Tales from the London sideline
I always thought “Mind the Gap” referred to the responsibility of defensive linemen Warren Sapp, Brad Culpepper, Marcus Jones, et al in Monte Kiffin’s old (and sorely missed) Tampa 2 alignment. After a wild, wonderful weekend in London however, I now know it is a very important skill required to survive the Underground system!

Cue to my favorite line from A Fish Called Wanda: “Aristotle was NOT Belgian, the central message of Buddhism is NOT ‘Every man for himself,’ and the London Underground is NOT a political movement. Those were all mistakes Otto, I looked them up!”

Now I can honestly say I have walked in the steps of my comedic hero John Cleese. I promised my wife I would not perform any silly walks, a promise I reluctantly kept. Other than that everything I had ever dreamed of doing in London (and in football) I did over a period of four days.

Meeting Paul Stewart and having dinner with his lovely wife Kerrie and precious daughter Tanith….Check.

Seeing Big Ben and Parliament up close…Check.

Having a romantic dinner with my wife Amy in Piccadilly Circus….Check.

Taking in Windsor Castle, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and walking along the Thames….Check.

Blocking for Mike Alstott up the gut to the end zone….Check

Having Lee Roy Selmon smile as he thumbed through a copy of McKay’s Men and comment on how much younger he looked in the picture in the book….Check.

Intercepting a pass to preserve a shutout (no matter how unathletic I looked in doing so)…Check.

Watching NFL Films in action up close (I don’t even care if I end up on the cutting room floor, just the fact that I was working with that organization was exciting enough by itself)…Check.

Seeing a NFL game live from the front row….Check.

Seeing Uxbridge up close and in person…Check…Wait, I’m just kidding. On the way back from Windsor to meet Paul at our hotel, Amy and I jumped the 222 at Drayton only to discover too late that it wasn’t a loop route but instead terminated at Uxbridge. I must admit this was the only time I felt I acted as an ugly American. When the bus driver announced this is the last stop, I just blurted out, “What do you mean, ‘Last stop Uxbridge?’ That phrase elicited laughs from all on board and will probably be a great line for Amy to put me back in my place for years to come!

The highlight of the trip for me was the flag football game and the thorough butt-whooping administered on the Pats UK. That is a day that I will never forget. Meeting Mike Alstott, Lee Roy Selmon and Shelton Quarles was only the opening act. The rest of the day was spent meeting Lee Bromfield, Wayne Hough, Alex Howells and so many other wonderful Buc fans. I am thankful for the chance to have met you and hope this was just the first of many face-to-face meetings.

The informal get together at the pub after the flag game was an unexpected treat. As a first-time visitor abroad I always felt a step-behind but never felt out of place. That is because of the overwhelming courtesy extended to Amy and me. We are speechless and words couldn’t begin to describe the deep affection we have for all of you.

The dinner at Texas Embassy was fantastic. Special thanks to Wayne Hough for organizing the event. My wife and I had a blast getting to know everyone a little bit better. Lee Bromfield has a new fan in Amy. I told her about the type of writing Lee specializes in, and Amy is now going to be a dedicated Friday reader given her love of the unvarnished opinion and humor that Lee employs, so there you go Lee a female member of the fan club!

I do apologize that I missed the chance to meet other fans at the tailgate but that was due to ignorance on my part. I under-estimated the sheer volume of people that would be at the event and never did find my way to where the Bucs festivities were happening. I hope you all can find it possible to forgive our mistake; it was purely carelessness on our part and we hope we didn’t offend anyone.

While the game itself was lopsided, I will always treasure the chance to have attended it with such a wonderful group of people. Wembley is an awe-inspiring venue and I can honestly say that I have been to multiple sporting events but have never been as close to the action as I was this past Sunday.

Two days and an ocean-crossing later, we look back on the most amazing trip we have undertaken with an exhausted since of satisfaction. Paul, we thank you for allowing us to share in BUCPOWER’s biggest weekend. Also, thanks for opening your home and giving so generously of your time. Meeting Kerrie and Tanith was a treat and your personal tour of Parliament was one of the best parts of the trip.

As for the rest, thank you so much for the courtesy you extended. Please keep the faith in the Buccaneers. As I crossed the Atlantic on our flight I mused on the meaning of the Bucs in our lives. Any organization that can bring together such a wonderful group of people from all over the world to share in a weekend of food, festivities and bonding is greater than the sum of its record. The Bucs won-loss record is irrelevant; their impact on our lives as evidenced by this whirlwind weekend is incalculable.

Without the Bucs so many of us would have never met and I think that would have been a much worse calamity than any lopsided game. Cheers.