'Incredible!': Rays celebrate Bucs' NFL title

February 8th, 2021

First, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup Finals. Then, the Rays won the American League pennant. Finally, the Buccaneers finished a stunningly successful year in Tampa Bay sports on Sunday by cruising past the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl 55.

Titletown? Champa Bay? Take your pick. The Rays were happy to celebrate Sunday night after Tom Brady led the the Bucs to a win at Raymond James Stadium.

Yes, that dancing man is outfielder Brett Phillips -- the Seminole, Fla., native who had his own moment on the big stage as the unlikely hero in the Rays’ wild walk-off win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series. While the Rays fell just short of a championship, Phillips was clearly confident that his hometown football team was going to secure another title for Tampa Bay.

Last Wednesday, Phillips issued a challenge to Royals catcher Salvador Pérez: If Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, Pérez must wear a Bucs jersey during batting practice when the Rays visit Kauffman Stadium this season. Phillips said he’d do the same, wearing a Chiefs jersey during BP if Kansas City emerged victorious.

Pérez accepted. Phillips, obviously, won the bet.

Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays’ longest-tenured player and a proud supporter of the other local teams, chimed in with a congratulatory tweet.

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Outfielder Austin Meadows also weighed in on Twitter, calling it an “Unbelievable year for #TampaBaysports!” And indeed it was.

The Lightning waited out a halt in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returned in the National Hockey League’s bubble and won the franchise’s second Stanley Cup by finishing off the Dallas Stars on Sept. 28. The Rays won the American League East with a 40-20 record, captured the AL pennant for the second time in team history and took the Dodgers to six games in the World Series. The Tampa Bay Rowdies also reached the United Soccer League’s title match, which was canceled due to the team’s COVID-19 outbreak, as Eastern Conference champions.

Then came the Bucs, who hadn’t won a Super Bowl in 18 years and last reached the playoffs in 2007. They brought home a championship behind Brady, the Super Bowl MVP, and an excellent defensive performance against the defending-champion Chiefs.

Rays lefty Shane McClanahan praised Brady, who has won more Super Bowls (seven) than any team in the NFL, tweeting that the quarterback is the “Greatest to ever do it.” And the Bucs’ shutdown defense prompted the Rays’ Triple-A Durham affiliate to note, accurately: “We had as many TDs as the Chiefs tonight.”

The Bucs had plenty of support from their fellow Tampa Bay teams, with the Lightning decked out in Bucs gear for the game …

… and the Rays expressing their support before and after the game, including this postgame tweet from breakout postseason star Randy Arozarena.

And what’s a Tampa Bay sporting event, really, without an appearance from Dick Vitale? The noted Rays superfan was live on the scene at Raymond James Stadium and concluded that this recent run for Tampa Bay’s sports teams has been, of course, “Awesome, baby.”