TAMPA — Lewis Stephens Jr. was excited to bring a group of young men from his mentor group to their first Bucs game Sunday.
What he didn’t expect was so many fans in black and gold.
“It’s tough,” said Stephens, 30, executive director of “I Support YOUTH,” a St. Petersburg-based non-profit focused on education and opportunity for young black men.
"I thought we’d come out in numbers.”
Actually, they did. An announced crowd of 54,333 saw the Bucs’ 34-17 loss to New Orleans Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. That’s a 35.7 percent increase from last week, when only 40,038 saw the Bucs beat Arizona. It was the smallest announced crowd for a Bucs regular-season home game in 21 years.
But it wasn’t because Bucs fans filled the stands. While it’s common for opposing fans to show up in force in Tampa Bay sports venues, Sunday’s crowd seemed especially stacked in favor of the New Orleans Saints.
"D***, look at all that black and gold,” a Bucs fan shouted during the game.
Kevon Maujean, 24, of St. Petersburg, noticed the same kind of turnout in September when the Bucs lost 32-31 to the New York Giants on Matt Gay’s last-second missed field goal.
“It’s normal,” Maujean said. “At the Giants game, it was nothing but blue here. I’d like to be surrounded by a bunch of Bucs fans because when we score it’s great to cheer in front of them. But when they score, you have to hide.”
Bucs fans began trickling out of the stadium in the fourth quarter, and by the end of the game, there were barely any Bucs fans left in the stands.
Throughout the game Saints fans loudly chanted “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints," every time the team scored or made a good play. The chant grew louder later in the game.
And the chants didn’t stop when time expired.
Saints fans yelled the “Who Dat” their entire trip exiting down the ramp and didn’t stop even once they made it to their cars.
“It’s annoying,” said Jackson Herr, 30, a Tampa native and Bucs season-pass holder. “The Saints fans hate me. I do that Who Dat chant every time we do something good.”
Through Sunday’s games, the Bucs rank 29th among the NFL’s 32 teams in average home attendance this season at 53,100. Only the Oakland Raiders, who will move to Las Vegas next season, the winless Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Chargers, who play in a soccer stadium with a 30,000-seat football capacity, rank lower.