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While COVID-19 keeps Tampa Bay sports fans at home, they're cheering just as loud

With the Lightning taking the ice this weekend and the Bucs playing in their second playoff game, fans are stuck at home but cheering just as loud.
Credit: Keith Kunzig

TAMPA, Fla. — The Bucs are playing in their second playoff game on Sunday and die-hard fans like Keith Kunzig, aka "BIG NASTY" would have loved to be watching in the stadium.

“I miss the camaraderie between fans. I miss taking pictures. My tongue is not sprained from sticking it out so many times in pictures," Kunzig said.

The world of sports looks different today.

Amalie Arena was empty for the returning Stanley Cup champions. Instead of a sea of fans cheering them on, the team had a wall of support with fan signatures written on the glass during their opening game.

And their seats will stay empty until things change.

“People gotta be serious about trying to get the transmission rate down. I mean, it can't just be a portion of the public, it has to be everybody," said virologist, Dr. Michael Teng with USF Health.

In the spring, the Rays plan to welcome back avid fans like Dr. Teng. He feels comfortable returning to those games, for a couple of reasons.

“I've been to a lot of Rays games. I don't think it's going to be too much of a problem. Because attendance is pathetic for such a good team," Dr. Teng said. 

Even with sparse fans, by necessity or coincidence, Dr. Teng hopes to be in a different place come springtime, allowing for safer attendance.

"It'd be great. I would go after I got vaccinated. But it's about getting transmissions low and vaccinations," he shared.

When it comes to attending games at full capacity, Dr. Teng still believes we are a long way away.

“I'm kind of that skeptical person anyways, but I don't foresee us having full stadium of you know, Bucs games in the fall," he said.

Until that changes, most fans are watching teams from their couches. But that hasn’t stopped them from cheering and dreaming big.

Kunzig sees his team going all the way and making history, daydreaming about the Buccaneers making it to the Super Bowl and being the first team to play at home. 

"This is uncharted territory. You're asking me how I feel. I don't know how I feel," he said.

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