Say this for the Tampa Bay area’s sports heritage: We know how to talk a good game.
Our smorgasbord of local pastimes ― from the Bucs to the Bulls, high schools to hockey, Bandits to baseball ― is spiced by a collection of immortalized sound bites. Some are embedded in local myth, others in the local vernacular. All are worth preserving for posterity.
We’re attempting to do that here and now.
Collected and categorized are more than 50 of the most memorable quotes in bay area sports history. Some are hidden gems more than a half-century old, others have nearly evolved into regional catch phrases. They are humorous, abrasive, blunt, perhaps even a little bawdy.
And they’re all home-grown, which leads us to the parameters.
Every quote has been documented (published by a news outlet, captured via a TV/radio sound bite, recorded in a public record). All were found in the pages of the Tampa Tribune or Tampa Bay Times unless noted otherwise. Additionally, each was made by an individual who hails from the bay area or represents a bay area team.
Example: None of Steve Spurrier’s quips from his Gators days made this list, because as University of Florida coach he wasn’t representing a Tampa Bay team, per se. But a comment referring to his season as quarterback of the 0-14 Bucs appears.
Similarly, we included a scalding remark from outspoken 7-foot-2 center Dwayne Schintzius in reference to his controversial Gators tenure, but only because he hails from Brandon High. Besides, it’s a doozy.
One of dozens scattered across this comprehensive list.
We hope you’re in favor of our execution of it.
“Please inform Mr. Rajecki that I plan to attend all games.” ― Bucs coach John McKay on place-kicker Pete Rajecki, who said he became nervous when McKay watched him kick. Rajecki made the first field goal in the Bucs’ first preseason game, but never kicked in the regular season.
“I don’t know, because everyone else is.” ― Lisa Spurrier, then 9, when asked by her mother, Jerri, why she was booing at a Bucs game where her dad, Steve, was the starting quarterback in 1976. Jerri informed the child they were booing her father (from “Quotable Spurrier: The Nerve, Verve and Victorious Words of and about Steve Spurrier, America’s Most Scrutinized Football Coach," by Gene Frenette)
“I’m in favor of it.” ― McKay, when asked about the execution of his team*
“With Custer.” ― McKay, when asked where he stood on an upcoming game against the reigning world champion Steelers in the franchise’s inaugural year
“Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.” ― McKay following the team’s 1977 win in New Orleans that ended the franchise’s 26-game losing streak
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“I hope the Bucs go 0-16.” ― Bucs quarterback Doug Williams (to Sports Illustrated) in 1983, after leaving the franchise (for the USFL) following an acrimonious contract dispute with owner Hugh Culverhouse
“Capece’s kick? No, I’ve never seen anything that gutty. Oh, once in World War II, I saw a guy pull nine people out of an airplane. Besides that, it was the most courageous thing I’ve ever seen.” ― McKay, on a game-winning, 27-yard field goal by Bill Capece in 1982, keeping the Bucs’ playoff hopes alive
“Capece is kaput.” ― McKay on Capece, whose crucial misses resulted in a 12-9 overtime loss to Green Bay in the 1983 home finale. Capece actually kicked for the Bucs in the 1984 preseason before being waived.
