For most of his tenure as a Bucs season-ticket holder, Dick Vitale has struggled to give away his four ducats ― behind the Bucs bench, near the 40-yard line ― when he couldn’t make a game.
That dilemma vanished Friday in one fell signature, when Tom Brady signed his two-year, $50 million deal with Tampa Bay.
“Oh my god, this year there will be no problem,” the hall-of-fame college hoops broadcaster said. "I’ve already got a restaurant guy who says, ‘Dickie V, I’ll give you a free meal man if you give me your tickets.’
Sprouting amid the coronavirus crisis Friday morning was at least one reason — an airtight, official reason — for locals to rejoice. Before you could say “Tampa Tom,” many of the bay area’s most prominent citizens, including Vitale, already had publicly expressed their glee over Tom Brady’s confirmation that he has joined the Buccaneers.
For an area under a social-distancing mandate, the news seemed to galvanize the community, if only through technological means.
By 10:15 a.m., assorted dignitaries from new USF football coach Jeff Scott to Bucs icon Derrick Brooks had welcomed Brady to the bay area via social media. The area’s only other pro starting quarterback, Taylor Cornelius of the Vipers, even tweeted his congratulations.
“It’s like Joe DiMaggio just signed with the Rays,” longtime USF softball coach (and 2020 U.S. Olympic team coach) Ken Eriksen said.
Vitale had a similar analogy.
“It’s like Babe Ruth going from the Red Sox to the Yankees," said Vitale, who doesn’t know exactly how long he has owned Bucs season tickets, but estimates it has been at least 20 years.
"I mean, the greatest of all time. I’ll fight anybody, they can tell me all they want about the (Joe) Montanas. … Any name they want to throw up there; Peyton (Manning), (Dan) Marino. Nobody can argue that this is not the greatest quarterback of all time for what he has achieved.”
In a video message on The Identity Tampa Bay’s Twitter handle, Brooks called Brady’s signing “an extraordinary move by our organization.”
“Now that the cat is out of the bag, and let me be one of the many to welcome Tom Brady to Tampa Bay," the Pro Football Hall of Famer said. "I’m anxious to see honestly how this is gonna play out.”