December 7, 2023

Bucs Life

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The First Time I Covered the Bucs – By Kevin Jon Benjamin

4 min read

Kevin Benjamin covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1996

My mother, who passed away in June from colon cancer, was my biggest fan. My parents resided in Sarasota since 1987. 

In 1988, I got my A.A. at Santa Fe C.C. in Gainesville, then transferred to the University of Florida, though I wasn’t in a particular college. No major yet. But I was a great writer, so I wanted to do something in that field.

Was early spring 1988. Mom said to write to the newspapers and TV stations in Florida and try to get a summer internship. So, I did. I was hoping to get one at a newspaper, but I got a call from WFLA Channel 8 in Tampa. I went to the interview, kicked ass, and got the sports internship for the upcoming summer. I began in mid-May, two days/nights during the week and alternate Saturdays & Sundays on weekend — days/nights.

The Bucs began pre-season play on August 7, and the legendary Dick Crippen brought me to the game and gave me my first NFL Media Credential … good pretty much anywhere in Tampa Stadium back then. The Indianapolis Colts were in town to play the Bucs. 

 So, I walked into the stadium, and onto the field, and stood on the sideline at the 20-yard line. I slowly motioned around and took it all in, in utter shock that I’m actually standing on an NFL field! I couldn’t believe it!!

I turn around, and this incredible human being walks towards me, helmet under his arm, putting on his white gloves — that hair — Eric Dickerson, one of the best ever! I walked right up to him and stuck out my hand, and I shook his. 

I said to him, “I’m doing a sports internship right now at NBC here in Tampa. I’m a UF college student. I think I’m going to be a Sports Reporter.” He said, “Go for it!”  And ran onto the field. So, I went for it!

 From 1988 to 1990 I worked (volunteered) at WUFT-TV News 5, the UF student-run TV station, with a weekday 5:30 pm newscast … while I was going through UF’s Broadcast News curriculum taking TV & Radio classes. During those three years, I covered every Bucs home game at Tampa Stadium.

 My buddy Gordon Grunz and I covered all of those games together, with both of us doing our summer sports internships at WFLA … me in 1988 and him in 1987. So, after games, we’d go into the opposing team’s locker room first to get interviews with the stars, then go into the Bucs locker room. Then, we’d go back to Ch. 8 and give our interviews to Dick & Tom Korun to use in their Sunday night sportscast. So, they basically had an extra camera crew working the Bucs and visiting team’s post-game; us.

 Our footage aired on Ch. 8 for three years after Bucs games from 1988 to 1990. And they’d give us any Bucs game footage and interviews they had gotten. We only had a weekday sportscast, so our goal was to basically do what we could to help the guys at Ch. 8 on Sundays.

Dick & Tom along with ace Sports Producer & Videographer Dave Cooke, are my mentors, and taught me a ton about sports broadcasting in my first-ever broadcasting experience as their sports intern.

Man! You should’ve seen Dick Crippen in action after Bucs games, holding both the Ch. 8 mic and Bucs mic, as he did the Bucs post-game radio interviews walking around the locker room. So smooth, fluid, and conversational — I watched him in utter awe every time he did this! Legend!

September 4, 1988, my first-ever NFL regular season game and Bucs game I actually covered as part of a news camera crew … was against Philly with Reggie White & Randall Cunningham.

 I shot half the game, and Gordon shot the other half. I managed to take a few still shots with a throw-away-camera.

*Posted are photos of Vinny throwing and Reggie on the bench with Randall, Mike Quick & other Eagles. 

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The fact that I got to cover the NFL while I was at the University of Florida from 1988 to 1990 was truly something I will always cherish! … Then, I got to cover the Bucs again when I began working at WWSB (ABC) in Sarasota from 1994 to 1998 as the Sports Reporter, then Weekend Sports Anchor, then for local sports radio from 1999 to 2001. Then, on and off, since. 

I grew up in South Florida and went to Dolphins games at the Orange Bowl from 1974 to 1984. I didn’t really pay attention to the Bucs back then. During that 1988 Bucs season, when I was covering games, I decided to become a Bucs fan as well as a Dolphins fan. I’m an NFL fan of Florida’s teams. I want the Jags to do well, too.

That may seem strange to most of you, but when for over a decade you’re on the field and in the locker room and see things up close, you just become an NFL fan. I’m happy with that. 

Can’t wait to see the Bucs’ orange throwbacks next weekend! Brings back great memories! Go Bucs!!