Of Soccer, Sami and Sharpton

No soccer succor: Before there was professional football, hockey or baseball here in the Tampa Bay market, there was soccer. Highly successful too in the early days of the North American Soccer League.

Now it is no more. The demise of the Tampa Bay Mutiny was sad — but inevitable. “No local ownership, no Major League Soccer franchise” is what it came down to in MLSpeak.

But why would local investors have signed on — only to lose money? That’s what annually loomed in an ill-suited facility, a stadium lease that only benefited the Bucs and crowds that stayed away in droves.

The Raymond James Stadium lease gave the Bucs the first $2 million of concession and parking revenues from non-Buc events, a crippling arrangement for the struggling Mutiny. The Bucs, in a scenario only a Glazer could fathom, were unwilling to renegotiate, apparently figuring no Mutiny-related income at all was better than less.

A Mutiny-less Tampa is particularly unfortunate for all those kids and coaches who will now do without MSL clinics and financial support. But that cuts both ways. Obviously, all those coaches, kids and attendant families could have expressed their gratitude by attending more Mutiny games. No sport has greater youth participation than soccer, but it never translated into support at the professional level.

And whatever happened to Oscar Fabiani?

Sami Al-Arrant: No, there’s no campus witchhunt for Muslims, even Al-Arrogant ones, at the University of South Florida. Nor is it open season on free speech and academic freedom. For all those pointy-heads at USF who will defend tenure under any guise, know this: The firing of Professor Sami Al-Arian has, indeed, set a precedent. And it’s this: Those who would hire, hang out with and/or fund-raise for terrorists can expect to be fired.

Sharpton Sighting: USF has landed the Rev. Al Sharpton as featured speaker for the university’s MLK celebration. How incongruous that the celebration of King’s life should warrant an appearance by one of America’s pre-eminent, race-baiting opportunists.

He’s dropped a lot of weight from his Vieques diet and dresses more conservatively, but he’s still the same Al Sharpton who remains unrepentant over the Tawana Brawley travesty.

Visiting a college campus and wrapping himself in the cloak of a legitimate civil rights icon is just an agenda warm-up for Sharpton these days. He fully expects to be a major player in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries. That means preparing for a plank on reparations for slavery in the Democratic Party’s platform. Among those qualifying for reparations, presumably, is Tawana Brawley.

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