NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — For the first time, the NFL launched the "Fan of the Year" contest where each of the league's 32 teams selects a fan that is a "rallying force" and "inspires others through their love of football."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Larry Gasparino, who is known as “Thee Buccaholic.” The official announcement came from Bucs linebacker Devin White on the team’s social media accounts.
“I had no idea until I came home that day and Devin White's video was on the counter,” Gasparino said. “I’m like wow, how exciting!”
Buccaneers gear is throughout his house. A pirate ship in the front yard, a garage full of retired car flags, inside you’ll find his pride and joy, “The Buccaneers Zone.”
His wife Paula says sometimes the memorabilia from his man cave does find its way into other rooms of the house during football season.
“I always got my eye out for something,” Gasparino said. “I like things that are different other than just a football or jersey. I like finding things that are different that nobody has.”
“Does he overdue it?” Paula said. “A lot of people would say yes. But, this guy works hard, this is his passion, go for it.”
“Go for it” is exactly what Gasparino did when he found a pirate ship at a party store.
“Man, that looks like the Buccaneers ship,” Gasparino said. “Then I call Paula to ask permission. 'Honey, they got a pirate ship that looks like the Buccaneers ship. Can I go ahead and buy this thing?'"
Of course, she said yes.
“This is my passion, this is my hobby,” Gasparino said. “It’s not meant to be ‘let me top the world’ kind of thing. Everything means something to me in a personal way.”
Gasparino was first introduced to the Buccaneers through his father, who lived in the Tampa Bay area. Larry lived in Texas and was a Houston Oilers fan until the team moved in 1996. Gasparino eventually moved to Florida and began pulling for his dad’s Bucs.
“It was such a joy to take my dad to the game,” Gasparino said. “He was like a little kid. He used to bring his big binoculars, looking for Mike Alstott."
“As he got older, I started making a jersey for him, every birthday of his age. Every year I give him a new one on his birthday. My dad lived until he was 89 years old.”
The NFL will narrow the 32 fans down to the final three. The winner will be crowned at Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.
“What a thrill that would be to have the Bucs make the Super Bowl, in our own city, and the Buccaneer Fan of the Year win the NFL Fan of the Year!”