Bonadonna Attends Packers/Buccaneers Game in Tampa Bay


Joey Bonadonna, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Let me take you back to a time not so long ago but feels like forever. Picture if you will: March 2020. Toilet paper aisles were empty. You could sell your firstborn for a tub of Clorox wipes. Meanwhile, my mother had the idea for this: a quarantine card.

For my troubles, I negotiated with her a trip to Tampa to see the Packers take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was scheduled to be played the weekend after my seventeenth birthday.

As time went on, the belief that fans would be able to be in attendance at NFL games seemed to be a fantasy. The NBA and NHL continued their seasons in theoretical bubbles and Major League Baseball didn’t allow fans at any of their regular season games. It seemed the humiliation I endured for the photo above would all be for naught.

Then, a light appeared. Select NFL teams and stadiums developed plans for limited attendance at games. Tampa Bay was not one of those teams, but it was a step toward the goal line.

In September, I learned the Buccaneers were announcing plans to allow fans into Raymond James Stadium. The first game? October 18 against the Green Bay Packers. My end of the bargain seemed to be redeemable again. 

The fateful Sunday arrived. For the first time since seeing the Packers beat the Seahawks in the divisional round in January, I was in attendance at an NFL game. 

There were some familiar moments that you always run into, like traffic when heading to the stadium. But once we got into Raymond James, you could tell that it was a different ball game.

The noise wasn’t absolutely silent, but it was definitely quieter than your average game. The best I can compare it to is a Wednesday afternoon baseball game that not many people can attend.

Another difference: masks were mandatory at all times except when eating or drinking. The stadium officials at Raymond James took this very seriously, as I witnessed ejections for not wearing them. Distancing was also common courtesy and there were only about three or four pods in every other row.

Now, to the game itself. It started out well for the Packers as they led 10-0 after the first quarter. But after two straight Aaron Rodgers interceptions, the Buccaneers had taken the wind out of the Packers’ sails. The Packers’ offense couldn’t get anything going, and the defense could not get a stop. 

Bucs running back Ronald Jones II had himself a day with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander had a good day at the office as well, limiting Bucs wideout Mike Evans to just one reception. 

At the end of the day, though, the loss became secondary to just having the opportunity to enjoy love of the game. If 2020 has taught us anything, the final score isn’t the endgame and win or lose, it was an experience I will never forget. So finally, in return for the picture of me back in May, I got this shot on Sunday. I think it was well worth it.