can talk about the disallowed catch by Bert Emanuel, a play that was ridiculously bad (and even worse when the league  feebly tried to defend it). You can talk about Wade Boggs’ 3000th hit.  You can talk about Matt Garza’s no-hitter.

In Buffalo, sadly, the most memorable moment was a missed field goal by Scott Norwood. Never mind that it would have been Norwood’s longest kick on grass of the season. Never mind that the Bills had a dreadful game plan. It was the difference between winning and losing.

In New York, a lot of people would point to Joe Namath’s guarantee as the biggest moment of all. But Namath didn’t play very well in the Super Bowl, frankly. I’d vote for David Tyree’s catch off of his helmet myself. But between the Yankees’ dynasty and the great players, there is room for argument.

In Dallas, there are candidates, too. My personal one was the second-straight win over Buffalo, 30-13. It looked like Jimmy Johnson would win forever, and Emmitt Smith ran for 132 yards, and Troy Aikman threw for 207, and Michael Irvin caught passes for 66. yards. Then it began to gnaw at Jerry Jones that he wasn’t getting enough credit, and he broke it all up.

Look, most great players give their cities a moment or two. Did Babe Ruth point? How about Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak? How about Alex Ovechkin, lifting the Cup for Washington? How about Steve Yzerman in Detroit?

How about Barry Sanders’ 2000-yard season in 1997 (it ended with a loss to Tampa Bay). How about the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs in Boston?  Cleveland would want  to identify with LeBron James title, but given the frustration of the city, Earnest Byner’s fumbling in the AFC title game as he  was about to score is a better fit.  How about the onside kick by the Saints in the Super Bowl win over Indianapolis? How about Joe Frazier rewarding his hometown fans from Philadelphia with his 1971 knockout of Muhammad Ali?

It was memorable when Kirk Gibson hit a home run for the Dodgers and limped around the bases. How about the Music City Miracle, when the Titans beat Buffalo? How about Garo Yepremian’s spastic pass that cost the Dolphins a touchdown in the Super Bowl? Does Albuquerque count? That’s where N.C. State upset powerful Houston in the NCAA basketball finals. How about in Kansas City, where Hank Stram is celebrating a Super Bowl play with that awful rug on his head.

These are the reasons we watch, the reasons we love sports.

It’s the reason we’ll be watching this week, too.

Ranking the Top 10 Tampa Bay moments

— 1. Ronde Barber’s interception return in 2002 NFC title game.

—2. Marty St. Louis’ game-winner in Game Six vs. Calgary

— 3. Evan Longoria’s home run in Game 162.

—  4. Joe Jurevicius’ 71-yard catch against Eagles in 2002 NFC title game.

— 5. Derrick Brooks’ touchdown interception return in Super Bowl.

— 6. The Bert Emanuel Catch

— 7. Wade Boggs’ 3000th hit.

— 8. Matt Garza’s no-hitter

— 9. Ruslan Fedotenko scores twice in a 2-1 win in Game 7 of Stanley Cup.

— 10. Michael Spurlock’s first-ever kickoff return for a TD for the Bucs in 2007.

 

 

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