Tampa The Can Do Central

Super Bowl 2021: Who Ya Gonna Call? Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. – The Super Bowl has come to Tampa, and for the first time, we have an honest-to-goodness home team.

This will forever be known as the Bucs Super Bowl, no matter what happens to Tom Brady and his teammates a week from Sunday in Super Bowl LV.

But it figures that Tampa gets the COVID Bowl.

It figures Tampa has to deal with this, the sparse crowds, the absence of media day, no hype, the absence of so many of the things that make the big game the, well, big game. It’s just another week for the Bucs.

The Chiefs won’t even get here until the day before the game. In the old days, at the first Tampa Super Bowl, in 1991, the Raiders all but took over the local bars. Now that was a Super Bowl week.

And here’s something else that figures:

We’ll pull this off.

Tampa will come through and this will be the best Super Bowl it can be.

It’s what we do.

My friend Tom Jones once wrote that Tampa is the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency city, that we are always ready to step in. That is so true it’s almost comical.

After all, the only reason Super Bowl LV is even here is that Los Angeles, the original host, had construction delays in the building of its football palace, its $5-billion super stadium, couldn’t guarantee it would be ready for this Super Bowl.

Who you gonna call?

Tampa.

Tampa hosted the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, and there wasn’t even supposed to be one. But when the NHL pulled out of sending its players to the Winter Olympics, suddenly there was a need for an all-star game.

Who you gonna call?

Take a guess.

Tampa has vast experience hosting big events. We wowed the NCAA by hosting the College Football Championship game a few years back. We’ve hosted a Final Four when Tropicana Field’s wasn’t leaking (nobody’s perfect) and Frozen Fours and even a volleyball championship. We’ve hosted and hosted and hosted. We are a can-do city. If Tampa had been around, we would have bid on the parting of the Red Sea (I think Moses guaranteed a win on media day).

If you even begin to doubt Tampa, check out our local NBA team: the Toronto Raptors. They were looking for a home during COVID, and Canada was out.

Who you gonna call?

Back to the Super Bowl. This will be the fifth Super Bowl in Tampa. Only a handful of cities have hosted more, and, by the way, we will host the sixth one, because of the way we are carrying the mail this time around, what with the pandemic and all.

Look at the last time something was up. Super Bowl XXV came to Tampa in 1991. It was in the midst of the Gulf War, and everyone was on high alert. Tampa Stadium was armed to the tooth. Tension was everywhere. Security fencing encircled the ballpark. Attack helicopters hovered overhead.

So, what did Tampa do? Only put on one of the all-time great shows, featuring a rousing national anthem by Whitney Houston and one of the great Super Bowls in history, Giants over the Bills.

Granted, Tampa has a .500 record at the big game. The city’s first, Raiders-Redskins, Super Bowl XVIII, was a Raiders rout, though Tampa, the smallest city to ever host a Super Bowl, our Little Town That Could, drew rave reviews,

Ravens over Giants in Super Bowl XXXV was a rout in 2001. It also was the Ray Lewis Super Bowl, murder allegations hanging over it. Not even a homecoming by former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer could save the day.

But the Steelers barely edging Cardinals in a heart-stopping Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 was a triumph.

This might be the ultimate test. This Super Bowl is being held on relatively short notice, what with replacing Los Angeles, “a tight turn” as they say in the major sports event business. Add to this the pandemic. This Super Bowl will be like none before it. No build-up. Few parties. Lots of social distancing. We were worried about this.

But never worry about Tampa. We always come through.

I trust this city to get it done, led by Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee president/CEO Rob Higgins, who is also executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

“It’s the biggest event in America,” Higgins said a while back. “It’s the biggest stage our city can be on. … As a city in this country, you can either have the resources to host a Super Bowl or not have them. And to have only three cities that have hosted more of them, that’s pretty rarefied air.”

And if Tampa had never hosted its first Super Bowl, what are we today?

Ocala

You ain’t calling Ocala.

You dial Tampa.

Just ask the Raptors.

The Women’s Final Four is scheduled here in April, COVID allowing.

We’re on the clock again, and we’ll make it work.

I can’t believe the Rays are going to leave all this.

“This is the best community in the country,” said Higgins, who grew up here and graduated from USF. “We should be hosting these events. We should be hosting Super Bowls. We’ve got to do a great job with our fifth, but we should be thinking about the potential for our sixth. Women’s Final Four, we were awarded our third before having our second. We’ve already had two. It’s the stage that we should be on.”

The whole world will be watching, especially from afar, to see how Tampa makes it work.

And we will.

It’s what we do.

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