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Whoever loses Rays vs. Red Sox bet, team pride wins

Boston native and Red Sox fan Michelle Dole, a bartender at the Oldsmar Cop Shop, talks with patron Andrew Knapp, a Rays fan. Dole and Rays fans have sparred all season.

DEMORRIS A. LEE | Times

Boston native and Red Sox fan Michelle Dole, a bartender at the Oldsmar Cop Shop, talks with patron Andrew Knapp, a Rays fan. Dole and Rays fans have sparred all season.

OLDSMAR — The pressure's on more than just the Rays and the Red Sox this week.

It's also on Boston native and Red Sox fan Michelle Dole, a bartender at the Oldsmar Cop Shop sports bar, and some of her patrons at the Tampa Road establishment.

If the Rays win the American League East title, Dole has to wear a Rays T-shirt for a week and pose for photographs on demand. If the Red Sox win the division, the Tampa Bay fans she's been sparring with throughout the season have to wear Red Sox jerseys for a week and pose for pictures as well.

"I'm even excused from wearing my uniform," Dole, 35, said, horrified at the thought of losing the bet and having to wear the Rays' colors.

The uniform at the Cop Shop?

A black vest and handcuffs. On Monday night, it also included a Red Sox navel ring.

The seasonlong skirmishes at the Cop Shop have gotten pretty ugly, but in a friendly kind of way, of course.

Cop Shop owner Bob Wiley snagged Dole's 7-year-old son and dressed him in a Rays jersey and baseball cap. He snapped pictures and put copies all over the bar for everyone to see.

Dole doesn't sit idly by.

She serves drinks to the Rays die-hards on Red Sox napkins and in Red Sox glasses. They refuse to drink the libations.

She's plastered cars with the Red Sox logo. She brought back a Red Sox pennant and posted it on a wall.

It didn't stay up long.

"When I found out she was a Boston fan, we instantly became enemies," said Andrew Knapp, 23, of Oldsmar, who's been a Rays fan since it was first announced that the team was coming to the bay area in 1995.

Dole moved to Oldsmar two years ago with her husband and two children. She started working at what was once Big JRs as a bartender.

Eight months ago, Wiley and his wife bought the place and changed the name to the Oldsmar Cop Shop. He built a second bar on what was once a dance floor.

He repainted and retiled the floors. He added six new pool tables and 40 high definition LCD televisions.

Dole, who has been a bartender for eight years, continued to work at the establishment. As the Rays became contenders, Dole's rivalry with the owner, a Rays fan, and customers started heating up.

Cop Shop kitchen supervisor and loyal Rays supporter Larry Strickland's wife bought him tickets to Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.

Dole's husband, Nick, went and bought a pair of tickets for himself and his wife one row up.

"I can't wait to sit right behind them and cheer," Dole said. "Especially with a tie (the teams were tied for the division lead heading into Tuesday's game). I have my Boston T-shirt on and I just can't wait."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

Whoever loses Rays vs. Red Sox bet, team pride wins 09/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008 8:21pm]
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