03/22/17 Lightning Strikes
That's it, boys.
Say good night and draw the sheet over your heads.
Ten games remain in this dreary Lightning season, but it didn't feel like it Tuesday night.
It felt like the end.
It's all over but the tee times and who to protect in the expansion draft.
With a telling thud, the Lightning lost to Arizona, the second worst team in the NHL, which was playing the back end of a back-to-back, a third game in four nights (after losing its first two) and starting its back-up goaltender, who has a losing record....
03/20/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — The Lightning trails in the race for the final wild card. It has made a commendable late charge, despite more injuries and employing a patchwork lineup.
But there is the current two-game losing streak. Tonight's game at Amalie Arena against Arizona, the second worst team in the league, qualifies as "must win."
Arizona. Must win. Desperate hockey.
The Lightning is trying to save some face. It's about the greater fight, a pitched battle to stave off infamy:...
ORLANDO — They out-dunked Dunk City.
Let's start there when it comes to Leonard Hamilton's young, talented and uneven Florida State basketball team.
It was FSU nine dunks to two, by my count.
Also by my count, No. 3 seed FSU can win some more games in this NCAA Tournament.
The Seminoles opened by beating Florida Gulf Coast University, those adorable dream weavers, 86-80 in the first round Thursday....
TAMPA — There's a Country Bear Basketball Jamboree in Orlando today — the NCAA Tournament, with Florida present, with Florida State present. And with the little school from Fort Myers everyone loves and nobody slams — Florida Gulf Coast University.
They've got Dunk City.
We've got Gunk City.
Brian Gregory, the new men's basketball hire at USF, is charged with changing that. I hope he does. I wish him luck....
03/14/17 Lightning Strikes
It's not make believe. No illusion.
The Lightning is a hunter.
It went into Madison Square Garden and said as much Monday night.
It beat the Rangers, 3-2, to pull within a point of Toronto for the final wild card.
This is for real.
The Lightning is charging. For real.
The Bolts are at it again in Ottawa tonight. No rest.
With two goals from 21st-birthday boy Brayden Point, with back-up goalie Peter Budaj coming up with some big saves for his first Tampa Bay win, the Lightning continue to try and turn a feel-bad season into a feel-good one. Give them credit....
GAINESVILLE — The story is as old as higher education and detergent.
Two parents doing their college kid's laundry.
It doesn't matter that you've hit the genetic Powerball with your only child, that he's a 23-year-old basketball star for the NCAA Tournament-bound University of Florida, that he's a 6-foot-6 swingman with a scoring touch. That he's a brain, too, carrying a perfect 4.0 GPA in pursuit of a graduate degree in nuclear engineering....
03/12/17 Auto racing
ST. PETERSBURG — He's one of us.
Drives faster, but he's one of us.
St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon. He won it going away, a remarkable performance since he started last. He finished first. His tears followed.
"To win here in front of family and friends," Bourdais said.
He was born in a racing mecca — Le Mans, France but this is home now, too....
03/11/17 Auto racing
ST. PETERSBURG — Running on empty last May, Alexander Rossi won the Indianapolis 500. He made it.
Running on empty last month, Chase Elliott lost the Daytona 500. He didn't make it.
Brothers, we've been there, done that. Sort of.
Running out of gas while going for it is as American as it gets. True, race car dudes are going for greater glory, trophies and cash prizes. The rest of us? Just get us to exit 342 and the Wawa....
PALM HARBOR — Bryson DeChambeau is having a great week at the Valspar Championship. And it was a great week even before play began. Yes, the 23-year-old Californian is 5 under and in contention through two rounds on Innisbrook's Copperhead course.
But it wasn't that.
"He actually got a kidney two days ago, so everything is awesome," DeChambeau said. "It was a dream come true."...
03/07/17 The Heater
Corey Dickerson is half the man he used to be.
We don't mean it how you think, and not half, anyway. But Dickerson did shave 25 pounds from his 6-1 frame and reported to spring training a svelte — you heard me, svelte — 200 pounds. Hey, bud, can you still hit home runs? Just asking.
"Of course," Dickerson said.
Dickerson, 27, owns one of those bats the Rays will need to produce to have any chance at winning many more games than the 68 they brought in last season....
03/07/17 The Heater
TAMPA — The Rays wanted to sign slugging 1B/DH Chris Carter this winter, but he didn't want them, opting to join the Yankees instead.
Carter said Tuesday he picked the Yankees because he felt their signing of Logan Morrison would have limited his opportunities for at-bats in Tampa Bay.
"It was going back and forth but then they ended up signing Morrison and that pretty much was the main factor," Carter said. "I liked the situation here better. After they signed Morrison I didn't really see the same opportunity I'd have here."...
DeSean Jackson is potentially a perfect fit for the Bucs.
He can still stretch a field when called upon.
He can still run past everybody when called upon.
He can catch footballs out of the slot when called upon.
He can still return a kick when called upon.
His winning punt return against the Giants that day still amazes me years later.
Jackson does a lot of amazing things. Or did....
ST. PETERSBURG — He was on something called a VersaClimber, probably the most modern piece of equipment inside the adorably well-worn St. Pete Boxing Club. Clearwater's Keith "One Time" Thurman, another modern wonder, 28-year-old undefeated WBA welterweight champion, was on the cardio climber. His sweat pants and rash guard were drenched. Perspiration turned into a puddle on the floor, then a body of water. Lake Thurman....
The Bucs should stay away from Adrian Peterson.
And receiver DeSean Jackson.
Maybe if they were five years younger.
Same goes for Jamaal Charles.
Even if Doug Martin is eventually given the boot.
I would hope the Bucs won't make a pass at Peterson. I bet they don't.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht should be up to that task. They'd better be.
I'd rather they reach for Dalvin Cook....
03/01/17 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays occasional ace Chris Archer made a good point as spring training began, namely that it would take more than pitching to make this team a winner again. It hasn't been one since 2013. Last year's 68 wins were strictly Devil Rays stuff.
"People are going to have to step up in the bullpen," Archer said a few weeks ago. "We're going to have to score more runs than we did last year, because when we did pitch well, we still struggled to win games. … I think it's time for us to shift away from relying solely on starting pitching."...