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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' season-opener feels different for tailgaters

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 10:03 PM
TAMPA -

Sunday was still a game day, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off a new season against the Detroit Lions. And just as they would for any home game, tailgaters grilled, ate, drank and talked football.

But many agreed there was something different about the atmosphere outside Raymond James Stadium. There was a tinge of sadness, and a feeling of loss – both for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs' Hall of Fame defensive end, who died Sept. 4 after a stroke.

"I can feel it," said Maria Rojas, 47, as she collected money from people parking on her parents' property at West Tampa Bay Boulevard and North Glen Avenue.

"Usually people would have flags up and music going, and there would be noise and laughter.

"I think it's all of it: 9/11, Lee Roy Selmon and the economy. I can definitely see it."

Across the lot, tailgater Ed Bologna stood under a canopy with a handful of friends and conceded the atmosphere surrounding the Bucs' season opener felt different.

"I can't believe it's been 10 years (since 9/11)," said Bologna, 55, of Tampa. "And two, I can't believe that (Selmon) happened to pass away right when he was going to go to Notre Dame and see USF play.

"It's very solemn."

Some fans debated whether NFL teams should have even played on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

"I'm very surprised the NFL didn't adjust its calendar," said Jessica Shellard, 39, of Tampa.

"But for a lot of people, this is their worship," countered Tampa resident Susan Boda, 50.

Others weren't dwelling on 9/11, and as for Selmon, he wouldn't have wanted his death to ruin anyone's good time, fans said.

"He wouldn't have wanted that," said Cathy Redford, 55, of Tampa.

"The Bucs will be playing for him today."

A few cars away, Brandon resident Tara Rodriguez, 32, said she had watched some of the 9/11 coverage earlier. But she put all that aside as game time neared.

"But now that you mention it, I lost my buzz," she said.


rpleasant@tampatrib.com (813) 259-8170
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