With quarterback Tom Brady deciding to leave New England after 20 seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it got us to thinking of a unique sports rivalry that has been brewing in recent years between the Boston-area professional sports teams and the folks from down South.
In Brady’s four career starts against the Buccaneers, the Patriots went 4-0, outscoring Tampa Bay 105-24. The plus-20.3 average point difference is his highest against any single opponent he has started against.
In the Buccaneers’ 1976 inaugural season, they “clinched” an 0-14 season with a 31-14 loss at home to the Patriots on Dec. 12. Tampa Bay led 14-7 at halftime but gave up 24 second-half points en route to becoming the first team to play a 14-game season without a win or tie.
Bill Belichick’s first game as Patriots coach came against the Buccaneers on Sept. 3, 2000. The Buccaneers didn’t give up an offensive touchdown until just more than three minutes remained in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 21-16 victory. New England would finish 5-11 that season while Tampa Bay went 10-6 and lost in the wild-card round.
The Tampa Bay-Boston rivalry has been heated in other pro sports. Look no further than the matchups between the Rays and Red Sox.
Aug. 29, 2000: Pedro Martínez hits Gerald Williams in the arm with a pitch. Williams takes a couple of steps toward first base, but then sprints and charges the mound, starting a bench-clearing brawl. The melee doesn’t bother Martínez, who ends up pitching a one-hit shutout.
May 5, 2002: Trot Nixon’s bat “slips” out of his hands and flies past Rays pitcher Ryan Rupe, who had plunked Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand earlier in the game.
April 24, 2005: Rays starter Lance Carter throws behind Manny Ramírez, who actually drills a home run in the same at-bat. Carter then throws a pitch over the head of David Ortíz, which empties the benches.
March 27, 2006: Julián Tavárez is suspended 10 games for fighting with Joey Gathright during a spring training game.
June 5, 2008: James Shields throws at Coco Crisp, who had slid hard into Akinori Iwamura while trying to steal second base the previous day. Crisp charges the mound and with both players almost connecting on punches, the benches cleared.
July 29, 2013: The rivalry extends to Twitter as the Rays’ feed tweets “Dear @RedSox scoreboard operator — your standings are wrong. Yours truly, @Raysbaseball.” To which the Red Sox respond, “Don’t worry @raysbaseball we look forward to seeing you in Tampa in September for our home games at the Trop.”
May 25, 2014: Yunel Escobar, Sean Rodriguez and Jonny Gomes are ejected when benches clear after Escobar steals third base with a five-run lead.
May 30, 2014: David Ortíz gets hit by a pitch from David Price. Later in the game, both benches clear after Mike Carp is hit by a pitch from Price, and Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is ejected. Ortiz said after the game, “First at-bat of the season against him, he drilled me,” Ortiz said. “That means it’s a war. It’s on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves on. I have no respect for him no more.”
July 27, 2014: Ortíz drills a home run off Chris Archer, tosses his bat and takes his time around the bases. Archer says after the game Ortíz “feels like he’s bigger than the game.” To which Ortíz responds, “Whatever, dude. There’s always going to be comments out there. He’s not the right guy to be saying that, I don’t think. He’s got two days in the league, [shouldn’t] be [expletive] and complaining about [expletive] like that.”
The two teams have met in the postseason, with each winning once. First, the Rays won a dramatic seven-game ALCS in 2008 to advance to their first World Series. Tampa Bay nearly blew a 3-1 series lead, losing Games 5 and 6 before winning Game 7 when David Price came out of the bullpen to preserve the 3-1 win. In 2013, the Red Sox exacted revenge with a 3-1 series victory in the ALDS. Boston would go on to win the World Series for the third time since 2004.
On the ice, the Boston Bruins-Tampa Bay Lightning rivalry has been on fire lately. Shortly before the NHL paused its season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lightning beat the Bruins 5-3 on March 7 in a game that saw the teams combine for 94 minutes in penalties, including a fight between Chris Wagner (Bruins) and Barclay Goodrow (Lightning) that happened right after they got out of the penalty box after serving minors for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The teams have twice met in the playoffs. In 2011, they faced off in a seven-game Eastern Conference finals series. In a dramatic Game 7, Steven Stamkos left the game initially after taking a puck to the face. He would return with a full face shield with gauze shoved up his nose and two black eyes. In a tense game, the only goal was scored at 12:27 of the third period when Nathan Horton tipped in a pass from David Krejci past Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson. Boston hung on for the 1-0 win to advance to its first Stanley Cup final since 1990.
In the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Lightning took care of business against the Bruins in five games, winning four straight after dropping the series opener. The highlight of the series came in Game 4 when Boston’s Brad Marchand appeared to lick the face of Ryan Callahan and was not penalized in the game or disciplined by the league. After a controversial score-tying goal by Stamkos, the Lightning would win in overtime on Dan Girardi’s goal.
Although Brady and the Buccaneers won’t face the Patriots in 2020 — unless they reach the Super Bowl — there has been enough acrimony in other sports to show that this rivalry between cities roughly 1,300 miles apart might be reaching new heights.