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Gus Bilirakis duels with Steve Scalise. Photo illustration.

Tampa Bay

Gus Bilirakis puts honor, safety and Cuban sandwich on line for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis picked a high-stakes fight with a high-ranking member of House leadership—on whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.

The Tarpon Springs Republican on Friday afternoon challenged Majority Whip Steve Scalise to a duel, a prelude to the NFL season opening game between his home team and that of the Louisiana Republican. By days’ end, the men had been photographed in the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives bearing fists at one another.

But the mere physical posturing seemed to satiate Bilirakis’ thirst for violence. Quickly the men laid down their arms—really just lowered them to their sides—and instead the House colleagues agreed to a wager of food goods.

Should the Saints march to victory Sunday, Bilirakis will gift a Tarpon Springs sponge and deliver a Cuban sandwich from Trinity café Havana Dreamers to Scalise. In the event the Bucs pull an upset, Scalise promised to cook up homemade gumbo—though left it unclear whether it would be of the Creole or Cajun variety.

Bilirakis now hopefully awaits a helping of Southern cuisine, optimistic the Bucs will post a victory.

“I am a loyal believer,” said the six-term Congressman. “I know from personal experience that the less flashy, behind the scenes work-horse is constantly under-estimated.  I think this is a case where the underdog comes out on top.”

Playing the role of football analyst, he predicted Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead the Tampa Bay team to win this first game of the season. He also continued to bring up the use of armaments to settle sporting disputes.

“With the weapons on both sides of the ball looking healthy, my belief is that the Tampa Bay Bucs will surprise the naysayers,” Bilirakis said. “I can’t wait to taste some of my friend, Steve’s, spicy Gumbo when I return to D.C.”

Scalise for his part has thus far failed to make mention of the dispute on his own social media channels, instead obsessing over immigration policy, jobs reports and other non-sports related trivia.

The New Orleans Advocate reports Scalise last year wagered a bucket of Popeye’s fried chicken with North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson when the Saints faced the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs. That bet, he won.

Alas, oddsmakers give Scalise the better chance on Sunday as well, with OddsShark predicting an 18-point win for the Saints, who host the game on their own turf. That may mean Havana Dreamers needs to figure out how to extend delivery service pretty quick.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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