Good morning and happy holidays.
As many celebrate Christmas this morning by opening gifts from under the quickly dried-out and brittle tree, let's not forget about our local sports stars and personalities. Here is what we hope they are unwrapping on this holiday morning.
Tampa Bay Rays front office
A slice of humble pie. Perhaps the Rays won't be hungry, seeing as how they want to have their cake and eat it, too, with their stance on getting out of one part of their Tropicana Field lease while staying true to the part about getting half the revenue from developmental rights around the stadium. After watching the arrogance some have shown with this stadium mess, they could use some humble pie. Save the first big bite for Rays president Brian Auld....
The weird. The wacky. The bizarre. The just plain dumb and funny. Usually this time of year, we look back at the special athletes and the great moments of the year. But it's also time to look back at the offbeat sports of 2014. Enjoy.
They're collector's items
Moments after the BCS championship game between Auburn and Florida State, the FSU online store was selling T-shirts that read "Tigers 34 Noles 31.'' You would think the winning school would get the winning score right, right? FSU — that would be the 'Noles — won 34-31....
As with every year, there were many great moments in sports in 2014. There were memorable individual performances, superb team accomplishments and examples of tremendous courage, as shown by a brave football player from the University of Missouri. But there were troubling moments as well, including the bigoted comments of an owner, and a league sent reeling by how its stars treated women and children. Here's our pick of the top national sports stories of the year, starting with the darkest days in NFL history....
For much of Sunday's loss to the Packers, the Bucs were actually close in terms of the score. It was 10-3 headed to the fourth quarter. Yet you never had the feeling the Bucs were anywhere close to being able to win.
That's because their normally lousy offense found new depths in the 20-3 loss. They have two plays that have even a remote chance of working. One is sending rookie WR Mike Evans down the sideline and simply throwing the ball in the air. The other is the same play with Vincent Jackson running long....
If we lived in San Francisco or San Antonio, we would be talking about Giants and Spurs and dynasties. If we were in Los Angeles, we would be talking about the Kings winning the Stanley Cup. If we were in Seattle, we would be talking Super Bowl. But here in Tampa Bay, our sports stories are more about what happened away from the arena than in it. Firings, departures, hirings and trades. That's the focus for our look back at the local year in sports, including the loss of some of our most beloved sports figures....
12/17/14 The Heater
Surely Matt Silverman has lost his mind. That's your first thought.
Why in the world would the Rays' boss trade a young slugger, a potential superstar who was the American League rookie of the year just two seasons ago? Especially when that slugger is only 24 years old. Especially when you have a team that always seems to be in search of a big bat. Especially when you gave up big-game pitcher James Shields to get him. And especially when that slugger is still pretty cheap for a franchise that's always counting pennies....
12/15/14 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — Emily Cash was sitting in her car at stoplight in Avon Lake, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. Her daughters, 8-year-old Camden and 6-year-old Ella, were in the backseat, fresh from a trip to the dentist.
Her husband, Kevin, called to say he was on his way home. Great, she thought, he could pay the babysitter, who was watching their 1-year-old son, J.D.
"What else is going on?" Emily asked....
Whew. That was a little too close. But the Bucs woke up in time to go back to sleep.
The dream of a No. 1 pick is still alive thanks to a much-closer-than-it-really-was 19-17 loss at Carolina on Sunday. With that, the Bucs are all set to limp to a finish with a 2-14 record and end up with a great pick in the 2015 NFL draft, maybe even the first pick overall.
The Bucs tried to win Sunday. Really, they did. Who could blame them? They're professionals. Some are fighting for jobs. Most, if not all, have pride. You can't blame them for trying, but really, the organization is better off with a loss....
12/10/14 Lightning Strikes
It's the end of an era.
For nearly every Lightning season, Bobby "The Chief'' Taylor has come into our living rooms, using a Telestrator to teach us hockey and his engaging personality to entertain us on countless winter nights.
On television, he is part professor and part fan, passing along need-to-know information while occasionally grading the performance of a numbskull referee by yelling, "What a joke!''...
12/10/14 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — The end of an era is coming.
Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, who has been calling Lightning games on television since the team's second season in 1993-94, is walking away from the booth. Taylor announced Wednesday that this will be his last season as a color commentator on Lightning broadcasts.
But Taylor isn't going away completely. He is expected to still appear on Lightning broadcasts during the pre- and post-game shows, as well as intermissions. The idea of switching roles first came up over the summer and Taylor made the decision this week to move to a spot where he can do more teaching with the Telestrator and analysis....
The first-ever college football playoff is set. On Jan. 1, FSU will play Oregon in the Rose Bowl and Alabama will face Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Meantime, Baylor and TCU are back in Texas and spittin' mad over being left out of the party. Here's a Two Cents look at the committee's decision and what it means.
Did the committee get it right?
The answer likely depends on where you are from....
Each week the Bucs offense finds a new way to embarrass itself.
Last week it was the 12-men-on-the-field penalty that wiped out any chance for a winning field goal in the final seconds against the Bengals.
Sunday's play in the 34-17 loss to the Lions didn't cost the Bucs the game, but it was just about as embarrassing: They needed to call timeout before the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Seriously, how does that happen? After a halftime to get ready, how can you be so unprepared and confused that you have to burn a timeout before you even run a play?...
12/05/14 The Heater
Say this for Matt Silverman: The guy has guts.
Not many baseball executives would have had the nerve to do what he did Friday. In his first big hire since taking over baseball operations for the Rays, he is swinging for the fences.
After losing, arguably, the best manager in baseball, Silverman is handing the keys of the franchise over to a kid who has never filled out a lineup card before....
He is not a member of coaching royalty and unless you follow college football pretty closely, you don't know much about him.
He doesn't have a familiar and hip coach's name such as Urban or Jimbo or Chip. He hasn't done enough in this business to get a cool nickname such as the Mad Hatter or the Head Ball Coach. He doesn't have the pedigree of his old boss, Nick Saban. The highlight of his head-coaching career was a victory in something called the New Mexico Bowl....
TAMPA — They don't line up right. They don't know the snap count. They don't know the rules.
For crying out loud, they don't even know how many players you're allowed to have on the field.
The Bucs are the dumbest, most undisciplined team in the NFL, and there is one man to blame for that: Lovie Smith — you know, the head coach.
This is his team, his responsibility. He's the one in charge....