As a team, there is a better feel. These days, the Bucs feel fresher, newer, re-energized.
The new head coach is impressive. The new general manager seems efficient. The old owners, once again, have opened their wallets. There are new players, and new attitudes, and new ideas.
Ah, but are the Bucs good yet?
This is the question that counts, of course. Even as you scan across all the new reinforcements with all of their fresh millions, the question is not if the Bucs are better — they are — but how much better?...
From the start, the offense will belong to Josh McCown.
It is his now. It will move at the sound of his voice and march to the rhythm of his arm. Wherever the Bucs go, McCown will lead them. Whatever they do, he will be the quarterback in charge.
McCown laid claim to the Bucs' offense on Wednesday afternoon as he signed a two-year contract to be the most important guy in the huddle. There will be no competition. Barring injury, there will be no alternative....
Where does a man begin to repair a broken athletic program?
The football program is in the ditch. The basketball program is on blocks in the yard. The university is on the verge of becoming one of those forgettable programs that is lost in a forgettable conference.
So welcome Mark Harlan to town and get out of his way.
After all, the guy has work to do.
If the reports that Harlan is indeed the new athletic director at USF are true (he could be approved this morning), then it is time for him to get after it. So many things are wrong with this program, and so much momentum has been lost along the way, and no one knows it more than those who care the most....
Here on hiring day, there seem to be a great many reasons for a free agent to wish to go to work for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
For starters, there is money.
Oodles of it, as they say.
To a free agent, this is a very important thing, of course. You can talk all you want about geography and opportunity, but most free agents tend to gravitate toward the highest stack of cash. That's the reason so many of the best free agents seem to wind up with the worst teams. Both sides can always regret it later....
03/05/14 Lightning Strikes
He was always one of the smallest players on the ice.
How then can the departure of Marty St. Louis leave such a large hole?
The Lightning not only traded away the best player in its history Wednesday, it also traded away a good chunk of its heart and a pound of its soul.
It traded away Marty Time, those precious moments when the game was ticking away and St. Louis would sweep in from the far reaches of the ice to save the day. It traded away grit and passion and fire. It traded away the best part of its history, and the closest link the team and the fans have ever had....
When it comes to the spanking new threads of the Tampa Bay Bucs, you can at least take solace in this:
All in all, they are not as hard on the eyes as the old offense.
At least, not quite.
Wow. I cannot blink. I cannot see. I fear I have stared too long into the new uniforms of the Bucs, and all that remains are sunspots and streams of melted crayons. It is as if Walt Disney has sneezed, and colors are flashing everywhere....
03/01/14 The Heater
As first steps go, this one was not particularly dramatic. Confetti did not fall. Rockets did not flare.
It was a small step, if you want to know the truth. If history remembers it at all, it will remember that it came in a fairly forgettable spring training game on a fairly forgettable afternoon.
Ah, but when David Price stepped toward the pitcher's mound Saturday afternoon for the first time this spring, it was at least a nice stride forward. Which, as they say, is a start....
02/26/14 Lightning Strikes
After all these years, is the bond really this brittle? After all these moments, is the ice really this thin?
After all this time together, could Marty St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning be on the verge of skating in opposite directions?
No, you want to scream, a thousand times no. Not over something this petty. Not with this kind of season on the line. Not with the shared history of a team and the most admired player it has ever had....
02/24/14 The Heater
The problem, when you get right down to it, is that the position is so poorly named. For the Rays, it has always been more about designation than it has been about hitting.
Around here, a better name for the spot might have been "a guy who has a bat and nothing better to do than try to hit something with it."
And so, we move to the committee approach to the designated hitter position of the Tampa Bay Rays. Tonight, it might be Matt Joyce. Tomorrow, it might be David DeJesus. The day after, it might be Sean Rodriguez....
In the middle of a perfect news conference, the last perfect Yankee of them all suddenly stopped what he was saying. A far more noble purpose than talk of retirement had popped into his mind.
And now Derek Jeter was telling his teammates they could leave, that they could get back to work instead of paying attention to whatever small things he had to say at his news conference....
Looking back, trouble really wasn't that difficult of a cocktail for the Miami Dolphins to mix.
On the other hand, neither is dynamite.
As we wade through the swill of the 144-page Wells report that gives us our lasting images of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin embarrassment, that's the impression that stands. This scandal didn't take that many parts in order to grow.
Yes, this could have happened elsewhere. It could have happened in Oakland or New York or Dallas or Chicago or Detroit or, yes, Tampa Bay....
02/14/14 The Heater
Before there were pitchers, before there were catchers, before there were green fields waiting for a team to begin work upon them, there was a singular belief in tomorrow.
For the Rays, it began with that single bit of confidence, with that simple agreement by those in charge that this team could be good, too.
So what the heck?
Why not go for it?
Here at the start of spring training, it sounds so simple to look back to those first few hours of the offseason. That was when executive vice president Andrew Friedman and his staff looked at the incomplete jigsaw puzzle that was the Tampa Bay Rays and nodded. Yes, the team needed to replace this piece, and it wanted to replace that one. But the corners were in place, and everyone could still see a bit of blue in the picture....
Here, the team majored in malfunction, and the quarterback pouted his way out of town, and after only two seasons, the coach micromanaged his way out of a job.
Ah, but take comfort.
In Cleveland, it is worse.
Here, there was disease on the walls, and the team only won four games, and the general manager was finally stopped before he generally managed again.
It could be worse....
You would cheer for him. Of course you would. At precisely the moment that Michael Sam leaned around a left tackle, you would rise to your feet in anticipation. As he closed in on the quarterback's blindside, a rarity for a Bucs player, your arms would find their way into the sky. As he threw the enemy player to the turf, you would scream his name, again and again. In that exultation of the moment, you would not give two hoots that Sam is gay. Would you?...
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.
It was the sound of a legend crashing to the ground.
It was the sound Seattle safety Kam Chancellor made when he crashed into a receiver on the Broncos' third play from scrimmage.
It was the sound of defensive lineman Cliff Avril as he slammed into Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and forced an interception.
Time and again, this was how it sounded as a young team claimed a Super Bowl title of its own Sunday night. The Seahawks' swarming, attacking defense — led by the "Legion of Boom" secondary — pounded and confounded the Broncos. In the end, the greatest sound of them all came rolling in from the Great Northwest, from the land of rain and coffee, where today, they ask this question:...