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Saturday, Aug 30, 2014
Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Lovie tackling another challenge with Bucs

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Published:   |   Updated: January 7, 2014 at 09:07 AM

TAMPA — The big Bucs flag at team headquarters flapped in the wind Monday, as if with pride, for you symbolism fans out there.

Lovie Smith is here. He was introduced as the 10th head coach in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.

His plan is to make relevant a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007.

“That right there tells you all you really need to know,” Smith said. “That’s not acceptable.”

He talked about his ideas on team, offense and defense. He talked about Bucs personnel. He talked about his year away from head coaching, “Fending off wild monkeys in Costa Rica with my wife MaryAnne early on and just saying how much I love my wife and I’m going to protect her” and as well as spending time with coaches to talk about the game and …

Wait a second. Pause. Rewind.

Fending off wild monkeys in Costa Rica?

That right there tells you all you really need to know.

Lovie Smith loves Tampa Bay. He has always returned, even after he left his first coaching turn in Tampa, all those years ago. The Smiths kept a beach house here.

“This is home,” MaryAnne said.

Now her husband is back home to coach, ready to tackle anything.

Anything.

That brings us to: Lovie vs. the Howler Monkeys.

It’s a great Lovie story. He had me at “Howling Monkey.”

To explain: One thing Smith did in his year away from coaching was take some time for some peace and quiet. At least that was the plan a while back, when he and MaryAnne rented a home in Costa Rica, near the Pacific Ocean.

MaryAnne and Lovie met on a blind date in college. They went for pizza. They were engaged a month later and have been married 34 years.

“It was Lovie at first sight,” MaryAnne said with a smile.

Fast forward to Lovie vs. the Howler Monkeys.

“And it was Lovie and a machete,” MaryAnne said. “

Lovie and a machete?

Here’s Lovie:

“The first couple days, we had a couple of the small, white-faced monkeys. About Day Six, we heard the howling monkeys. Day Eight, they came in where the back door is open. The day before, my son said, ‘Dad, a monkey is four times stronger than a man, so be careful.’ ”

Howler monkeys, among the largest of the New World monkeys (I don’t even want to talk about the Old World monkeys), are rarely aggressive and are herbivores. Then again, there is, as the name suggests, their howling, which can be heard up to three miles away. They’d be great on talk radio.

Back to Lovie:

“So about that time, I kept a machete in the back just in case, because I’m back in the rainforest with my wife. So about Day Nine, I look up ... and I had barbecued a little earlier in the day ... and I look up and there are two big male monkeys standing up on the table with their teeth showing ... And I said, ‘OK, this is not going to end well.’ ”

But it did. Leave it to Lovie.

He grabbed a broom and started swinging. He had the machete, but didn’t use it. Not a living thing was harmed. If only finding an edge rusher was that easy …

“We pushed them out of the house, packed up that day and got out,” Smith said. “Have you ever heard a howling monkey? They’re kind of a terrifying sound. So I didn’t have to kill any, but we left on Day Nine of a 50-day stay.”

He plans to be here a lot longer.

“… To have that opportunity to be the head football coach at the place that you started, there is pressure,” Smith said. “It’s the pressure that you’re putting on yourself. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a relevant team and I am going to take that pressure. It’s what’s going to drive all of us — our staff, our players and all.”

This man won’t back down from a challenge.

Just go to Costa Rica and talk to the howler monkeys.

Also, ask them what they think about Glennon.

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