They Do; Bucs Don't
Had one of those supermarket tabloids been covering the Buccaneers' 24-21 loss to the Falcons on Sunday in Tampa Stadium, we might have seen this headline: BIBLE PREMATURELY ENDS 172 HONEYMOONS! That's not exactly accurate, but since when has a tabloid let the facts get in the way of a juicy story?
It began at halftime, when 172 couples strolled onto the field to get married or renew their wedding vows. Couples who took the ceremony relatively seriously did the tux-and-gown routine. Others donned such garb as T-shirts, shorts, sunglasses, swimsuits and caps. Guests in the stands roared their approval when the Honorable Greg Holder told the grooms they could kiss their brides.
Why did the couples choose to say their "I do's" at Tampa Stadium? Well, wouldn't anybody get married or renew their vows on a football field for two tickets to a Bucs' game, a giveaway bag and a cruise around Tampa Bay? But alas, the mass honeymoon turned sour only a couple of minutes into the second half.
With the score tied at 14, Falcon quarterback Jeff George hoisted a pass toward wideout Bert Emanuel, who was streaking down the sideline in front of the Tampa Bay bench. The ball sailed so high that it was uncatchable. But just as cornerback Martin Mayhew began to celebrate, side judge Jon Bible tossed his flag.
"I don't want to say anything that's going to cost me any money," said Mayhew after the game, referring to the fine the NFL typically levies against anyone who criticizes officials. "But that was the most questionable call I've ever been involved in."
When the replay was shown on the stadium screen, the crowd of 66,135 erupted in outrage. Be honest: When was the last time you heard such a sentiment expressed 10 minutes after a wedding? The blissful halftime atmosphere was hardly restored when three plays later, George, backpedaling from the Buc 30 under heavy pressure, fired a bullet that Emanuel grabbed in the end zone between two defenders.
The Falcons' winning points came on Morten Andersen's 30-yard field goal with 7:18 remaining. Yet as tough as the loss was, the Bucs have some blessings to count. For one, at 5-3 they are just a half game behind the Bears and the Packers in the NFC Central. And they are in the hunt for their first playoff berth since 1982.
As coach Sam Wyche reviews the wedding-game video, he'll find that for better or worse, his team had a full measure of all the traditional stuff:
?Something old. Unlike George, quarterback Trent Dilfer again failed to come up with big plays. The Buccaneer offense scored only two touchdowns (rookie defensive tackle Warren Sapp got the other on a five-yard interception return). After Andersen's field goal the Bucs had plenty of time to make something good happen. Instead, they got only one first down in two possessions.