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NFL rewards Tampa Bay's track record, preparation with another Super Bowl

Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer (left) and son Edward Glazer celebrate the Bucs win and their upcoming trip to San Diego and the Super Bowl. 

[Bill Serne | Times]
Published May 24, 2017

Tampa Bay got lucky on Tuesday.

We are getting a Super Bowl. We are getting a Super Bowl that we weren't supposed to get. We're getting a Super Bowl that we once were told we wouldn't get.

Then came good luck.

But you know what they say about good luck. It's when opportunity meets preparation.

The opportunity came along, and Tampa Bay sure was prepared.

Pass out the cigars, pass out the pats on the back. There are plenty of people who deserve credit.

Credit the Glazers. Credit Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Most of all, credit our secret weapon — Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins. Higgins is the Tom Brady of sports executives. A winner. A clutch performer. The guy you want in charge when time is running out and the stakes are high.

Dozens of others played a major part. Heck, if you're reading this, go ahead and take a bow yourself. We all share in this.

So, yeah, maybe we caught a break Tuesday because Los Angeles isn't going to be ready in time to host Super Bowl LV in 2021. But don't say we don't deserve this game. We've already done four of these Big Games and we've done them well. There's plenty of reason to believe the next one will be the best ever.

So how did this happen? Aside from rotten weather in Southern California, how did Tampa get another Super Bowl?

SUPER TUESDAY: Tampa lands another Super Bowl

There were three important parts to this, the first going all the way back to February of 2010.

That's when Jeffrey Vinik (another who should get a thumbs up today) agreed to buy the Tampa Bay Lightning. Aside from Vinik helping revitalize downtown Tampa, including the building of the hotel rooms necessary to host a Super Bowl, it was something else that Vinik did that had a huge impact on Tuesday's decision.

Shortly after buying the Lightning, Vinik hired Tod Leiweke to be the team's CEO, a position he held for five years.

Know what Leiweke is doing these days? He is the chief operating officer of the NFL .

You don't think Leiweke had some influence in this? You don't think Leiweke was whispering just the right things in the ears of NFL owners while winking at his old friends back in Tampa?

That brings to the second part, which is something that happened exactly one year ago today. On May 24, 2016, Tampa Bay's bid to host a Super Bowl lost out to Atlanta, South Florida and Los Angeles.

Tampa Bay easily could have pouted, stomped its feet and held its breath over not getting a game. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan told Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno that it was "easy to get frustrated.''

But Tampa Bay took the high ground, said the right things, acted maturely even though there was a sliver of fear that it would never get another Super Bowl with so many state-of-the-art stadiums popping up across the country.

The NFL noticed how Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer handled the disappointment with class, how Buckhorn handled the news with grace, how Higgins put on a smile.

That brings us to the third part of all this.

Instead of holding a pity party, Tampa Bay pulled up its britches and proved that it could handle a big event as well as anyone. After the start of $150 million in renovations that have spruced up Raymond James Stadium, the 2017 College Football National Championship in Tampa was a smashing success.

The week was good. The game was great. The stadium was even better.

The new video boards look phenomenal. The new sound system is magnificent. The concourses are gorgeous.

Just in case anyone forgot, the College Football National Championship proved that we know how to do big games.

We have the stadium. And the weather. And the beaches. And the amusement parks. And the restaurants. And the hotels.

And we have the right people in charge.

That's why we have had Frozen Fours and women's Final Fours and NCAA Tournaments in recent years.

That's why we're going to get next year's NHL All-Star Game and the 2019 women's Final Four and the 2020 early rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

RELATED: More from Tom Jones

So this is about more than rain in Southern California. This is more than L.A's bad luck being our good fortune.

This is about a community with strong leadership that spends more time working than whining. This is about a football team with owners so respected around the league that they've been entrusted to bail the NFL out of what could have been an embarrassing situation. This is about a sports town that was prepared on very little notice to host the biggest sporting event in the country.

This is what happens at the intersection of Opportunity and Preparation.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones

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