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Heat was on to show who ruled in hoops

(ran PAS edition)

Finally, after months of hype, the 1996 Olympic Games have begun.

Hundreds of people, in top physical form, are competing for medals and national bragging rights.

Runners. Swimmers. Divers. Gymnasts.

All people driven to excel in athletics. And driven, it would seem, to brutally punish themselves, given the broiling temperatures predicted for the games.

Welcome to the South.

I'm not crazy. You won't catch me flirting with heatstroke.

Okay, well, maybe I'm not that crazy. But I'm sure Times intern Ed Quioco thinks otherwise.

About a week ago, I challenged him and reporter Jamal Thalji to the first North of Tampa cutthroat basketball game at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex on Collier Parkway.

Jamal had the good sense to stay home.

Ed accepted the challenge.

My master plan called for us to play at 1 p.m. in the gymnasium. However, the gym was closed for summer day camp, swarming with children.

Our only option: the outdoor courts.

What the heck, let's do it, I said.

How bad could it be?

Okay, imagine playing in a swimming pool filled with warm chicken soup, and wearing concrete blocks for shoes.

That bad.

Before long, both of us were huffing and sweating, praying for that last shot to fall and end our misery.

"Finish it," Ed groaned.

So I did, after three or four missed jump shots.

When the game ended, we staggered to the shade of the gymnasium entrance and watched, with no small amount of envy, as recreation workers squirted boys with water guns.

"Next time," I said, "we do this at night."

Your own Summer Games

In honor of the Olympics, I've come up with a few ideas for "sporting events," specifically for central Pasco residents. Let me know what you think of them, or feel free to share your own:

The Collier Sprint: Motorists driving north through the State Road 54/Collier Parkway intersection in Land O'Lakes use speed, guile and horns to jockey for position before the left lane ends.

Synchronized Pumping: Pinellas County might have a lock on the gold for this one. Essentially, it calls for well field owners to turn pumps to full blast and see who sucks Pasco County utterly dry first.

Lake Padgett Walking/Dodging: Pedestrians must walk from Weeks Boulevard to Heatherwood Lane in Lake Padgett Estates, in the dark, while avoiding speeding motorists on the curvy road.

Meadow Pointe Amenity Chase: Participants must scurry to cope when promised amenities, such as a fire department, county park and full-sized elementary school, elude them.

How about an even safer street?

Finally, Pasco County is installing the traffic light at Weeks and Collier.

How many times have I been walking or driving at that intersection and watched as careless motorists sped through, paying little or no attention to children trying to cross?

Too many.

It should soon be easier and safer for them to cross Collier to reach the library and recreation complex.

Perhaps the county should next consider a four-way stop (at least) at Collier and Parkway Boulevard, between Lake Padgett Estates and Lake Padgett Estates East.

And then maybe a left-turn signal for southbound U.S. 41 at Hale Road.

Just a thought.

Wes Platt is the Times' central Pasco bureau chief. He can be reached at 996-1534. Send e-mail to plattsptimes.com. Send letters c/o North of Tampa, P.O. Box 1439, Land O'Lakes, FL 34639. Send faxes to 226-3352.

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