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. Pin Bucs' loss on timid coaching



    They lost, because they were not bold enough to go for the win.

    They lost, because they were not aggressive enough to avoid the pitfall of settling for less.

    They lost, because in the NFL, teams who play for field goals usually do.

    Sum this one up as simply as that. The Bucs lost to the Rams on Sunday because they lost their nerve. They lost because they would not reach out and grab victory with both hands. They lost because passive teams usually do....

    Bucs head coach Lovie Smith looks on towards the end of the fourth quarter. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  2. Bucs fans already have that sinking feeling


    TAMPA — It is awfully early to be this high on the tightrope.

    Also, the wind is blowing. And it is a long way down.

    Two games into the season, and already, the Tampa Bay Bucs look kind of, well, wobbly. The coach is new, and the uniforms are new, and a lot of players are new. But the empty feeling is familiar. The high wire is as slick as ever, and the rocks are jagged.

    Already, before the season slips away from them, the Bucs need to win....

    Bucs quarterback Josh McCown seeks to rebound from his two-interception game in the opener.
  3. Should Roger Goodell go? Yes. Will he? Probably not


    Justice is not supposed to care about how much money a man makes. Justice does not concern itself with how much star power his name carries. Nor is justice supposed to be about what he has done in the past. In professional sports, the rules are simple. If a guy messes up, he pays the price. If he is dumb enough, or confused enough, or wrong enough, he faces the consequences. Anything else is argument. That was true for Ray Rice. It's true for Roger Goodell, too. There has never been a sports commissioner under the kind of fire as Goodell, a man who remains commissioner today because of the simple fact he has made a lot of money for the NFL owners. He has not been strong enough. He has not been thorough enough. He has not been enough of a leader. And so Goodell must go. There are so many levels to how severely Goodell has mucked up the Ray Rice investigation, a judgment that, when you get right down to it, wasn't a particularly challenging one. Rice abused his then-fiance, so the league should throw Rice out. What's so complicated about that? Yet the NFL has turned that investigation into tap dancing and wrist-slapping, into video tape highlights and dodgeball. Goodell has failed the public, a violation of his prime directive. Along the way, he has lost all credibility. Even now, he cowers beneath his desk, waiting for the headlines to pass, hoping for the outrage to die. He gets a couple of these tests a year, and this time, he stepped into the muck. Will he survive? Probably. Should he survive? No, not if doing the right thing is the mandate....

    FILE - In t his Feb. 2, 2014, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes the field before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos in East Rutherford, N.J.  A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL employee three months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn't see the violent images until they were published this week. The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number confirming the video arrived on April 9. A female voice expresses thanks for providing the video and says: "You're right. It's terrible." Goodell sent a memo on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, to the 32 teams reiterating that the NFL never saw the video until Monday, Sept. 8.(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) NY126
  4. NFL historically bungles domestic violence cases


    Once, another running back stood accused of abuse so serious it would make you cringe.

    Once, another wife told chilling tales of mistreatment, but in the end sided with her husband over the concept of legal justice.

    Once, another team … did nothing.

    And Michael Pittman ran on.

    If there is any solace to be had in the aftermath of the Ray Rice release, perhaps this is it. Finally, justice occurred. Finally, there was an attempt by somebody to get it right....

    Tampa Bay signed Michael Pittman in 2002 despite a history of domestic violence, including an endangerment plea with Bucs.
  5. Loss to Panthers exposes Bucs' numerous problems



    The ending was great. The movie was lousy.

    So, would you like to see it again?

    That's where we are with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the nice, misleading way they concluded their defeat against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. They almost won. Yippee. They came close to erasing their own ineptitude. Yay. They almost made you forget the way they sleepwalked for 3½ quarters. Yahoo....

    Josh McCown looks down as he prepares to leave the field during Sunday's 20-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  6. For Willie Taggart, USF Bulls' progress is real



    He lost his wide receiver before the day began.

    He lost his quarterback one snap into the game.

    He lost the answer sheet to his special teams for the entire afternoon.

    Still, Willie Taggart has not lost the faith. His USF team lost a football game, and it lost an opportunity at a statement game, and it lost for the 11th time in 14 games. It lost a chance to notch an upset on an afternoon it got six turnovers from the opposition....

    South Florida head coach Willie Taggart watches the game clock during the third quarter against Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, August 30, 2014. South Florida defeated Western Carolina 36 to 31.
  7. Defense needs to carry the load for Bucs



    This year, the roar returns.

    Doesn't it?

    This year, the Bucs defense will be fierce once more. This year, opposing quarterbacks won't be able to wear flip-flops, and running backs won't be able to pick the closest available freeway, and wide receivers won't spend Sunday as if they were going out for a jog on the beach.

    This year, the muscle comes back.

    Doesn't it?...

    The Bucs signed end Michael Johnson, returning a fumble, from the Bengals during the offseason.
  8. It's time for people to notice Bucs' Lavonte David


    TAMPA — He should dance, the way Ray Lewis used to dance.

    He should live on the edge, or on the other side of it, where Lawrence Taylor once resided. He should bite people in the pileups, the way Dick Butkus used to do. He should have Mike Single­tary's crazy eyes, or have Jack Lambert's gap-toothed profile, or Patrick Willis' oversized biceps.

    Perhaps then, the world might notice Lavonte David....

    Bucs linebacker Lavonte David, dragging down Bills running back Fred Jackson for a 2-yard loss in a December game, consistently creates havoc in the backfield and has strong coverage skills as well.
  9. Winston again just finds a way to get a win


    ARLINGTON, Texas

    It was late in the evening, and goodness knows, it was past time for something special.

    The night felt all wrong. Florida State was sputtering, and quarterback Jameis Winston was spewing, and Oklahoma State had taken on the look of a Hollywood underdog. A 17-point lead had dwindled to three, and even that felt like a deficit.

    This is how you defend a national title?...

    Karlos Williams, who rushes for a team-high 66 yards, jumps over the arm of Oklahoma State safety Larry Stephens during the fourth quarter.
  10. New Buc Logan Mankins jumps into unknown



    In time, he will be known as a warrior here, too, as a tough cuss who will fight you for every inch. In time, he might be known as the answer.

    Eventually, he might even be known as the final piece on an offensive line that has been rebuilt for success.

    First, however, Logan Mankins' head has to stop spinning.

    He just got here, for crying out loud, ripped right out of the success of the New England Patriots. He doesn't really know Anthony Collins, the tackle who will play next to him, and he has just met Evan Dietrich-Smith, the center who will play on his other side. The colors are new to him. The weather has a clay-oven feel....

    New Bucs guard Logan Mankins watches warmups before the preseason finale against the  Redskins at Raymond James Stadium. “Only time will tell what I have here,” he says.
  11. Shelton: Just talking to Incognito is bad for Bucs' image



    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....

    Bucs head coach Lovie Smith leaves the field following a preseason loss to the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium Saturday.
  12. College football playoff? Let the arguments begin


    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....

    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 28: Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles throws before a game with the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
  13. Balfour biggest letdown in Rays' season

    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....

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) tips his caps to a lot of booing after being pulled in the eleventh inning during the Detroit Tigers at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, August 19, 2014. The Detroit Tigers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8 - 6.
  14. FSU aims to walk tightrope to another title


    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....

    Will Jameis Winston and the Seminoles be flying high again at the end of the 2014 season? [AP photo]
  15. Tony Stewart faces tough questions after racing death

    Auto racing

    Two men.

    Two drivers.

    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....

    A small memorial of flowers is seen at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Monday. [AP photo]