How Tampa Bay is savoring its FitzMagic carpet ride

Published September 22

TAMPA — Bucs fan Dallas Collins has it all planned out.

On Monday night, he and his family are going to whip up an Irish Boiled Dinner. You know, corned beef, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions.

Then they're going to sit down and watch the Bucs on Monday Night Football. They're going to see Tony Dungy go into Bucs' Ring of Honor. They're going to enjoy our beautiful area being shown off to a national audience.

But the whole Irish Boiled Dinner part? That's in honor of their newest favorite Buc.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick.

FitzMagic has captured Tampa Bay and fans are eating it up.

How crazy is this story? How fun is this story?

Fitzpatrick is a 35-year-old father of six (with another on the way) who looks like he should be wearing suspenders, cutting down trees and eating beef jerky. He has criss-crossed the country as a journeyman NFL quarterback, bouncing from St. Louis to Cincinnati to Buffalo to Tennessee to Houston to New York and, now, Tampa Bay.

For 13 years, he has been decent, but far-from-a-star quarterback. He has always been just another guy.

Until now.

Now he's a big deal. And he's Tampa Bay's big deal. It's our turn to have a cult hero.

Fitzpatrick is everywhere.

Every time you turn on a TV, there's Fitzpatrick. Throwing touchdowns. Winning games. Looking like a rock star.

People are buying his jersey, dressing up like him. They're writing songs about him.

He's such a big deal that he is his own hashtag.

#FitzMagic.

You don't even have to be a football fan to jump on Fitz's magic carpet ride.

Susan Finch isn't a Bucs fan. She doesn't even really like football all that much. She's a spin instructor at Soho Cycling in Tampa. But she has been swept up with FitzMagic. In a recent class, she cued up the song It's Magic, the 1975 one-hit wonder from the Scottish band Pilot.

"Everybody cheered when it came on,'' Finch said.

Local sports radio host J.P. Peterson, from 620-WDAE, has written not one, but two songs about Fitzpatrick. The one he has been playing on his afternoon drive show is based on The Cars' 1984 hit Magic.

He's got a hold on you
Got a hold on you
Got a hold on you that's right
Gonna throw on you
He's gonna run on you
He's gonna throw on you
Oh Oh FitzMagic
Your aim is true
Oh Oh FitzMagic (just a little magic)
O.J. was true
We're kinda sold on you

"It has been absolutely crazy,'' Peterson said about the reaction FitzMagic has been getting at WDAE. "I've never seen anything like this in Tampa Bay. Not at this level.''

Peterson points out that Fitzpatrick has all the elements you look for in a feel-good story.

"He has turned into a folk hero,'' Peterson said. "He's got an Everyman body. I mean, he looks like us. Then he's got the Civil War beard. And he's so humble. He feels like just one of us. The only thing that doesn't really fit the narrative is he went to Harvard.''

True, most of us weren't sharp enough to go to an Ivy League school, but that only adds to charm of the Fitzpatrick story.

There's also another element to all this.

"I do think there's a bit anti-Jameis thing going on,'' Peterson said, referring to Jameis Winston, the Bucs starting quarterback suspended for three games by the NFL for touching a female Uber driver in an inappropriate manner. "Fitz is someone you can get behind and feel good about.''

There's no controversy with Fitzpatrick. No reason to feel embarrassed about celebrating his success. There's no "yeah, but …'' when it comes to Fitzpatrick the way there is, at the moment, with Winston.

"It's all completely enjoyable,'' Peterson said.

That was particularly evident when Fitzpatrick came into the news conference following last Sunday's victory against the Eagles. Dressed up in the ultra-hip clothes, jewelry and sunglasses of teammate DeSean Jackson, Fitzpatrick was the talk of the NFL.

Strolling in with that get-up could have come off as completely arrogant. Fitzpatrick could have looked foolish, like a clown.

Instead, because of who Fitzpatrick is and all that he has been through as a journeyman quarterback, the stunt came off as hilarious and, when you think about it, the exact opposite of arrogant. In an amusing and self-deprecating way, Fitzpatrick was pointing out everything he isn't.

By trying to look cool, Fitzpatrick was showing just how un-cool he really is. But in this case, un-cool looks good on him.

"Something like that makes you like him even more,'' Peterson said.

And it's making Bucs fans want to be like him.

Erik Cottman, a long-distance Bucs fan from Chester, Pa. near Philadelphia, hasn't shaved since the Thursday before the first Bucs game.

"I won't shave until we lose or he isn't the starter,'' Cottman said. "It's to have some fun with this great start. I hope I'm not the only one.''

He isn't.

Not by a long shot.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.

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