The new face of the franchise has an easy and alluring smile. He has a voice that is soft yet confident. He has a personality that is charismatic and warm.
Watch him for a few moments. Listen to his words. He says all the right things. He shows humility and poise, humor and grace. Immediately he engages you. He pulls you in. He makes you want to like him.
Then you stop. Is this authentic, or is it all an act? Is he being genuine, or is this a carefully rehearsed performance designed to fool you into liking him?...
TAMPA — Bucs general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith sounded pretty convincing and completely comfortable when talking about their decision to take Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick Thursday in the NFL draft.
Great talent on the field, Lovie said. Good person off the field, Licht said. Perfect guy to lead a franchise, both said.
Tell you what, fellas. You better be right. You better make this work....
Billy Donovan is the reason for the greatest moments in Gators basketball history. Now he's the reason for its most heartbreaking.
He's gone. This time for real and this time for good.
After doing all he could to turn a football school into a basketball one — and coming close to doing so on more than one occasion — Donovan is leaving Gainesville and college basketball for Oklahoma City and the NBA....
04/29/15 Lightning Strikes
You can open your eyes now. Go ahead and exhale.
The Lightning is still alive.
It is moving on after Wednesday's thrilling Game 7 victory over the Red Wings.
For the past week and a half, Tampa Bay gave you doubts and tested your faith as well as your blood pressure. Each game, each night, each shift left you breathless or exhilarated, frustrated or anxious. One moment, the Lightning looked like a team that could be fitted for Stanley Cup rings. The next, it was being measured for coffins....
Jameis Winston stands a rock-solid 6 feet, 4 inches tall and was blessed with a right arm that can throw a football like a missile. Playing quarterback for one of the best football programs in the country, the Florida State star put together a college career that ranks among the greatest of all time.
He led the Seminoles to a national championship. He won a Heisman Trophy, given annually to the best college football player in the country. He lost only one game in two seasons....
04/28/15 Lightning Strikes
The most important member of the Lightning walked down the hallway in a T-shirt and shorts and set his 6-foot-7 frame at an unused locker inside the locker room at Amalie Arena.
He sat back, crossed his ankles, smiled easily, told a few stories and acted like a guy who had all the concerns of someone about to play Frisbee at the beach. You couldn't tell that he is about to play the biggest hockey game of his life....
04/27/15 Lightning Strikes
DETROIT — Tyler Johnson, the Lightning's smallest player who is playing like a giant in these Stanley Cup playoffs, took a short pass from Nikita Kucherov at the blue line and blazed down the left wing. He lowered a shoulder and made it seem as if Red Wings defenseman Danny Dekeyser had suddenly turned into a statue.
Just as he was about to plow into Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek, Johnson slammed on the brakes and lifted a quick wrist shot over the right shoulder of Mrazek and into the net. Less than four minutes into Game 6, with elimination staring it dead in the eyes, the Lightning jumped out to a lead....
04/26/15 Lightning Strikes
Standing on the fourth floor of the team hotel Sunday afternoon, moments after a 35-minute meeting, Lightning forward Brian Boyle said, "We know what is at stake."
Teammate and defenseman Victor Hedman, just a few feet away and wearing his Rays cap backward, said, "(Tonight) is the biggest game of the season."
Both are absolutely right. A lot is at stake tonight when the Lightning plays the Red Wings in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. And of course it is the biggest game of the season for Tampa Bay, which trails the best-of-seven series three games to two....
04/25/15 Lightning Strikes
This series feels over.
It's not. Not officially.
The Red Wings have three victories and it takes four to win a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But it sure seems as if the life has been squeezed out of the Lightning and that the Red Wings will finally put Tampa Bay away Monday night in Detroit.
No one saw this coming.
No one, except the residents of Hockeytown, saw the Lightning losing in the first round to the Red Wings. And certainly not the way it is going down....
04/24/15 Lightning Strikes
BRANDON — There are plenty of flowery words to describe the Lightning's come-from-behind Game 4 series-saving overtime victory Thursday night in Detroit.
Amazing. Remarkable. Miraculous. Improbable. Incredible.
Well, here is one more: meaningless.
That amazing, remarkable, miraculous, improbable, incredible victory won't mean a thing if the Lightning gives it back this evening in Game 5 at Amalie Arena....
04/23/15 Lightning Strikes
The Lightning was dead. This series was over. This season was over.
Just a few more minutes. Just one more inevitable loss after that and the Lightning was headed off to the next round — the next round of golf, that is.
But then something strange happened on the way to elimination.
It wasn't that the Lightning realized it was good. It realized that it wasn't good enough....
04/22/15 Lightning Strikes
Time to step up, Steven.
Time to dominate. Time to take over. Time to gather your teammates, lift them on to your back and say, "Follow me, boys, I'll show you the way."
Time for you to be what you are: the team's leader and best player. And the time is now. Tonight.
This is why you're here. This is why you were drafted first overall. These are the moments when you get to prove you are truly one of the elite players in the world....
04/21/15 Lightning Strikes
Joe Louis Arena was dark save for the lights on all the cellphone screens. Opening faceoff of Game 3 of these Stanley Cup playoffs between the Lightning and Red Wings was still a few minutes away when the chant began.
"Let's Go Red Wings … Let's Go Red Wings … LET'S GO RED WINGS."
Louder and louder it grew.
When the lights came back on and revealed a sea of red jerseys waving white towels, the roar was shaking this old-time hockey barn. ...
04/20/15 Lightning Strikes
DETROIT — Valtteri Filppula will be right here. He just needs a few moments.
Lightning practice ended about an hour ago and Filppula will be glad to talk about his new team, his old team and how his new team is playing his old team in these Stanley Cup playoffs. But, before all that, he has something else a little more important to tend to.
First, a deep-muscle massage then a little work from the chiropractor....
Most disappointing show
Just last week I sang the praises of ESPN's outstanding Outside the Lines. Then it comes out with one of its weakest efforts. Sunday's show was dedicated to whether or not the Bucs should draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and make him the face of their franchise despite questions about Winston's character.
Worthy topic, poorly executed....