“My Vince Lombardi.” ― Culverhouse describing Ray Perkins, whom he hired as coach in December 1986. Perkins went 19-41 before being fired late in the 1990 season
“I thought we had a deal. Now I feel as though we’ve been jilted at the altar.” ― Culverhouse, after Bill Parcells had an 11th-hour change of heart and rejected a five-year, $6.5 million offer to coach the Bucs in December 1991
“I’ve heard so many stories about Vinny (Testaverde), I guess I was a little bit shell-shocked. I thought maybe he would run into the goal post or something like that. But that didn’t happen. He negotiated the thing beautifully.” ― Sam Wyche on March 2, 1992, after his first day of minicamp as Bucs coach
“I’d like to pull him out of the grave and shoot him with every bullet I could get.” ― Joy Culverhouse, Hugh’s widow, who learned of her husband’s infidelity during an extended legal battle over his estate following his death in 1994
“As you write your ugly headlines, just don’t misprint ‘four dash two’ when you talk about it not being good enough for you.” ― Wyche after his team got off to an unsightly 4-2 record in 1995 (the Bucs finished seven-dash-nine)
“You know what? We used to dog the hell out of (Mike) Shula, but I’ll be the first one to tell you I miss him. Because, s---, at least I knew what I was getting. … I couldn’t tell you what we do right now. I couldn’t tell you what our bread and butter play is. Last year, we were either going to run Power-O or Tampa pass. I knew that and I didn’t mind that. I knew we were going to throw it to Mike (Alstott) in the flat and then try to get it to Warrick (Dunn) on a swing pass and get him one-on-one with a couple of linebackers. But at least we knew what the hell we were doing. Now we’re doing 1,001 things and we look like we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.” ― Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp, venting his frustration over first-year offensive coordinator Les Steckel’s system in 2001, when the Bucs were 6-5
“He asked me, ‘Why aren’t you throwing to my son?’ ‘Well, he’s the worst receiver on the squad, Coach.’ I don’t think (McKay) liked that.” ― Steve Spurrier, on his bumpy relationship as Bucs starting quarterback with McKay in the team’s inaugural season (From The Steve Spurrier Story: From Heisman to Head Ballcoach, by Bill Chastain)
A lot of people ask me, ‘Can we repeat?’ Look at the men we’ve got in this room tonight. The hell we can’t repeat." ― Bucs coach Jon Gruden at the February 2003 premiere of the Bucs’ Super Bowl DVD
“To be honest with you, it’s humiliating. I give myself an ‘F.’” ― Gruden following a 7-9 finish in 2003
“All this school has ever had is a bad image. We’re trying to give it a damn positive one. Get behind us!” ― USF men’s basketball coach Lee Rose, grabbing a Sun Dome microphone after a 1984 win against UNC-Charlotte to rip the lack of fan support (from the Orlando Sentinel)
“Don DeVoe is a stupid ass. He’s a geeky human being. He ruined my life. He ruined the program at Florida that I had helped build up for three years. He ran off Livingston Chatman and then he ran me off. All because of his ego. … That’s all I can say about that. Talking about him ... it just makes me mad. I think I’m going to break open the mini-bar (in his hotel room) and drink me a Crown Royal.” ― University of Florida (and Brandon High) 7-foot-2 standout Dwayne Schintzius during a 1995 interview. Schintzius walked away from the Gators program 11 games into his senior year after clashing with interim coach DeVoe.
“Sometimes you’re the dog, and sometimes you’re the tree.” ― USF men’s basketball Seth Greenberg, after his team set a program record for fewest points in a game in a 71-36 home loss to Marquette in 1997
“This is the biggest piece of bull I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Coach (Ron) Zook told us to be cordial and everything, but the way that game was (officiated) was bull. They took five fumbles away from us that should’ve been ours.” ― Florida offensive lineman (and Hillsborough High alumnus) Shannon Snell following the Gators’ 38-34 home loss to FSU in 2003. Officials disallowed five apparent UF fumble recoveries
“I hope they like what happened, because we weren’t trying to run the score up on them. We’re that much better than them.” ― USF quarterback Matt Grothe, following his team’s 64-12 home embarrassment of UCF on Oct. 13, 2007
“The more we drank, the more it made sense. Later, they were surprised to learn they had invested in hockey. They thought we said sake.” ― Lightning founder/GM Phil Esposito, recalling in December 1991 how he convinced Japanese investors to come aboard
“I mean, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’s going to lead us to Stanley Cups. There’s no doubt that in three or four years he’s going to be the world’s greatest hockey player. He’s going to be the Michael Jordan of hockey.” ― Lightning owner Art Williams shortly after the team made Vinny Lecavalier the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1998
“He’s matured. I always say it comes back to that idiot owner calling him the next Michael Jordan of hockey. And then the entourage behind him and he’s on magazine covers and he’s here and there. It’s tough for a young kid to understand and handle all this stuff.” ― Lightning coach John Tortorella on the struggles of Lecavalier (the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1998) early in his career
“Shut your yap.” ― Tortorella, referring to Flyers coach Kevin Hitchcock, who was spotted yelling at Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich during a game in the 2004 Eastern Conference finals
“The only problem I had with Tampa was the two owners. That’s it. I’ll always be part of that city and that team. I’m just so happy those guys are gone. Those guys were poison.” ― Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle on one-time owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie, during a 2010 interview
"All I can say is, this is what happens when you get a bunch of Catholics set on something.” ― Jesuit football coach Bill Minahan following his team’s 39-25 victory against Lakeland Kathleen in the 1968 Class A state title game
“I told my kids the only way this gets better is if the Swedish bikini team lands right now.” ― Then-Jesuit football coach Dominick Ciao after a 29-22 upset of No. 6 Wauchula Hardee in 1991. Ciao later said the Jesuit priests weren’t exactly enamored with the quote.
