As a team, they were going to be better.
As an organization, they were going to be higher-minded.
As a franchise, they were going to be Lovelier.
Then temptation wanders past, and the next thing you know, the Tampa Bay Bucs have asked the devil to dance.
Tampa Bay's kinder, friendlier image took a hit Monday morning when the team asked the toxic Richie Incognito to stop by for a visit. Just like that, the Bucs became like every other team trying to turn third and 2 into third and 1. Just like that, the Bucs became all about football — and only about football — without any pretense of being standing for anything more....
From now on, why, everything is going to be wonderful.
Peace has come to college football. In the future, no arguing will be allowed. The best team will always win, and the best player will take the Heisman, and the band won't miss a note as it plays the fight song. Logic and cool heads will prevail.
Or not, depending on which nitwit you happen to be listening to at the time.
Are you kidding? Of course there is going to be controversy. Loud voices are the soundtrack to college football. For crying out loud, this isn't math....
08/20/14 The Heater
No, Grant Balfour did not single-handedly kill the Rays' baseball season.
He just failed to save it.
That was bad enough.
Alas, too many things have gone wrong to pin this all on Balfour. There have been too many nights when the hitting turns off. There have been too many blown leads. There has not been enough power. There has not been enough speed. There has not been enough Evan Longoria. A lot of Rays have contributed to the underachievement....
Don't look down.
Whatever you do, don't slip.
Talk about FSU being ranked No. 1 all over again. Talk about how shiny last year's trophy is. Talk about how many championships a school might win in a row.
But don't give a thought to all the things that could go wrong.
Ah, it is a fine time to be a follower of the FSU Seminoles, the biggest dog in college football's kennel. Why, Jameis Winston might win another Heisman Trophy, just so he can use them as bookends. Why, any day now, Jimbo Fisher might be anointed the new Nick Saban. Why, only six FSU players were projected in the first round of a recent ESPN mock draft for next season, but it's still early enough to get a couple more guys in....
08/11/14 Auto racing
Two tales of tears and tragedy.
This is what you will find at the bottom of the sorrow. You will find sadness. For the kid who died. For the star who is left with the questions about how he contributed to it. For a dark night at the track.
You cannot get around either half of the story. One life ended. Another was altered. For all of the questions, and for all of the accusations, this much seems inescapable: The rest of it will be argued about for years....
Just a little would have helped. Just a bit to get him through the first game.
That's all fans of the Tampa Bay Bucs would have wanted. Just a preview of coming attractions. Just something to rest hope on. Just some reason to believe. That's all his coaches would have asked. That's all his teammates would have expected.
Just a brief glance....
No one wants to see the book on greatness close. And so you find yourself wanting to believe. You want to believe Tiger Woods will wake up, at 38, and his back will be fine once more. You want to believe his knees will be healed. You want to believe he can regain the same mental edge he once had. You want to believe he can master his driver, not to mention his putter. You want to believe the sheer torque of his swing will not work against his body. You want to believe he can make the rest of the field cower in the background....
CANTON, Ohio — His is a legacy built largely without words. For most of his days, talking was the least impressive thing Derrick Brooks did.
He reached immortality quietly, you might say. There were plenty of other Bucs to take care of the talking, other Bucs who controlled the volume. Brooks? For the most part, he remained quiet, humble. Only his accomplishments shouted.
But on a cool, Canton evening, as he stood behind a lectern with all of professional football looking on, all Brooks had were words. And so a lifetime's worth of them spilled out of him, smooth and strong and unhurried. This was Brooks' moment, the moment his legacy was embraced by everyone who has come into contact with him, and he was determined not to leave anyone out....
Tonight, he will be recognized as one of the finest football players in the history of the planet. With Derrick Brooks, that is just the start of it.
He won a Super Bowl. And he changed people's lives.
He reached 11 Pro Bowls. And he gave hope to children.
He made, by the Bucs' bookkeeping, 2,198 tackles. And he is just getting started.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame? How about voting Brooks into life's Hall of Fame?...
He was going to bob. He was going to weave. He was going to add one more chapter to the Greatest Show on Turf.
Yeah, this was going to be fun. Torry Holt was going to catch a pass, and he was going hit a seam, and he was going to change the scoreboard. By golly, he was going to dance.
Then trouble happened.
Then Derrick Brooks happened.
Suddenly, the whole world blew up. Holt's head flew backward, and there was a loud crack, like a lightning bolt hitting a large tree. Holt rumbled to the turf with his rib cage screaming. The star receiver was in pain....
07/31/14 The Heater
Someday, it will just feel like a bad day at the ballpark. Nothing worse than that.
Someday, when the Rays have witnessed enough greatness to count on it coming again, this will seem like just another visit by reality. Someday, on the other side of Hall of Fame careers and golden moments, this will feel like one more chapter in a glorious book. Someday, when the return has blossomed into other players worth cherishing, this may feel like an investment in a better day....
In the middle of the chaos, there is order.
It is here, in the center of it, that a defense begins to make sense. It is here, surrounded by the violence and the madness and the bodies and the brutality, where the counter-argument of the Bucs begins to take form.
It starts with one man, with one job. If Gerald McCoy is sturdy enough, the defense around him has a chance to succeed. If he is not, it does not....
You imagine running backs diving into the pile and never coming out. You imagine quarterbacks falling to their knees in terror. You imagine wide receivers running deep patterns and never coming back to the huddle.
Yeah, those guys must have been something to behold. You could locate their victims by the mushroom clouds.
A Hall of Famer at both defensive tackles. Two more at linebacker. Another at cornerback, and quarterback, and kicker. One at owner. One at coach. In total, that's nine Hall of Famers from the same sideline....
Every year, it's someone.
Every year, some team matters again. Every year, someone is relevant once more. Every year, things work out somewhere.
So why not this team?
And why not this year?
Go ahead. Laugh if you will. It has been a long time since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mattered. Every year, on the verge of training camp, the Bucs have talked about being good enough for the rest of the league to notice. And in almost every year, disappointment has followed....
The problem with all these wonderful new toys, of course, is that some assembly is required. In the end, they all have to work.
The new Mike Evans action figure? It has to function. The old Josh McCown model? It cannot break. The new Anthony Collins plaything? It has to be built to last.
It is the same with Alterraun Verner, and with Evan Dietrich-Smith, and with Clinton McDonald. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and with Mike Jenkins, and with Brandon Myers. When a team makes so many moves in one offseason, it is hard to expect all of them to work out....