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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers trip to England has the makings of a mismatch in favor of the New England Patriots

They gave us the Beatles and the Stones. They gave us James Bond and Robin Hood. They gave us Shakespeare and Newton.

And in return, we're giving them the Bucs?

What did the English ever do to us to deserve this?

They gave us Monty Python and The Lord of the Rings. They gave us King Arthur and Sherlock Holmes. They gave us the rubber band and the mousetrap.

And despite that, we're giving them the Bucs?

When you think about it, isn't this worse than dumping all that tea into the harbor?

What we have here is an international incident in the making. The Bucs — the winless, clueless, hopeless Bucs — are about to invade England for their latest attempt to play American football. What? Do we think the Brits are paying such little attention they won't recognize the difference between a real NFL team and this one?

Here's a question: Once the Bucs get to London, are we absolutely certain they can clear customs? Wouldn't they be stopped for the same reason a visitor cannot bring rotten fruit into a country?

Somehow, I keep imagining this scene: Bucs coach Raheem Morris approaches the passport agent, who looks at Morris, then at the passport, and then at the NFL standings.

"Tell me,'' the agent says. "Are you really here on business, or did you get deported by America?''

"We're here to play football,'' Morris replies. "American football. You know, in American football you can use your hands.''

"Not the way your wide receivers play,'' the agent says.

When you think about it, doesn't this game violate some sort of international trade agreement? Last Nov. 30, on the day this game was announced, the Bucs were a 9-3 team that seemed to be headed for the playoffs for a second straight year. They still had Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn, players who are familiar among those who follow the NFL from afar. They still had Jon Gruden, the man who inspired all those Parliament debates over "Who Gets Credit for the Super Bowl: Gruden or Dungy?''

Since then, this team has been the Titanic. The Bucs have lost 10 in a row, and they are about to take their embarrassment global. They have turned into the Glazers' B team. They have become a reason for Manchester United fans to look at each other and say, "Well, at least they spend money on our roster.''

Look, isn't the purpose of this game to show an international audience what a wonderful blend of size and speed, and of grace and violence, this sport can be when it's played well? So why transport a team across an ocean when it can't display any of that? Isn't that like sending a bunch of musicians who don't know which end of the violin to stick under their chins and calling them the London Orchestra?

A year ago, when the Saints and Chargers played in London, the British fans were able to appreciate Drew Brees and Philip Rivers playing in a 37-32 game won by New Orleans. Yeah, that's football. The year before, they saw the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants beat the Dolphins 13-10. That, too, is football.

This year? This year they get to see Tom Brady and the Patriots play against the Bucs' 27th-ranked offense and their 28th-ranked defense. Whee! You might as well get the London Monarchs from the old World League back together. Although, I suspect the Monarchs wouldn't be as big of an underdog.

I see the early line on this game is New England by 14 1/2, but because the pound is double the dollar, should that make it a 29-point spread? And even if it was, would anyone bet on the Bucs?

That said, the English have one thing going for them. It's called extradition. If they don't like what they see, they always can send the Bucs back.

The point is, the Bucs are bad. I'm sure if historians looked deep enough into it, they would find that's the very reason Pocahontas moved to England in the first place. She didn't want to see bad football.

So let me get this straight:

The English give us Dickens, and we give them a team that keeps getting the dickens beat out of it.

They show us the Palace Guard, where the soldiers refuse to move no matter what happens around them, and we show them the defensive line that refuses to move not matter what happens around it.

They let us see Stonehenge, we give them Stonehands?

They give us The Office, a charming little farce about a dysfunctional workplace, and we give them the Bucs' front office, and the word "ditto" comes to mind.

Yeah, this is going to be tough on London. Tough on the Bucs, too. They have enough trouble driving 50 yards for a score. Now they have to go 4,406 miles to try.

Imagine being Morris facing these kinds of odds in this kind of surrounding. How exactly would you address the troops?

Maybe Morris could borrow from Winston Churchill here. "We shall fight them on the beaches, and we shall fight them in the trenches, and we shall fight them on first down and we shall fight them on third.''

At which point, one of his players ought to look at him and say:

"Just asking, but why don't we fight them in Tampa?''

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers trip to England has the makings of a mismatch in favor of the New England Patriots 10/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 10:35am]

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