“The only thing they’ve been working hard at is recruiting. We outplayed them and out-coached them last year, and they still haven’t gotten over that.” ― Gaither coach Joe Severino prior to his team’s 1995 game at Hillsborough. After the Cowboys defeated the Terriers twice during the 1994 season, two prominent Gaither players transferred to Hillsborough.
“Jesuit’s in my head. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you.” ― Tampa Catholic football coach Bob Henriquez, following the Crusaders’ ninth consecutive loss to rival Jesuit in 2008
“They said, ‘We just want you to know we’re behind you, win or tie.” ― Brandon wrestling coach Russ Cozart, referring to the ultimatum-type vote of confidence school officials gave him upon his 1980 hiring. By then, Brandon’s dual-match win streak, which would reach a national-record 459 matches, was in its seventh year (from the 2008 ESPN-produced documentary, The Streak)
“Everybody on that bus, from the coaches to the administrators to the players, thought they were going to come up here and win this game. I was worried.” ― Chamberlain football coach Billy Turner following his team’s 23-17 win at Springfield Rutherford in the 2001 Class 5A state semifinals
“I thought I was going to have to get my own float. We were everybody’s homecoming game that year.” ― Northeast football coach Jerry Austin on his inaugural Vikings team, which finished 3-7 in 1979. Austin remains second in Pinellas County history in career wins (196)
“We need Jesus.” ― Lakewood girls basketball coach Necole Tunsil, when asked what the Spartans would need to defeat 24-3 Jacksonville Ribault in the 2017 Class 6A state finals. The Spartans lost, 72-31.
“I think this is the greatest day in Tampa Bay history.” ― Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli at the club’s inaugural game on March 31, 1998
“I finally have meaning in my career. … I think it gives it substance. ‘Oh yeah, he made some All-Star teams. Oh yeah, he’s got some batting titles. And, aw, he’s got a couple Gold Gloves. Wow, this guy’s got 3,000 damn hits.’” ― Wade Boggs, on getting his milestone hit with the Rays in August 1999
“Hopefully we hit rock bottom and from here it will change.” ― Rays manager Larry Rothschild after a 10-0 loss that dropped his club to 4-10 in April 2001. He was fired the next day.
