No buzz for these dashing young Bucs
TAMPA - They're 5-dash-2. On an October day 15 years ago, Sam Wyche made "4-dash-2" part of Bucs lore and lexicon. It came after a unimpressive 19-16 win against the Bengals. "I know you're gonna write the word 'ugly' in your headlines," Sam said. "Just don't misprint 4-dash-2." The next week, the Bucs went to 5-dash-2. And after the season, when Malcolm Glazer dumped Sam after it ended up 7-dash-9, one local headline read: "Wyche-Dash-Gone ."Maybe Raheem Morris' Best-dash-Team in the NF-dash-C will return to earth. But they haven't yet. Morris and his dashing cardiac kids are 5-dash-2. "It's better than 3-dash-13," Bucs defensive end Stylez G. White said. But where's the buzz? Where's the fever around town for this team, which is so fresh and full of vinegar that it doesn't even need Randy-dash-Moss? Morris said the Bucs have "six talented wideouts." There are plenty of seats available on the Bucs' bandwagon. No matter what happens in Atlanta, the Bucs might come home to 20,000 empty seats for the Nov. 14 game with Carolina. I started wondering last home game. The Bucs were 3-2 and playing the Rams and there were only 42,000 present. But that's not what was weird. Here's what was: Late in the game, as the Bucs marched downfield under Josh Freeman toward 4-dash-2, fans were still streaming toward the parking lots. What gives? This is a football town. When the Bucs are rolling, it's a crazed football town. Not this season. Not yet, anyway. Wait a second: six talented wideouts? It's almost as if, what with the TV blackouts, people have found that life truly does exist without the Bucs. Do they even care if this team is for real or not? I'm not blaming them. To each his own. But it's startling. There's been no bump after the big start. There's the economy and it's real. The unemployment rate here is higher here than in nearly any NFL market. Plus I think there's clearly some fan resentment toward ownership, a feeling that the Glazers haven't done everything to make a winner again. Or maybe it's 3-13's corrosive carryover, or of the Bucs' last big start, 9-3 under Jon Gruden in 2008, only to collapse with four straight losses, which cost Gruden his job. For fans, it seems to be wait and see - and they don't even have to see. They deal with blackouts, catch road games, save some bread. There is a lot to like about these 2010 Bucs. They can be very exciting. They were Sunday while winning in Arizona. "I know if I wasn't coaching those games, they'd be fun games to watch," Morris said. And there's the coach himself, who has been over-the-top entertaining this season, declaring a "Race to 10" wins, and Best Team in the NFC. I'm surprised Raheem didn't double down and say Best in NFL on Monday. Got to love the Rah right about now. Think the Falcons, also 5-dash-2, won't use Morris' NFC line on bulletin boards this week? "It's not trash talking," Morris told media Monday. "It's a mentality. It's mentality before there's ever a reality. I believe in my team. My team believes in us, as an organization, as a whole, and I'm going to get you guys to believe in us, too." If fans are ever going to hop aboard, this would be a good week for it. "They're not believing in the product right now," Stylez G. White said. "I guess that's understandable given the record we had last year. ... At this point, I'm worried about who's here. The 20,000, 30,000 fans who do come, I'm glad they're there. I'll roll with them any day." Late arrivals are welcome on the bandwagon - for now. Stylez G. smiled. "It's a limited time only."