Tom Jones says goodbye to sports after 33 years

The Times columnist pens his farewell sports column before moving to Poynter.
Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Tom Jones is leaving to become the new senior media writer at the Poynter Institute.. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Tampa Bay Times sports columnist Tom Jones is leaving to become the new senior media writer at the Poynter Institute.. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published December 15 2018

This is my final sports column for the Tampa Bay Times.

After 33 years as a sportswriter, mostly here at the Times, I'm moving on to a new challenge. Starting Jan. 2, 2019, I will become the media columnist at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, writing about the world of journalism and today's media.

Now, traditionally, when a columnist leaves a newspaper, he or she writes a farewell column. It's usually full of thank yous and long walks down Memory Lane.

If I was to write such a column, I would maybe talk about those I most enjoyed covering in my career (Vinny Lecavalier, Joe Maddon, Marty St. Louis). I would write about which events I most enjoyed covering (the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 2003 ALCS, the 2004 Lightning Cup run). I also would include which places I most enjoyed going to (Austria, Russia, Vancouver).

I would probably take a few shots at those I have clashed with over the years (Dirk Koetter, Lovie Smith, Aubrey Huff).

And I might even poke fun at myself about the things I might have been wrong about, such as the time I wrote the Bucs should give Josh Freeman $100 million because he was going to be a franchise quarterback. (Whoops.)

As far as thank yous, there simply isn't enough room or time to name everyone I would like to thank.

But I'm not going to write one of those columns. Instead of looking back, I want to look forward. So as I say goodbye to the sports and teams I've covered over the years here in Tampa Bay, I want to look forward to what might happen in the future with those teams.

Tampa Bay Bucs

The Bucs are going to miss the playoffs. Again. Personally, I'd probably keep general manager Jason Licht and definitely keep coach Dirk Koetter, but I have serious doubts about either returning. Wouldn't it be great if Tony Dungy gave coaching one last go? Someday, the Bucs will be good again. Or maybe they won't. After all, someone has got to be this generation's Cleveland Browns. Someone has to stink.

Tampa Bay Rays

I'm optimistic on the field. The Rays, with their unique philosophies and game-changing ideas, look to be on the verge of more playoff runs. This team will be a blast to watch the next several years. But will anyone watch? In person, that is? I fear not and I'm still not convinced they have a long-term future in Tampa Bay. I hope they do because I love baseball and would like to go see guys like Blake Snell and Willy Adames. I'm just afraid I'm going to have to go to Montreal, Portland or Las Vegas to see them. Until someone writes a check or gets out a shovel and starts digging, I'm simply not confident a stadium will ever get built in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Lightning

One of these years, the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup again. Right? RIGHT? This feels like the season. Map out the parade route. Do it now. The Stanley Cup will be moving to Tampa Bay next June.

USF football

If USF ever wants to be big-time, it needs to do two things: build an on-campus stadium and get into a Power Five conference. Do that and maybe someday we can talk about possible national championships. Don't do that and we're talking a lot more Gasparilla Bowls in the future.

And finally, here are 10 things I wish for Tampa Bay sports fans:

1. That the Bucs become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

2. That the Rays build a ballpark … in downtown St. Pete by the water. (Sorry, Tampa, I live in St. Pete.)

3. That local sports radio gets smarter and, well, just way better.

4. That, someday, an NBA team moves to Tampa Bay under the ownership of Jeff Vinik.

5. That USF men's basketball becomes relevant and that the women's team gets to a Final Four.

6. That Tiger Woods plays in the Valspar Championship year after year after year.

7. That the NCAA men's Final Four makes another return to Tampa Bay.

8. That college football's national championship makes another return to Tampa Bay.

9. That the Lightning is the NHL's next great dynasty.

10. That Josh Freeman makes a comeback and becomes a $100-million quarterback. (Okay, that last one might be more for me.)

Well that's it Tampa Bay. Thanks for reading all these years. I might have been wrong from time to time, although not about my support of Colin Kaepernick. I might have been right from time to time, although not about predicting the Bruins would beat the Lightning in last year's playoffs.

But I had a wonderful time. All the time.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones

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