You just wish you had a piece of this: 3900 N Glen Ave. It's a vacant yellow rental cottage with a small, shaded yard. Just beyond the treetops out back, you can see Raymond James Stadium. On Sundays when the Bucs play at home, 3900 N Glen Ave. and all the humble bungalows around it constitute the priciest real estate in Tampa.
Doesn't matter if the Bucs win or lose. In the Sept. 24 disaster against Carolina, the Bucs lost the game and quarterback Chris Simms lost his spleen. But Mike McDonough won. The parking guy of 3900 N Glen Ave. always wins.
He handles the game day parking sweepstakes for his mother, Olga. ("Mom's in an RV in New Mexico with her boyfriend," he explains.) He squeezes in 50 cars, squashes them against the front and back porches, crams them between the fence and oak trees. He has been packing them in since he was 8 years old. He's 34 now. Sometimes they're so tight, the easiest way to exit a car is through the sunroof.
The going rate is 20 bucks per car. All the neighbors charge the same. They're organized. After the Tampa Sports Authority jacked up the official parking rate to $25, homeowner Albert Shumake got everybody in the neighborhood close to Raymond James to charge $20.
Everybody up and down the block and all the blocks around it is raking in $20 bills.
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Wade Swancy and Bonnie Turner, like most of Mike's Sunday visitors, have a reserved space, next to the house. They arrived at 9 a.m. They've parked in the same space for six seasons. "It used to be cheaper," Wade says. A long, long time ago, the going rate was three bucks.
Wade had parked at another house down the street but left in a huff one Sunday. "The whole yard was reserved for Cincinnati fans," he says, still outraged. "We went down the road. We looked for a shade tree."
Wade is grilling baby back ribs. "Because we're playing Carolina," he says. He tailors his tailgate menu according to the opponent. Eat the enemy. If Buffalo comes to town, you know it's going to be wings.
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Vince Paglino changed everything for the Carolina game. He has never parked here before. He chose 3900 N Glen Ave. over his usual parking space down the street. He's also wearing a new shirt and shorts. He has switched his customary pregame libation from Jack Daniel's and Diet Coke to Jell-O shooters and Irish whiskey. "I trimmed my toenails, too," he says.
And Vince brought his wife, Susan, along.
She doesn't usually go. But after two consecutive Bucs losses, "I need my wife's karma," Vince says.
"If the Bucs win today, I have to keep coming," Susan explains. "But if they lose . . ."
Well, you know the rest: Susan won't be along when Cincinnati comes to town Oct. 15. And Vince won't be parking at 3900 N Glen Ave.
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Keith and Janet Martin have been parking under the backyard oak tree for about 15 years. "There's no sign that says it's our spot, Keith says. "It just is." They have missed two home games since 1980.
On Saturday, he does the tailgate grocery shopping, marinates the chicken, starts packing the car. They go to Saturday Mass. "The chicken soaks all night." They get up at 6 on Sunday and reach their space by 8:30. Keith fires up the grill. By 11, he has a crowd. "Anywhere from six to 26 people join us," Keith says.
Their neighbors in Valrico - Mark and Chrissy Samisch and their 10-year-old daughter, Sam - are running late. Keith asks Mike to save them a space. Sam goes to sleep Saturday nights watching SportsCenter on ESPN.
At 12:30, Keith hollers last call. Hardly anyone pays attention. The yard has that buzz of a great party going on. At 12:35, he hollers last call again.
"I've haven't seen the pregame flyover in years," Janet says. "I've come as close as hearing it from the stadium tunnel."
Then everyone who's left scurries to the stadium.
Except Mike. He's sitting on the porch. He has 50 cars in his yard. And $1,000 in his pocket.
John Barry can be reached at (727) 892-2258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.