TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Columnists

Fennelly: Barber marks end of career, end of era

By
Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Should Ronde Barber get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Yes
95%
No
5%

Total Votes: 153

TAMPA - He was the last of them. Ronde Barber retired Thursday afternoon, the last ballplayer from those Bucs teams that owned this town.

How can it be that way again, ever?

I'm not sure it can, not exactly, anyway, even if Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis bring it on home.

It was a time and a place — and Barber was the last man standing.

“It's not lost on me, on anyone, that Ronde was the last of them,” said Tony Dungy, who attended Barber's retirement announcement. “It was an era. It's the passing of the torch. Fortunately, (Ronde) was here a few years at the end to show some of these young guys how you do it. Those guys back then were unique, and not just for the football. Ronde and Derrick (Brooks) and John (Lynch) and Warrick (Dunn) and Mike (Alstott) and all of the rest, they connected with the community.”

Those Bucs teams were larger than life during their climb to the top of the football world, that oversized defense matched by those oversized personalities throughout the locker room. It was a team and a time that Bucs fans will never forget. You felt as if you knew those Bucs, even if you didn't.

Ronde Barber isn't going anywhere now that he is retired, because he never thought of being anywhere else.

“I didn't want to leave,” Barber said. “I love Tampa. Tampa loves me.”

The Lightning won a Stanley Cup after the Bucs won a Super Bowl. And the Rays have followed with that run to the World Series and other successes on a shoestring.

But the Bucs went first, they went strong and loud, a main attraction, national news.

Ronde might have been the quietest in the bunch. There was Sapp and Brooks and Lynch. There was Dunn and Alstott and Gruden — and Keyshawn, oh, yeah, Keyshawn.

They were princes of the city.

“That team had an 'imminent' quality,” Barber said. He's really talking about more than one team, more like the late '90s, early 2000s Bucs. “That team had an 'imminent' feeling all over the place, not just because we were good, but because we had a collective sense of what it would take to win a Super Bowl, to be world champions.”

And: They were fun.

“It was good to be a spectator, as much as I was part of it, to watch what would happen every day,” Barber said. “We got a lot of attention because we played well, but we got a lot of attention because we had a bunch of colorful guys, characters of the game, all playing well at the same time.”

It was like that, exactly.

But it was more than that. Do you really think Bucs fans feel they know Greg Schiano or connect with Josh Freeman? Those old Bucs, you'd spot them in the supermarket and know who they were, each and every one, right on down the roster.

Those old Bucs, and Barber was the last of them, they were just different. Maybe these kids today are out in the community as much, but people idenitifed with the players back then, because maybe it was the first time the franchise truly reached out, after the Glazers bought the team, after Dungy became head coach.

There was the time in Dungy's first season when he called out his 1-8 team … because a few players hadn't made an off-day public appearance they'd agreed to do.

“You had that feeling that it had to be done,” Barber said. “If you had a little bit of success, and you show humility, give of yourself back to the community, they embrace you. That was a great lesson.

“I'll always be part of this community. I'm not going anywhere. I've got nowhere else to go. This is where my girls know as home, this is where I'm involved, and I'll continue to be involved.”

It's not as if it can't happen again.

But it will take time.

That's why Ronde Barber's hit home.

He was the last of them.

What a time it was.

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments