September 25, 2006


Your name is Michael Pittman. You play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Your team is 0-2. You need to win your third game against the Carolina Panthers.

After several years as the lead running back, you are now second-string. Your star has fallen so low, you're now running back kicks on special teams with a guy who was on the taxi squad last year.

Your quarterback threw an interception on his first pass of a game that you desperately need to win.

You're down by 17.

The biggest asshole in team history now plays for the Panthers and has scored 14 of their 17 points in less than a quarter and a half. He's done so by mocking the youth charity banner belonging to your team's celebrated cornerback.

Later in this game, your quarterback, Chris Simms, will critically injure his spleen, requiring a blood transfusion and emergency surgery to remove it.

But you do not know this yet.

Right now, at this moment in the game, when your team is 17 points behind, it's your job to provide a spark by receiving the kickoff and taking it as far downfield as you can.

Running back a kickoff for a touchdown would be a way to inspire your team, which has yet to reach the end zone so far this season.

No one in team history has run back a kickoff for a touchdown before.

That's right. Thirty one years. Nobody.

This is the biggest job you have on this team. There is nothing more important.

True, you have a history of toppling more easily than a Thai government in a military coup. The chalk lines on the field might as well be high hurdles for you. The most repeated phrase in the pantheon of Buccaneer radio announcing is, "Pittman, gain of two on the play."

But you also have a reputation for blinding speed. If anyone can make this happen, it's you, Michael Pittman.

So what do you choose to do?


You receive the ball at the 5 yard line and begin running.


Navigating through traffic, you angle toward the opposing sideline as a phalanx of blockers works to plow you a path.


It does not work. As you've done during dozens of previous kickoff returns, you outrun your blockers. Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall delivers a violent blow and knocks you out of bounds at your 37 yard line.


The impact causes you to collide slightly with Jim Skipper, the Carolina Panthers' assistant head coach and running backs coach. You are five yards deep in their sideline.


This encounter with Skipper gives you time to jokingly high-five the Panthers' liquid refreshment technician.


And to go back and say hello to Skipper.


And to pat the bottom of a competitor as your backside receives similar compensation from another player.

With all this frustration and humiliation, with your team in a horrible hole and you having just played patty cake with the team that just tried to clean your clock in front of your home crowd, what should you do now, Michael Pittman?

Leisurely stroll back to the bench?


Sure, why not?

It's not like there's a game with any urgency going on.

Posted by Jeff at September 25, 2006 08:17 AM | TrackBack

could be worse. much worse. I'm from Detroit. That's all I'm saying.

Posted by: a reader at September 25, 2006 12:08 PM

Man, that was some awesome photography. That's the Bucs in a nutshell, Jeff.
I'd start cussing and swearing, but your comment section moderator would cue me out.

What IS wrong with this team anyway? All that talent, and what what do they have to show for it?

Posted by: Laura at September 25, 2006 04:20 PM

dear jon gruden,
tampa bay just called. it wants its offensive coordinator back.

Posted by: kristi at September 26, 2006 11:06 PM
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