“Do you know who I am? I’m Vincent Joseph Naimoli, owner of the Devil Rays. That’s my wife! ― the Rays managing general partner to the St. Petersburg police officer who pulled over his wife, Lenda, for running a red light in August 2004 (from a St. Petersburg Police report)
“The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major league level.” ― Rays GM Chuck LaMar, after the club compiled a 451-680 record and six last-place finishes in its first seven seasons
“Bad, bad baseball. That’s what it is. Bad, bad, bad baseball.” ― Rays manager Lou Piniella following an especially unsightly 2005 loss
“The only thing I can think of is them being cheap. Why not call up guys when you’re 50 games out of first place and you’re not going to the playoffs?” ― Rays prospect Delmon Young, on the day he was honored as Baseball America’s top minor leaguer, as to why the Rays weren’t calling him up in September 2005
“Those guys up there (in the big leagues) shower in Evian. Here we use sewer water.” ― then-Rays prospect (and Hillsborough High alumnus) Elijah Dukes, on being in the minors (from a July 2006 USA Today story)
“What’s possible? Play in October, that’s possible. … We have what it takes to win here.” ― Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir on the first day of spring training in 2008, the year they made the World Series
“I’m probably going to hit a few pigs when I fly home, and hell is serving ice water tonight. No one thought we’d be here. And here we are.” ― Rays reliever Trever Miller, after the club clinched its 2008 World Series berth
“Lose my (expletive) number.” ― Rays designated hitter Pat Burrell, in a text reply to a Tampa Bay Times reporter following his May 2010 release
“My heart is in Boston.” ― outfielder Carl Crawford, at his Fenway Park introductory news conference upon signing with the Red Sox after 12 years in the Rays organization
“Nothing’s weird anymore. He can’t do anything weird. The shock value’s gone. No matter what he does, he could do something totally off the wall and you go, ‘That’s Joe.’” ― longtime Rays coach Tom Foley on Joe Maddon in April 2013
“If you think you look hot, that’s how you should dress.” ― Rays manager Joe Maddon on the team’s dress code in April 2013
“He feels like he’s bigger than the game.” ― Rays pitcher Chris Archer on Red Sox slugger David Ortiz after a 2014 bat flip
“I’m anti- any club that wins all the time.” ― Ybor City native Al Lopez, Hall of Fame manager of Indians and White Sox, on being accused of being anti-Yankee. In the decade of the 1950s, Lopez was the only non-Yankees manager to win an American League pennant.^
“Everybody says we hated the Yankees. We didn’t hate the Yankees. We just hated the way they beat us.” ― Lopez^
“I don’t see the correlation between a little bit of long hair and being a good player. ... Our Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest person to ever walk the earth and he had long hair.” ― Yankees outfielder (and Tampa native) Lou Piniella, questioning owner George Steinbrenner on the team’s policy of no long hair or facial hair.^
“If you can walk across that water, you can wear your hair any way you want.” ― Steinbrenner (a Tampa resident) after taking Piniella to a swimming pool across the street from the team’s Fort Lauderdale training facility.^
“No, I consider Pele a black Rodney Marsh.” ― Rowdies forward Rodney Marsh, after being labeled as “the white Pele” at his introductory news conference in 1976 in Tampa Bay
“I am the enforcer. That’s why I was out on the streets, to make sure no one else was.” ― John Matuszak, Oakland Raiders (and former University of Tampa) defensive end, explaining why he was cruising New Orleans’ French Quarter in violation of team curfew four nights before Super Bowl 15 in 1981. (from the New York Times)
“You can’t say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Someone actually saw Adam and Eve.” ― Carl Everett, Tampa native and two-time All-Star during 14-year major-league career (to Sports Illustrated in 2000)
“And it was love at first sight, unfortunately.” ― Dwight Gooden, Tampa native and youngest Cy Young winner (at 20), on the first time he tried cocaine (to ESPN’s E:60 in October 2011)
“They (the authorities) said, ‘Were there any witnesses?’ I said, ‘Yes, 48,000.’” ― former Tampa Bay Bandits marketing director (and current Outback Bowl CEO) Jim McVay, recalling the night at Tampa Stadium when someone drove off in one of the seven Dodge cars being raffled off by the USFL team
“Hell, I might be dead in three years.” ― Piniella, after falling one vote short at age 75 in 2018 of election to baseball’s Hall of Fame as a manager; he’s not eligible again until 2021
*-While this comment has become more synonymous with McKay than any other, it’s unclear exactly when he said it. Presumably, it occurred during the franchise’s 0-26 stretch
^-These quotes, while not found in a local publication, have been cited in various books and newspapers
Times staff writer Marc Topkin and assistant sports editor Anthony Perez contributed to this report.