Sports Shorts

* The Rays’ future: Tampa or St. Petersburg? Or Nashville or Las Vegas? The leverage game is well underway.

* The Bucs injury-retirement-free-agency-induced fall from Super Bowl contender to long shot is hardly without precedent in the NFL, a salary-cap league that prioritizes “any given day” competitiveness and parity. