As political alliances go, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala could be on their way to becoming the Bickersons of Tampa Bay.
Latvala was all too happy to toss Foster under the bus the other day. But then again hizzoner already had helped her along by taking the first step off the curb.
According to Latvala, it seems the mayor was channeling his inner Chatty Kathy when he called the commissioner for a little confabulation and suggested the Tampa Bay Rays might be purposefully suppressing their attendance figures out at the Quonset Hut in order to bolster the team's argument it needs a new ballpark.
In the realm of conspiracy theories, this doesn't rank up there with the moon landing being a hoax, but at least it's a start.
The mayor insists he said nothing of the kind to Latvala. But since Foster is noted for changing stories more often than St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa miscommunicates with his bullpen, the Las Vegas over/under line favors the commissioner.
In the absence of a transcript of the talk between the mayor and the county commissioner, one can only fathom how the conversation unfolded.
Foster: "Suze! It's me, Billy-Bob. Do have a minute to spare about how the Rays are intentionally sabotaging their attendance figures so they can go play footsie-wootsie with that smug Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn?"
Latvala: "Why certainly, my Liege. What a minute. Did you just say you thought the Rays were knowingly blowing up their bottom line, just to get out of town?"
Foster: "Suzy-cakes! Perish the thought! I never said any such thing."
Latvala: "My King, I'm sorry. But you just did, 10 seconds ago."
Foster: "Suzy-woozy, no I didn't. Besides, I prefer not to live in the past.
Latvala: "Your Excellency, I distinctly heard you suggest you believe the Tampa Bay Rays would deliberately hurt their own finances by plotting to lower attendance in order to pal around with Tampans."
Foster: "Susanna, let me be perfectly clear. Simply because I said something, doesn't mean I actually said it. I call it the Bill Foster Parallel Universe Doctrine. You'd be surprised how handy it can be sometimes."
Latvala: "Your Graciousness, I wouldn't be surprised at all."
Foster: "That's because, my little Suzy Sunflower, I am a master of political strategy. And in my professional opinion, it seems the Rays have spent about $1.25 on marketing themselves to their fan base."
Latvala: "And, Your Fullness of Yourself, just how did you divine this insight?"
Foster: "It was elegantly simple my little Suzieness. I made it up and therefore, it must be true."
Latvala: "Hmmmm, interesting, Your Lordship. I'm curious. Have you been talking to Norm Roche about fluoride in the water being a communist/Trilateral Commission/black helicopter plot?"
Foster: "Alas, Ol' Susanna, my lips are sealed."
Latvala: "Well, my Caesar of Central Avenue, if you are [suppressed cough] right, perhaps this would be the perfect time to spring your secret plan to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg."
Foster: "Secret plan? What secret plan would that be, my little Susarama?"
Latvala: "Please, Your Rajahship. It's the secret plan you've been telling everyone you have."
Foster "Oh THAT secret plan, my Susie-munchkin pie. Unfortunately my secret plan is so secret, so 'For Your Eyes Only,' so deep-deep-deep background that I'm not allowed to talk about it, even to myself."
Latvala: "You really don't have a secret plan, do you my Emperor?"
Foster: "I can't say my little Suzie-Q. It's a secret."
Latvala: "That probably explains, my Czarship, why you are flailing around trying to plant the notion the Rays are plotting against themselves so they can play spin the bottle with those dreaded Tampanians?"
Foster: "It works for me, Suzerina. After all, I've got nothing else. But I didn't say what I just said."
Latvala: "Look, Your Grand Potentate, at some point you are going to have to sit down with Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and reach some kind of accommodation or else the team might well leave the area."
Foster: "Nothing would give me greater joy, Sue-Bee-Bee-Do. But I can't. I think Sternberg dislikes me, intensely."
Latvala: "Why is that, my Crown Prince?"
Foster: "Because, Susiebelle, I refuse to talk to him and say crazy stuff like how the Rays are trying to keep people away from games, even though I never said what I said. It's so shallow of him."
Latvala: "Look, my Sultan, I have to go. I just got word Norm Roche wants to remove fluoride from the Gulf of Mexico."
Foster: "One more thing. We never had this conversation, right?"
Latvala: "Why would I admit to something like this?"