The cab driver on the ride in from the airport looked over his shoulder and said, "Didya hear?"
I had not heard.
So as we inched up the interstate and back into Tampa during the late Friday afternoon rush, a guy named Rich with a gray ponytail down his back and a cap on his head uttered the impossible words. He said Judge Sam Pendino had just stuck it to the Bucs.
To be honest, I let out a colorful, unrepeatable word to express my astonishment.
Rich, unimpressed, smiled. Great man that he is, he said he thought just like me on this one.
He reached over and turned on the big boom box that occupied the passenger seat next to him. Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura _ who had once lectured reporters on our duty to call the tax that gives millions to Malcolm Glazer an investment in the community and not in him _ could be heard through heavy static. He was reassuring a host on one of the AM talk stations. They'd just renegotiate the part of the stadium deal that the judge objected to, Chillura said, and the Bucs would stay, would get their new stadium.
Chillura must have been banking on his listeners having memories shorter than his own. The part of the deal Pendino overturned belied Chillura's puffery about what he called the Community Investment Tax. This was the part of the package that would give Glazer $2-million a year off the top from everybody, the Rolling Stones to the traveling evangelists, who uses the stadium.
Poor Joe. He talked like this, through the appropriate filter of the AM static, because he had just experienced political whiplash. In a town where certain people pride themselves on being able to control events, Pendino was presumed to be well-behaved. He was not supposed to get any kookier than rolling his eyes in impatience and sneering at lawyers in the courtroom. And he certainly wasn't supposed to side with suit filer and rogue elephant nonpareil Bill Poe. The heavens would sooner split.
Finally, an electromagnetic miracle happened, and the static overtook the speech Chillura was making. Rich turned off the boom box.
We chatted about other things, and in the conversation's pauses, I contemplated my problem.
A couple of weeks back I had predicted in a column that Pendino would be a good soldier, would never give aid and comfort to those (not just in Tampa, since the world is watching) who think it's long past time to stop giving sports owners their very own welfare program. I thought Pendino's eye-rolling and sneering were directed only at Bill Poe.
The judge sure had made a fool of me.
Nothing is more awful than having to write a correction, I reminded myself. Any reporter will tell you this is normally true, but under these circumstances, it sure felt good to say, yep, I was big wrong.
Rich the cab driver said he is a Bucs fan from way back but can't afford the tickets and would not have voted for the sales tax increase that got us in this mess.
(He lives in Pinellas County and isn't registered to vote. It's the only thing I would change about the guy.)
I said he might make a bundle during the Super Bowl four years from now, a Super Bowl that Bill Poe still might keep Tampa from having. But Rich didn't mind. He has a working man's sense of time, which means he lives week to week. A lot can happen in four years.
Bill Poe can sue again, to stop the other giveaways tucked in that contract, including the uncalculated millions from the right Glazer won to develop the acres around the new stadium. Judge Pendino, or the appellate judges to follow, can continue to defy expectations of notebook-toting fools like me.