Bucs need better showing on a national stage
Thursday’s NFL Network contest pitting the Bucs and Vikings is going up against Game 2 of the World Series, but with football’s popularity, it can more than hold its own against baseball – even the postseason variety.
So, we can reasonably assume that large numbers of people will be watching the Bucs for the first time in 2012.
This brings us to the Bucs’ last national-television appearance. Yes, you probably remember last December’s Cowboys-Bucs game and the ridicule that resulted. It wasn’t so much the score – the Cowboys won 31-15 – but the scathing halftime assessments of the NFL Network analysts on the sideline set.
They accused Bucs players – rightfully, mind you – of quitting while the Cowboys took a commanding 28-0 halftime lead. It was an embarrassing effort, and it’s the last image many people have of the Bucs.
Thursday, though it’s merely a midseason game that includes no major-market teams (New York, Chicago, etc.), the Bucs have a chance to leave a much different impression. They have an offense that is beginning to flourish and some young, exciting players like Doug Martin and Lavonte David. With a solid showing, the Bucs have a chance to introduce themselves to many fans who know little about them.
If you think this is meaningless, then you should walk the halls of One Buc Place.
Don’t think club officials aren’t annoyed by the perception of their team and coach Greg Schiano, who is being portrayed unflatteringly for decisions he’s made (most recently, Sunday’s costly and controversial pre-snap penalty before that third-quarter field goal attempt). They don’t appreciate being mocked on ESPN debate shows for the kneel-down dustup against the Giants, either.
And then there are the players. Anytime your team plays on a national telecast, players know their peers are watching. And they care deeply about what their colleagues think of them.
This is far from the most important aspect of this game. The chief motivation for the Bucs to play well Thursday is, oh, probably that 2-4 record they’re currently sporting.
But if that isn’t quite enough, perhaps pride will play a role in bringing the best out of the Bucs on the national stage.