Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1990 as the National Football League writer and became a sports columnist two years later. He writes a column several times a week, his subjects ranging from the familiar to the forgotten, from the Super Bowl to a vacant lot.

Gary began his journalism career writing about sports in Alabama and Georgia for the Columbus Enquirer in 1978. In 1984, he moved to the Miami Herald, where for six years he covered the Dolphins, the NFL and the University of Florida. His most admired athletes: Arthur Ashe, because of his grace; Michael Jordan, because of his competitiveness; Cal Ripken, because of his work ethic; Steffi Graf, because of her drive. Least admired athletes: the growing list of drug-using, spouse-abusing, money-driven, fan-unfriendly pedestal squatters who think they are on a scholarship from life itself. Some memorable moments as a sports writer: watching Bear Bryant walk off the field after winning a national championship. Watching Don Shula walk off for the last time. Watching the Bucs and the Lightning rise from the ooze to championship seasons. Watching John Cullen look at his daughter on a Father's Day he wondered if cancer would allow him to enjoy. To Shelton, this is sport. Not necessarily the games, but the emotions and memories they build. He would rather share those with readers than the nuances of the infield fly rule.


Twitter: @Gary_Shelton

  1. Bucs' Gerald McCoy is The Man on defense



    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....

    Gerald McCoy (93) stands with his teammates during Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp at One Buc Place in Tampa on Saturday, July 26, 2014.
  2. How many Hall of Famers does a one-title team deserve?


    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....

    Len Dawson had an 82.56 passer rating over 19 years, winning three AFL titles and one of KC’s two Super Bowls.
  3. Turnaround NFL team for 2014: Why not Bucs?


    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....

    If the Bucs engineer a turnaround this season, new coach Lovie Smith could be a big factor.
  4. Bucs' success depends on Michael Johnson pressuring QBs


    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....

    Michael Johnson, left, participates in OTAs at One Buc Place last month. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. Jim Kelly faces his toughest fight against cancer


    With other quarterbacks, you would start off by talking about the way he could throw the ball downfield. You would write poems about that arm.

    Jim Kelly could always sling it. Even in Buffalo, Kelly was always cooler than the temperatures. It didn't matter how hard the wind would swirl, and it didn't matter how bitter the cold might be. He could always burrow a football through the elements and find success in the end zone....

    Jim Kelly, former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, cheers after receiving his NFL blazer during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Mayor's Breakfast at the Civic Center in Canton, Ohio, Friday, Aug. 2, 2002. (AP Photo/The Repository, Joy Newcomb)
  6. Time to trade David Price? Rays need Friedman's magic touch

    The Heater

    Andrew Friedman was always the smartest guy in the room. Over the years, that has been no less important to the Rays than, say, third base.

    In the worst of times, Friedman was the equalizer. More than pitching, more than prospects. More than defense, more than managing.

    For years, this has been a franchise that has thought its way out of the muck. It won when the dollars didn't make sense. It won when the economics left it helpless to stop the attrition that all small market teams face. It won at the rich kids' table. ...

    The Rays traded James Shields, and now is the best time to trade David Price, columnist Gary Shelton says.
  7. At 86, Al Williams wants nothing more than to share love of golf


    First, you must know how much he loves the game.

    Only afterward, you will find how important it is for him to help others play it.

    It was early in life when golf claimed the heart of Al Williams. It did not matter how hard it was to play. It did not matter how hard it was to get to play.

    There was something magical about the little ball, the way it skittered across a green. Golf demands a set of skills that he loved from the beginning, and it filled him as no other sport did. To the black kid on the bicycle, there was nothing else quite like it....

    At 86, Al Williams is in charge of a nonprofit he designed and self-financed to help black golfers tee off past their teens.
  8. Lightning chooses steady course to developing talent

    Lightning Strikes

    By this time, Roman Hamrlik was a starter.

    By this time, Vinny Lecavalier was a star.

    By this time, Steven Stamkos was about to make Barry Melrose look more foolish than anyone in the history of hockey.

    Yep, that's the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pretty much, you established what you had in a prospect early. Think of it as the Jiffy-Pop method of stardom. You draft them. You turn them loose. You let them grow-as-they-go....

    As much as anyone, Jonathan Drouin represents the difference in this franchise, Gary Shelton writes. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
  9. Josh McCown latest candidate in Bucs' QB search


    We want to see what Lovie Smith sees. That's all.

    We want to glance into the future and see touchdowns. We want to see big plays. We want to see 10-yard completions on third and 9.

    We want to picture Josh McCown, success story.

