)
Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Bucs game offers brief respite from grim reality of Hurricane Ian

The Bucs initiated a “Florida Strong” relief effort during Sunday’s night’s contest against the Chiefs.
Bucs tight end Ko Kieft sports his "Florida Strong" shirt during warm-ups before taking on the Chiefs. The Bucs will raise funds to support those affected by Hurricane Ian, and honored honoring emergency personnel and first responders ahead of the game. In addition, the NFL Foundation will match the $1 million donation made by the Glazer Family to support nonprofit organizations aiding those most impacted by the storm throughout the state.
Bucs tight end Ko Kieft sports his "Florida Strong" shirt during warm-ups before taking on the Chiefs. The Bucs will raise funds to support those affected by Hurricane Ian, and honored honoring emergency personnel and first responders ahead of the game. In addition, the NFL Foundation will match the $1 million donation made by the Glazer Family to support nonprofit organizations aiding those most impacted by the storm throughout the state. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 3|Updated Oct. 3

TAMPA — His job, house and class schedule either gone or in shambles, Reese Collins hopped in his silver 2012 Camry on Sunday and headed north on Interstate 75, eager to flee reality for one night.

When the week dawned, Collins was a 26-year-old bartender living with a buddy in a rented home on a Fort Myers lake, completing his degree in communications and public relations at nearby Florida Gulf Coast University. By Thursday, his beachside place of employment — Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille — had been leveled by Hurricane Ian, and the water was still rising in his house.

“There’s no Fort Myers Beach anymore,” Collins said via cell phone as he drove with his girlfriend Sunday afternoon. “It’s a mess; it’s worse than it looks, to be honest with you. Everything’s just dead around the area.”

Momentary escape lurked two hours north. After days of horrific breaks, Collins finally caught a couple of good ones, scoring Bucs-Chiefs tickets and a nearby Airbnb for reasonable rates. So he sped from the damage and toward the diversion.

“Tonight,” Collins said, “means a lot.”

Doc Ford's Sports Bar & Grille, located on Fort Myers Beach, was reduced to shambles by Hurricane Ian. "There's no Fort Myers Beach anymore," said bartender Reese Collins, who attended Sunday night's Bucs-Chiefs game.
Doc Ford's Sports Bar & Grille, located on Fort Myers Beach, was reduced to shambles by Hurricane Ian. "There's no Fort Myers Beach anymore," said bartender Reese Collins, who attended Sunday night's Bucs-Chiefs game. [ Photo provided by Reese Collins ]

Even as some continued leveling audacity allegations against the Bucs and the NFL, for staging a game days after a hurricane ravaged a nearby region, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes delivered a relief effort of their own. The service they offered wasn’t as essential as water, hot food or electricity, but nourishing and replenishing in its own way.

For one evening, many impacted by Ian — at least those with power or tickets — could chart down and distance instead of hurricane trajectory.

“Football cures everything, doesn’t it? Especially Chiefs football,” said Tracy Keller, who drove 2½ hours with husband Kerry from their home in Ponce Inlet — south of Daytona Beach — to see their favorite team.

The Kellers, both Iowa natives, lost power for more than 36 hours — from about 7 a.m. Thursday until roughly midnight Friday — and watched nearby piers and jetty walkways crumble under Ian’s strain. But having weathered the storm, they headed west for relief.

Sunday night was their first Chiefs game since Kansas City opened the 2018 season at Jacksonville.

“It’s a great way to escape all the news about destruction,” said Keller, a marketing consultant for an East Coast-based communications company. “Our beach alone is horrible. We were afraid that this game would be moved to Minnesota, and we’re glad it wasn’t. We’ve had these tickets for months and a hotel room booked for months.”

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

The Bucs made a point to intersperse support for Ian victims into the pregame pageantry.

The franchise’s initiatives included donating its share of the traditional 50/50 game-day raffle to relief efforts, and selling “Florida Strong” T-shirts, with proceeds going to Ian relief. Prior to the national anthem, a poignant tribute video honored those affected by the hurricane, and first responders.

Player messages were broadcast throughout the stadium, urging those who can help victims to do so.

Reese Collins, of Fort Myers, landed Bucs-Chiefs tickets and welcomed the temporary escape from the ravages of Hurricane Ian.
Reese Collins, of Fort Myers, landed Bucs-Chiefs tickets and welcomed the temporary escape from the ravages of Hurricane Ian. [ Courtesy of Reese Collins ]

Upon returning to Fort Myers, Collins, 26, must find a new job and doesn’t mind manual labor. His landlord is giving him a break on rent, and will pay him and roommate James Dowling if they help repair the place, but his college graduation — set for May — now could be postponed.

But for one cloudless Sunday night, the Bucs allowed for decompression.

“Me and my dad are big Buccaneer fans,” Collins said. “So to go the Bucs game tonight, I can kind of just escape it for a little bit, relax, enjoy myself, watch the Bucs play. So it means a lot to me, to be honest.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge