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We're moving into the big leagues of sports

Hello? Is this next week? Do you know yet?

Sorry. Let me introduce myself. I'm the voice of Last Week. At least, that's when this is being written. Trust me, I know that the voice of Last Week, frankly, sounds a little shaky.

That's because, back here in time, we're all twisting in the wind. So, tell me, do you know yet? Are the Giants moving to Tampa Bay?

Suddenly, there are so many athletes coming to town. The fact is, when you tell some people you're a newcomer to town, they're likely to ask you what position you play. We've got football players. We've got hockey players. We've got team tennis players. (Are you sure you don't know if we've got baseball players yet?)

Sorry. I don't mean to nag. You just have to understand. The most popular sport in this area is wondering if the big league is coming to town. And this Giants thing has been going on so long it's even in my past. What are baseball owners waiting for, their savings bonds to mature?

Such is the shape of sports in this area. So much has happened here as of late. After years of sustaining every minor league imaginable, we are major league all over the place .

.

. except for you-know-what.

Not so long ago, this seemed like a sports wasteland. You could play sports here (golf, tennis, sailing, etc.), but you couldn't watch them unless you subscribed to cable. Oh, there were always the Bucs, who scored literally dozens of points per season. But after that, all you had to look forward to was a good beach volleyball game.

But Tampa Bay is suddenly a sports area coming to life. Fast sports, slow sports. Hot sports, cold sports. Big balls, small balls, balls that look mysteriously like pucks.

You want football? We've got football. Yeah, yeah, I know you probably come in with a preconceived notion of the Bucs. And I admit, they have been one of the NFL's most disappointing franchises, but they are under new management. So far, there has been evidence (a good start, which around here is a reason to buy stock in that confetti company) that new coach Sam Wyche gives the Bucs their best chance to end years of looking upward at the rest of the NFC Central. A little advice: don't stand between Lawrence Dawsey and a first down. It isn't healthy.

You want hockey? We've got hockey. Finally. After a tug of war over where the team would play, and when it would pay franchise fees, the Lightning was born this year. Tampa Bay, one of two NHL expansion teams starting out this year, sports such familiar names as Gretzky, Hodge and Esposito. No, not that Gretzky (his brother). No, not that Hodge (his son). Yes, that Esposito. Phil is the man responsible for making sure the team grows up the way the area suddenly has. A little advice: be patient, it's going to take a while.

Always, this area has had athletes. Dwight Gooden. Gary Sheffield. Browning Nagle. Olympian Nicole Haislett. Wade Boggs. Jennifer Capriati. Jim Courier. But they were always athletes who were hatched here, then went off to ply their trades elsewhere. Sports, at least major-league sports, didn't live around here. Every opening day, our pennants were hung at half-mast.

No more. Now, we have teams, too. And the guy who owns Ticketmaster probably is moving into a nice, big house of his own.

There are other choices, too. There is Arena Football. And Team Tennis. And golf (the JCPenney mixed team tournament, the GTE Suncoast Classic of the Senior Tour). The NBA is 90 minutes away in Orlando. College football is as near as Florida, Florida State and Miami.

You guys in the future, you can enjoy all of it. Just send some kind of word to us back here in the past, huh? Did they come or didn't they?

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