Anyone who lived in Tampa in the late 70’s to early 80’s remembers how much fun the NASL was in those days. I remember a few games, in particular, when ABC Sports had cameras strategically placed throughout “The Big Sombrero” and Tampa had officially arrived on the international soccer scene. Tampa Stadium was the place to be…for soccer, anyway. At that time, the Bucs had not quite reached a pinnacle of success. 🙂
I had a teeny little connection to the Rowdies by living next door to the first coach, Eddie Firmani. Although the Firmani’s were aloof and not at all inclined to borrow a cup of flour from my house even in a baking emergency, there was a daughter my age and I can vividly recall her complete lack of enthusiasm for the likes of Wes McLeod or Winston DuBose standing in her livingroom. I thought it was ludicrous then and still do…no wonder we couldn’t be friends.
The 4th of July was pretty consistent for me from ’77 to ’81 or so. I’d spend all day laying by the pool (yes, sun worshiper from way back) then get as cute as possible for the Rowdies game, followed by the best fireworks in the bay area. Year to year, nothing really changed about the 4th of July, which was part of its charm. Donna Summer and Neil Diamond were always blasted through the stadium speakers and staking a great spot on the field for the post game celebration ~ near your friends but also near the end zone~ was critical. It was a good time…and it was like $5. $5 that my dad would complain about, week after week.
I sat on those aluminum bleachers through a monsoon one time and through desolate heatwaves many times. I saw Pele’ and the Cosmos. I saw Franz Beckenbauer (you remember that name if you ever watched Soccer Made in Germany on Saturday afternoons) and crowds of over 60,000. Soccer came within inches of really catching on…and then the Rowdies were gone, along with the fireworks and all of the fanfare.
On Thursday, we’ll sit in a different stadium to watch a different team but they’ll still be sporting the green and gold and I’m hoping to hear that hideously bad jingle that reverberates in my head to this day…
“The Rowdies run here, the Rowdies run there
They kick the ball around.
The Rowdies run here, the Rowdies run there
Then they fall on the ground.
Oh, the Rowdies, oh the Rowdies, the Rowdies are
a kick in the grass.”