Labor Day marks a traditional turning point in the political season, when the campaigns heat up and casual observers start to pay attention. Buckle up for the onslaught of attack ads, faux outrage, grueling stump speeches, lawn signs, and yes, newspaper editorials. But those can wait. This week, we focus on something around which even militant political foes can still find common ground, where the underdogs don’t have Ds or Rs next to their names, where hope springs eternal and where adults shed tears for retiring icons. Yep, we’re talking sports: specifically the Rays, the Bucs and Serena Williams.
The Rays — or shall we say The Plucky™ Rays — are in the pennant race again. The low-spending baseball team is defying the odds by making all the right calculations. Its player payroll looks like a child’s allowance compared to the mighty Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, but the Rays spend wisely, pitch well, hit when it matters and never give in. They lose marquee players like centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier and wunderkind rookie Wander Franco to injuries and still keep winning. They are on track to make the playoffs and might even capture the American League East title, a feat that looked impossible back in June and early July when the division-leading Yankees were winning games as often as Republican political candidates utter the word “freedom.” Sure, too few people show up at Tropicana Field to see them play — just over 8,000 for the Red Sox on Tuesday evening — and the Rays have yet to win a World Series. But, man, the team keeps it interesting. Here’s hoping the Rays are still playing in early November.
Speaking of expectations, the Tampa Bay Bucs kick off their season Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Ageless™ Tom Brady takes another shot at winning his eighth Super Bowl, what would be the Bucs’ third. In a Florida Man move, the star quarterback accidentally walked into the wrong house when he first arrived in Tampa in 2020, much to the surprise of his offensive coordinator’s neighbor. Brady quickly found his bearings and led the team to Super Bowl glory in his first season. Last year, the team fell short in the playoffs, but the Bucs are a betting favorite to win the title this season. Brady is 45 years old, which is about 187 in football years. He cannot play forever. The window for winning could slam shut after this season, at least as the team regroups. Bucs diehards will follow the team no matter what. But for the more casual fans, this could be your last chance to see Brady with the Bucs. Savor it while you can.
Finally, Serena Williams. The tennis star recently bowed out in the third round of the U.S. Open. She has indicated that she may now be done with professional tennis. Her record on the court is impeccable: 23 major wins, the most of anyone in the professional tennis era. Her powerful style helped transform the women’s game. Her contemporaries had to learn to hit the ball hard, all the time, or risk lopsided defeat. But her legacy goes well beyond the victories. She, and her sister Venus, shattered stereotypes about who could excel at tennis. She showed a generation of young players — girls, in particular — what was possible. Williams was fierce, determined, iconic, mighty, elegant, engaging and groundbreaking. When she played, it was hard not to watch. For 25 years, she broke down barriers and captured imaginations. If this is the end, she deserves the rest.
Spend your days with Hayes
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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.