Have you heard what they’re saying about The Big Guava these days? Tampa Bay has officially been deemed Champa Bay. We even put it on a t-shirt, so you know it’s for real.
After impressive seasons from the Buccaneers and the Lightning — actually two impressive seasons from the Lightning — the city celebrated three championship titles in under a year, a feat that few other places have achieved. The result is an infectious energy in Tampa Bay, as the champion spirit extends across multiple leagues.
Let’s break down what makes this moment in sports history so monumental and all the wins along the way that transformed Tampa Bay into Champa Bay.
Until recently, Tampa wasn’t necessarily a city that screams “champions.” In fairness, before 2019, the city’s sports wins were a little more sporadic. That’s part of what makes this such an exciting time. Longtime Tampa fans will tell you they knew their time was coming and that these recent wins are just the result of hard work and franchise building.
Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. We took a look back on the last 20 years to see how the city took up its new title.
The Lightning has been a dominant team in the NHL for the last ten years, but it’s made some spectacular moves in the past two. After the 2020 season, some critics may have thought their Stanley Cup win was a fluke. The pandemic meant fewer games, with a shortened season handing them their first cup win since 2004.
Naturally, the Bolts couldn’t have that. They went ahead and won the 2021 Stanley Cup for good measure, becoming only the third NHL team to retain a cup win. For a city that enjoys warm winters, they sure can tear up some ice in Tampa
All eyes were on Tampa during the 2019–2020 NFL season. The team had been building for years, steadily suping up their roster. What they needed, however, was a star. Enter Tom Brady. The legendary long-time Patriots player joined the Buccaneers and brought Rob Gronkowski along, giving the team its best shot at the Super Bowl in recent memory.
Luckily for all those watching (except maybe Boston), Brady totally delivered. The Bucs made it all the way to the Super Bowl hosted in, you guessed it, Tampa Bay. For the first time in 55 years, the Super Bowl city was hosting their own home team. The Bucs rose to the occasion, winning the ring and bringing the Lombardi Trophy home, at home.
That’s what makes Brady the greatest of all time.
Before anyone tries to correct us, allow us to be the first to admit — the Rays have never won a World Series. However, if you’ve been watching their baseball in the last ten years, you have to admit the Rays are getting dangerously close.
Just last year they were American League Champions, after defeating the Astros over seven games. They played some spectacular baseball in the World Series against the Dodgers (more on that later), and while they failed to pull out the win, there can be no doubt that the roster can take the ring.
Ask any Rays fans, and they’ll tell you this is the most exciting time to be a fan. Stay tuned. Maybe they’ll pull out a win in 2021. Ahem.
Tampa doesn’t have an MLS team right now, though there are some rumors of an expansion team starting soon. Still, soccer fans have a lot to love about living in Tampa. The Rowdies have played in two professional leagues since their founding in 2008 and have had their fair share of glory over the last decade.
In 2012 they won the playoff championship and accepted the inaugural Coach of the Year award for Rowdies Head Coach Rick Hill. After switching to the USL in 2017, they’ve performed year after year and, in 2020, won their conference championship. The Rowdies know how to do the work to bring home the Ws, which makes them an essential piece of the Champa Bay mosaic.
Before we place too much importance on this moment, we should say — this is not Tampa Bay’s first rodeo. The city knows how it feels to hold a championship trophy. In 2003, the Buccaneers won their first Super Bowl, defeating the Raiders 48-21 in their first championship appearance.
That means the Bucs have won every Super Bowl they’ve played in. Yeah. Exactly.
Just because the Rays didn’t win their 2020 World Series doesn’t mean they didn’t give us some winning moments. Remember Brett Phillips’ iconic walk-off? Allow us to paint the picture.
It was Game Six. The Rays were down by one with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Enter Brett Phillips, who drives a ball into left field, bringing home the two winning runs and launching into a memorable victory lap. Arms extended, he “airplaned” around the outfield in pure joy. Was it a championship? Not quite, but it sure did feel like one.
Professional sports teams have a lot to brag about in Tampa but there are just as many champions at the college level.
In 2021, USF collected its most championship trophies in 23 years, with the baseball, men's golf, women's basketball, and women's soccer teams securing conference titles. We’re willing to bet there’s more where that came from.
Trophies and championships are nice but do you know what’s nicer? Paying it forward. Another reason this city is deemed Champa Bay is how the city rallies around important and underserved causes.
Lightning fans raised money to support domestic violence victims after a mix-up involving the local police and a confused 911-caller who heard “Shoot!” coming from his neighbor’s apartment. That’s just one small example of the giving spirit that extends across leagues and fandoms in Tampa.
Tampa Bay wouldn’t be real champions if they didn’t know how to throw one hell of a victory parade. Last year when social distancing measures prevented crowds from gathering, the city dreamed up an ambitious celebration: The Boat Parade.
What started as a safety precaution has given us some of the best sports images of recent memory. Watching Tom Brady toss the Lombardi Trophy from one boat to the next? Chef’s kiss.
For many Tampa Bay fans, this moment feels like the culmination of decades of loyalty. The Bucs used to be the laughing stock of the league, and look at them now! Champions. The tenth reason that Tampa Bay is Champa Bay is that the fans always believed it was. This city loves sports and regularly shows up for its teams. Winning is just icing on the cake.
Want to show off your love for Tampa Bay? Check out our entire collection of vintage-feel t-shirts.