Other people have lost out in the expectation/reality thing. Tonya Harding expected she'd get away with clunking Nancy Kerrigan on the knee. Wrong. The San Diego Chargers and other NFL teams expected Ryan Leaf would be a star in the league. Not quite. OJ expected he'd get away with killing his wife and a waiter. Oh, wait a minute wrong column. Football fans including Buc fans sometimes think they're immune to expectations vs reality. Great expectations can be a blessing or a curse depending on which way you look at it. Armed with that knowledge, I will sort out fact from fiction in the 2002 Buccaneer season. Mr Expectation, I'd like to introduce you to Ms Reality. Hopefully you two can sort out any differences you might have and come to an understanding. By the way, for obvious reasons, Reality will likely win this dispute. Hence the Ms.
EXPECTATION: The Bucs will go 16-0.
REALITY: Since it hasn't happened since 1972, chances are very poor. Instead the Bucs will go 11-5 and win the NFC South. Anybody that predicts 16-0 is one fry short of a happy meal.
EXPECTATION: Michael Pittman was the best offseason acquisition and will be the main cog in the Bucs offense.
REALITY: Pittman will be solid and will be an important piece of the puzzle, but Keenan Mccardell will be the missing link. Not many people realize how solid Mccardell was in Jacksonville. Only 4 players have more catches the last three seasons. One of them was his Jags teammate Jimmy Smith and another was his current running mate Keyshawn Johnson. Don't be surprised if the Bucs have two pro bowl receivers this year.
EXPECTATION: The Bucs defense will let down this year.
REALITY: Not the case. They've lost some important players the last couple of years to free agency but none of them were crippling. Once Nate Webster learns to channel his aggression he will become another ballhawk for this team. Plus, with the offense being more efficient, they'll be fresher in the fourth quarter. No reason for me to believe this unit won't be stronger than last season.
EXPECTATION: There will be at least one QB change this year.
REALITY: Ask yourself this. Would you feel comfortable with Rob Johnson at the helm of this football team? The answer is unquestionably NO. Brad Johnson would have to be completely inept to be replaced for something other than an injury. He's not a let it fly guy so you won't seem many 4 INT games, which are what ultimately leads to being replaced.
EXPECTATION: The offensive line, with so much more talent, will flourish immediately.
REALITY: Easy there. The offensive line because of the communication and cohesion needed is often the slowest unit to come together. Bill Muir will eventually have these guys playing at a high level. But, with Cosey Coleman's injury, that means three new starters on opening day. In addition, Kenyatta Walkers playing a different position and there's an entire new offense to grasp. It won't happen overnight.
EXPECTATION: Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson will go at it all year.
REALITY: No way. These guys both know how important the other one is to the team. Sapp's comments about Johnson are laughable considering the physical shape Keyshawn is in year in and year out. There might be a minor dustup if the team goes on a losing streak, but otherwise this is overhyped.
EXPECTATION: The Bucs will finally return a kickoff for a TD this season.
REALITY: Don't bet on it. People don't realize how hard it is to return a kick for a TD. In the entire 2001 season, there were only 10 kicks returned for TD's and only 8 teams did it. That means three out of every four teams didn't. That means it's really hard to do. Translation, the Bucs kick returners might be better, but if you're a numbers guy (I am) it doesn't make reaching paydirt much more likely.
EXPECTATION: Jon Gruden will have a meltdown on the sideline.
REALITY: Chucky is being made out like a cross between Mike Ditka and John Calipari. Sure, he's fiery and emotional but he's in control. He'll make his point in a serious way, but there won't be any near brawls during the game. Unless of course, someone decides to outlaw visor night at Hooters. Then we could have a problem.
You see, it's not that hard separating expectation and reality. Don't be crushed by high expectations and don't be so cynical that your overcome by low expectations. And for the people that always say, "Expect the unexpected," I still don't know what that means.
You can listen to Sandy Penner on 620 WDAE Monday through Friday, 6:00-8:00 AM. If you're not in the Tampa Bay area, you can listen to Penner live by logging onto 620WDAE.com.