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Green: Bucs infected by losing attitude (Oct. 14)

Mary Green | Monday, October 14, 2013

You think you’ve got it bad, Giants and Jaguars fans?

Try being a Bucs fan.

Sure, your teams are winless, and sure, there are rumors floating around that one of those franchises might not only relocate, but might move to a different country altogether. Well, I’ll admit, life is pretty rough if you’re a Jags fan.

But at least you don’t have to cheer for the Yucks.

This is the team that won the Super Bowl only 10 years ago, with one of the best defenses in the league year after year.

And now? Tampa Bay’s defense is still statistically one of the top in the NFL, but it gives up points when it can’t afford to do so. In losses to the Jets, Cardinals and Saints, the Bucs yielded game-winning scores after the two-minute warning – not the way you want to end your Sunday afternoon.

But even taking those losses into consideration, the worst part of being a Bucs fan is still the circus of off-field controversies.

It started off with the tamest point of contention, but one that nonetheless irks fans in the Cigar City: the home-game blackouts.

Now, this isn’t entirely the Bucs’ fault. The NFL has a rule stating games are blacked out in the television market of a home team if that team does not sell out its games 72 hours prior to kickoff.

Florida is really hot from about March to October, and it’s really, really hot in September at the beginning of the NFL season. No one wants to sit outside in the beating sun and a cloud of humidity to watch a football game, especially one with a mediocre team. They want to watch the Bucs at home, in the air conditioning and out of the heat.

However, if fans don’t come to the game, they can’t watch it at home because of the blackout rule. At least one positive of this is that hometown fans can’t see the quarter-empty stadium in high definition.

The national media likes to draw attention to the fact that every week, the Bucs game is off the air in the Tampa Bay area. No local fans watching games is not the best way for a team to make headlines.

The ongoing blackout controversy was the hottest off-field topic for the Bucs for a few years, so they must have decided to spice things up this season by releasing MRSA in their facilities.

Yes, that’s right, the antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria were found in the team’s practice facility and locker room and infected not one, not two, but three players, kicker Lawrence Tynes, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Johnthan Banks.

After the Bucs admitted the presence of MRSA in their facilities in August and named Tynes and Nicks as the two players known to be infected but recovering, Tynes’s wife called out the organization on Twitter, saying her husband wasn’t responding as well to treatment as the team claimed.

The story took another turn last week when Tampa Bay revealed a third player, Banks, was infected. It’s one thing to say the injury bug hit the locker room, but it’s a whole new story when that bug is a deadly bacterium.

So now there are blackouts, MRSA and a kicker’s wife involved, so what’s the only thing missing from the team’s smorgasbord of ridiculousness?

Drugs, of course, and that’s what the Bucs got in the Josh Freeman saga.

The drama started when head coach Greg Schiano demoted Freeman from starter to backup quarterback and then didn’t activate him in his first post-demotion game. The trade rumors began when Freeman said wanted out of Tampa and general manager Mark Dominick returned the shots, saying none of the 31 other NFL teams wanted him.

Where do the drugs come in? About the time I developed a migraine from trying to keep up with this madness.

Somehow, word got out that Freeman voluntarily enrolled in the first stage of the NFL’s drug program after testing positive for a banned substance. The now-Viking said he accidently took Ritalin instead of Adderall to treat his ADHD, and he didn’t have the league’s approval to take the former prescription.

He said he willingly submitted to multiple drug tests throughout the season and did not test positive again, but the story still came to light. Now, the NFLPA is investigating if the Bucs possibly released the news to start a smear campaign against their former disgruntled quarterback.

So, to all you fans disappointed in your team’s start this season, it could be worse. You could have a team with enough drama to start a Kardashian-spinoff.

And what’s the next chapter in this absurd saga? I couldn’t tell you – that migraine still hasn’t gone away.

Contact Mary Green at mgreen8@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.