TAMPA, Fla. – Warren Sapp wishes fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could pack the stands for the first Super Bowl played in a host team’s home stadium.
Because of coronavirus pandemic concerns, the NFL’s decision to limit capacity to 22,000 at Raymond James Stadium, and soaring prices for a limited number of tickets available for the league’s title game will prevent that.
All’s not lost, though, for an excited though sometimes fickle fan base embracing a bittersweet opportunity to enjoy the NFC champions on football’s biggest stage after being forced to follow the Tom Brady-led Bucs, as well as playoff runs by the region’s other two major pro franchises, from afar.
The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup while playing the entire postseason in Canada, then was unable to fully celebrate with hometown fans, who were left to salute the team during a boat parade and outdoor stadium rally that replaced a more traditional-style celebration on the streets of downtown Tampa.
Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays played two playoff games in neighboring St. Petersburg before winning the American League pennant in California and losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a neutral-site World Series played in Texas.
The Bucs won three straight playoff games on the road to become the first team to advance to a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
Tampa Bay has a reputation nationally for supporting the Lightning, but not the Bucs and Rays, who routinely rank near or at the bottom of baseball in attendance.
The past year truly has been special for all the franchises, though, and fans are celebrating any way they can.