08/21/14 Human Interest
A simple task awaited Sara Walsh when she arrived at ESPN headquarters last week.
Shoot hoops with hip-hop star Lil' Wayne.
"I hate to say this, but sometimes I feel like I don't have a job," Walsh said later with a laugh.
To go from three-sport star at Gulf High to SportsCenter anchor and Fantasy Football Now commentator makes Walsh the envy of a lot of aspiring sportscasters and sports fans....
08/20/14 Human Interest
I can't understand why some people want to dump water on a good idea.
The positives that have poured out of the ALS ice bucket challenge far outweigh the negatives. In case you've missed this Internet sensation, let me explain.
Social media networks have filled with people dumping ice water on their heads and challenging friends to donate to the ALS Foundation or accept the challenge. They have ranged from celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake to athletes including Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy....
08/17/14 Human Interest
A predominantly black church in Tampa cancels a gay man's funeral.
A Hillsborough School Board candidate of Indian descent is smeared with a mailer so vile and racist she called a news conference to respond.
A St. Petersburg worker remains bitter about a white supervisor spray-painting his safety vest with KKK — largely because the supervisor remains employed and in charge.
As a community, are we learning from the past and evolving as a society? For every action we've taken against bigotry and racism lies an opposite reaction that suggests such adverse attitudes have simply gone underground....
Craig Latimer and I have something in common.
Like all journalists, I strive to report the news and not be a part of it. It's much the same for Latimer, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
If all goes well on Aug. 26, results will roll in, complaints will be minimal and the fact that this is Latimer's first election as supervisor will be a mere footnote.
But if Latimer ends up answering more questions about technical gaffes than turnout, he will be singing Oh, What A Night for all the wrong reasons....
08/14/14 Human Interest
SUN CITY CENTER — Doug Arnold is going to build a town hall in Sun City Center, a place where people can come and exchange ideas and interests like back in the good old days.
And he's not going to use bricks, mortar or any construction materials to erect this center.
He's going to use the Internet.
Arnold, a Sun City Center resident, announced plans for the Sun City Center Citizens Network last week. He's currently beta testing the site at suncitycentercitizensnetwork.ning.com with the hopes of creating a digital town hall that will help residents in the retirement communities connect on a better level....
08/13/14 Human Interest
When the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shriners held its first council session in Tampa in 2010, Visit Tampa Bay national sales manager Sherri Brown asked the then-potentate which cities had wowed him during his 42 years as a member.
"None of them," he said.
Brown made it her mission to make Tampa the city with an attention to detail and gestures both big and small. One of those small gestures turned out to be decisive. When the Shriners chose a new potentate, Don Parks, Brown gathered up nearly everyone in the bureau — about 40 employees — and had them greet the new leader with applause as he exited a ballroom....
08/10/14 Human Interest
We need to stop making excuses for people who don't vote.
Some civil rights groups continue to favor minority-majority voting districts such as the gerrymandered 5th Congressional District at the center of an ongoing fair districts dispute. They argue blacks will feel disenfranchised and won't vote if placed in a district where they're in the minority.
Balderdash. Blacks need to become more engaged so they can get candidates, Democrat or Republican, to focus more on their needs even if they are in the minority. Balanced districts and active groups on both sides of the spectrum will yield candidates reflective of Florida's status as a purple state. …...
08/07/14 Human Interest
I met with a friend this week who has bipolar disorder.
She asked if I would help her send a message to people about her challenges. She shared details about her manic episodes and bouts with depression. As we spoke, she said she was in a good place, her medication maintaining a balance.
But for some time, she has endured highs and lows. She talked about taking to the streets and waking up neighbors in the middle of the night during a manic high. She spoke of lying on the couch for days, unwilling to even shower during one of her lows....
08/03/14 Human Interest
In my days of covering the NFL and the Bucs, linebacker Derrick Brooks left an indelible impression not for what he said after victories, but for what he said after losses.
Notably, he always took the time to speak to the media, no matter how bad the loss. And when we asked how the team could reverse its misfortunes, Brooks always said he would look in the mirror and start by pointing the finger at himself — even though he almost always had played superbly....
07/30/14 Human Interest
The logo of the National Football League, commonly — and sometimes reverently — referred to as "the shield," continues to get dented and dinged because of how Commissioner Roger Goodell chose to discipline Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The video of Rice dragging the limp body of his then-fiancee — they have since married — off an elevator in an Atlantic City casino led to his indictment on a third-degree aggravated assault charge. Although he entered a pretrial diversion program and can have his record expunged if he completes the program, most thought the league would send a message with a penalty equal to or greater than the penalties it issues for other off-field infractions....
07/27/14 Human Interest
Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Gil Fulbright says he doesn't care about voters unless they're a donor or "can write a fat check."
He ends each of his commercials (see them at honestgil.com) with the phrase, "For the right price, I'll approve any message."
It's pretty funny stuff, but the message behind the commercials is quite serious. Represent.Us is a nonpartisan group seeking to end the "legalized corruption" of politics and the satirical ads from its fake candidate may be the best weapon — because under Fulbright's quips lie a sobering honesty that resonates right here in Florida. Go to Represent.Us. …...
The other day, a slick, expensive political mailer arrived from a group called Progressive Choice Florida.
The message caught my attention.
Here's what it said (sort of):
Mr. Hooper: We believe you are a dumb African-American voter who can easily be manipulated with misleading facts about gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.
As you can see on this flier, we've twisted some statistics and skewed some information to trick you into believing that the former governor is the sole reason why African-Americans make up only 16 percent of Florida's population but 48 percent of Florida's prison inmates....
07/20/14 Human Interest
Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia deserves kudos for convening parents concerned about the new Florida Standards.
According to a report by Tampa Bay Times staff writer Marlene Sokol, Elia helped ease the worry of those at a recent meeting in Ruskin.
The superintendent is not without her critics and the district is not without its flaws, but in a competitive world of charter and private schools and the legislature's wrong-headed attempt to expand vouchers, I'm glad Elia recognizes the need to promote the system's positives and assuage concerns. The competitive market requires no less....
07/18/14 Human Interest
If a little boy sat in class, shy of supplies, Mandy Van Brunt found a way to quietly provide pencils or paper.
If a little girl arrived at school, shaken and sad because authorities had taken her parents to jail the night before, the Frost Elementary teacher found a way to lend comfort without drawing attention to herself.
In her 15 years as a teacher, Van Brunt always gravitated toward Title I schools, putting herself in a position to provide for some of the school district's neediest children. Until her final days, she always found a way to help her students....
07/13/14 Human Interest
Orlando's WFTV-Ch. 9 reported over the weekend that two police officers in the Central Florida town of Fruitland Park are off the job after FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that they were members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter.
Yes, this is 2014, but even now Florida is near the top when it comes to being home to hate groups. Despite all our progress, we still have work to do....