    As a community goes, hey, this one is easy. We are willing to be convinced. We want to see McCown with his fist in the air, celebrating another touchdown. We want to see him dissect the opposition in the final moments of a winnable game. We want to see him pick teams apart with his accuracy, with his efficiency. ...

    New Bucs quarterback Josh McCown doesn’t have a lot to live up to. If he wins 15 games over the next two seasons, he would be sixth in franchise history for victories by Bucs starting quarterbacks.
  10. Price, Rays have been a perfect match

    The Heater


    The kid would be here forever. The kid would never leave.

    The kid would perch on the top step, and he would tug his cap down to his eyebrows, and he would blow his bubble gum into bubbles the size of his head. The kid would shoot his fist into the air at the nearest triumph, and he would grin that wide grin of his, and he would offer to be Joe Maddon's backup manager anytime Maddon needed it....

    Since being called up by the Rays in 2008, David Price has been every bit as good a teammate as he has been a pitcher.
  11. World Cup conspiracy theories abound for U.S. team

    World Cup

    This match, you could play on the grassy knoll.

    This match, you could ask Elvis to officiate.

    This match should be attended by the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, and what do you know, he has just the evening gown to wear to it.

    No, you aren't going to believe the soccer match that is scheduled for Thursday afternoon between the United States and Germany. In fact, if it ends in a tie — which is always highly probable in soccer, and would send both teams through to the next round of the World Cup — no one is going to believe it. One hundred years from Thursday, there would be many who would raise an eyebrow every time the score is mentioned....

    Jurgen Klinsmann is facing questions about secret deals.
  12. Golf needs Tiger Woods back, and needs him to win


    And so a sport waits.

    Soon, he will return. Just in time to save a sport again.

    Soon, Tiger Woods will walk out of the clubhouse with something to do. Soon, he will be back, and he will be healthy, more or less, and once again golf will be complete. Soon, he will squint into the distance, and he will grip his driver once again, and the sport will revolve around him once more.

    He has not played in a long time, and he has not won a significant tournament in a very long time, and yes, his image still needs work. But golf has waited an eternity for Tiger. The sport doesn't just want him. It needs him....

    Tiger Woods is returning to the PGA Tour this week after missing  about three months following back surgery.
  13. It's time for Rays to start selling

    The Heater



    Sell now.

    Sell pretty much everyone.

    Mark down the infielders. Discount the outfielders. Run a blue-light special on the pitchers. Slash the prices on the bullpen. Print coupons. Offer two-for-one deals. Turn Tropicana Field into Crazy Andy's House of Bargains.

    Sell vigorously. Sell desperately. Sell furiously.

    It is time, before a bad season settles into a bad reality. The dead-last Rays, 17 games under .500 and sinking like a rock in water, lost another game Wednesday afternoon. This time, it was 2-0, and the Rays gave every impression they would not have scored if the game had gone on until a week from Sunday. If then....

    The Rays should gather a few assets. Evan Longoria, pictured. Alex Cobb. Chris Archer. Wil Myers. Matt Moore. Hang onto them. And try to rebuild around them, Gary Shelton writes. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  14. From far and near, fun of World Cup comes here

    World Cup

    And then, delirium.

    In a bar 3,884 miles from the winning goal, packed and proud, chanting and cheering, spraying beer and hopping up-and-down in that sing-song dance of a winning soccer fan, heaven came to St. Petersburg on Monday evening. It came a lot of other places, too, in small bars and sports pubs and cozy speakeasies, because the great moments tend to travel a bit.

    In this instance, it was a jammed bar called MacDinton's in St. Pete, where glory arrived in the form of a 2-1 victory over a Ghana team that has vexed this United States team before. It was there that the World Cup came to town, to this one and a lot of other ones. It was there that the truest joy this sport can claim was shared with the most exuberant fans you could imagine....

    Jerry Green, center, the father of Tampa-born U.S. midfielder Julian Green, celebrates a World Cup goal against Ghana at a watch party at MacDinton’s Irish Pub in Tampa.
  15. California Chrome Triple Crown would be boon for sport


    Even if California Chrome, the horse of the moment, wins going away, it isn't as if Mr. Ed is going to return to network television.

    Even if he dominates the distance and the track and a field of fresh competitors, it isn't as if businessmen will show up for work next week wearing spurs that jingle jangle jingle.

    Even if he establishes himself as the horse of his era, it isn't as if his sport will replace the NFL on Sunday afternoons....

    Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, left, with Victor Espinoza aboard, rides next to outrider Miguel Gutierrez after training on Belmont Park’s main track.