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Q&A with Florida Sports Hall of Fame member Hubert Mizell

For 27 years, Hubert Mizell was a fixture on the pages of the St. Petersburg Times, chronicling the sports landscape of the Tampa Bay area and beyond.

The Mizell box score includes 42 bowl games, 33 Masters, 10 Olympics, eight Wimbledons and countless columns about the personalities, events and issues that shaped sports in four different decades.

In recognition of his body of work, he was inducted on Aug. 16 into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven along with fellow Class of 2008 honorees and former NBA greats Otis Birdsong and Darryl Dawkins.

The Class of 2007 — featuring Bill Buchalter, Chandra Cheeseborough, Michael Irvin, Tino Martinez and Hulk Hogan — also was inducted.

Mizell, 69, retired from the Times in May 2001, then wrote a Sunday column for two more years. We touched base with him to see what he's been up to — and get his thoughts on a few familiar topics.

So, how's retirement treating you?

It's all about keeping your health. I underwent open-heart surgery to replace my aorta valve in January; recovery has been terrific. Marcy and I are in our 44th year of marriage and feel hugely blessed. We have a beautiful home in Gainesville where I see a lot of Gators playing stuff. I try to golf twice a week at Haile Plantation. Life is good. Our son, Kevin, also now lives in Gainesville. We first moved from St. Pete to the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. It was gorgeous but a bit remote for my blood. Gainesville is much better for me; more like home. I see plenty of familiar faces. I do two sports commentaries a week called "The Mizell Minute" for the local ABC television station. I just began writing features for Gator Country, a magazine whose executive editor is Buddy Martin, once one of America's more renowned sports editors and the man who hired me 35 years ago for the St. Petersburg Times. Small world, huh?

What does being inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame mean to you?

Recognition is especially nice when it registers big with the public. Some journalism rewards are known more to people in the business; they're dandy but a bit of an insider thing. This Hall means being remembered alongside some of our state's great athletic figures; it's an honor to be put in the company of persons I could never outrun, out-throw or outhit."

It's certainly quite a group.

It seems weird, me being with Michael Irvin, Tino Martinez, Darryl Dawkins, Otis Birdsong and such huge athletic talents. I hope they don't think a couple of sports writers weaken the show. That other newspaper guy, Bill Buchalter of the Orlando Sentinel, is special to me. I've known him more than 45 years, since we were college students.

What are your thoughts about the 2008 Bucs?

Having traveled to report on Tampa Bay's NFL franchise for 25 years in the Times, most of those seasons being less than triumphant, I enjoy seeing the team succeed and it was one of my greatest disappointments to not have been in San Diego when the Bucs won a Super Bowl. Maybe they'll give me another chance, but the NFC South will be a major challenge this year as New Orleans bounces back strong.

What did you think about the Brett Favre situation?

I don't blame the Packers, since they were put into a "move on" gear by Favre himself. I will pull hard for Aaron Rodgers. As for Brett, I love watching him play with those unique emotions, but I don't think he will lead the Jets to playoff glory. … I think the Bucs are as well off with Jeff Garcia.

You've seen plenty of Olympic competitions during your career. What are your thoughts about the Beijing Games?

We were visiting friends in Chicago during the first week so I got a late start. I did report from 10 Olympics, six summer and four winter, and they provided some of my most memorable experiences, including the Miracle on Ice hockey game in 1980 at Lake Placid.

It all began in 1972 at Munich, where the story lines would be so explosive and terrifying. I worked for the Associated Press at the time, and on every one of Mark Spitz's seven gold medals and world records I wrote the AP story that was read by millions of persons in thousands of newspapers around the world. So the wonderworks of Michael Phelps have special meaning to me.

But it is athletics — track and field events — that are the Olympics' centerpiece for me. Although, the rich dudes in U.S. basketball are of interest, partly because I was in Barcelona for the Times to write about exploits of the real Dream Team led by Jordan, Johnson, Bird and Barkley. Olympics have frankly gotten too big and too expensive. But the efforts of China are intriguing and also both impressive and perplexing.

These are the last Games in which softball will be played. It won't be around for London in 2012. Your thoughts?

It's sad, a real shame. Softball, to my eyes, is the most entertaining team sport played by women. Players always seem so honored, so happy and so supportive of one another. I love watching the NCAA softball playoffs. This must be another of the anti-USA plot by Olympic masses who envy our country so much.

Finally, how about the new Rays?

I follow them daily, on cable TV and Internet. They're fun — good young pitching, outstanding defense but not enough right-handed hitting. I speak often with Rick Vaughn, the Rays' vice president of communications. I feel such a strong connection to the team, having written so many words in pursuit of a major-league baseball franchise. I'm looking forward to October."

Q&A with Florida Sports Hall of Fame member Hubert Mizell 08/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 21, 2008 11:35am]
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