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Bottle tricks, school supplies and rivalries

The For Bartenders Only competition tonight at International Plaza's Kahunaville will have servers competing by flipping and juggling bottles of liquor while still making drinks.

The cast of characters will be akin to an Old West shootout. Christian Delpech of Argentina is the current No. 1 gunslinger. Orlando's Alan Mayes is the aging veteran, one of the original world champions. New hotshots like Detroit's Jason Tremper, Chicago's Danny Rossi and Las Vegas' Billy Boatright also hope to win the $2,000, first-place prize.

Clearly, when you have people coming from all parts of the United States, this is more than just a promotional event. Flair bartendering, popularized in the 1988 movie Cocktail, has people pulling out stunts such as balancing bottles on their head and spinning them high in the air.

The out-of-state contestants will go through a qualifier at 2 p.m. today with the top six battling 10 local bartenders at 9 p.m. Tampa's best hope may be Armand Edminston, a local who works at Blue Martini.

But the best part of all this is the drinks the bartenders make will actually be served to customers.

As a kid, I always got excited when it came time to buy school supplies. My mom would take me to Eckerd (there was no Office Depot back then) and I would pick out all my own folders, pens and pencils.

I don't get quite as excited now that I have to pay for my kids' supplies, but at least I can pay.

Metropolitan Ministries is seeking donations to help homeless kids start the school year on a high note. The ministry typically receives large quantities of pencils, filler paper and glue sticks, but is in need of items such as backpacks, construction paper, latex gloves, composition notebooks and 24-count crayons.

The new NCAA Football 2003 video game from EA Sports includes an interesting twist when it comes to the University of South Florida team. When you put the game in "rivalry mode," it pits USF against Central Florida.

The reality is, USF is not scheduled to play UCF any time in the near future. It's been explained to me more than once that the Bulls have more to lose playing UCF than they would gain. A loss to the Knights would hurt them in recruiting and so on.

I say, "blah, blah, blah." Bulls fans want a rival, and they're not going to get excited about Memphis, Tulane or North Texas. UCF-USF would command more attention than any other game they would play, and deservedly so, considering it would have old high-school teammates lining up on different sides of the ball.

Come on, Coach Leavitt. Make it happen.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or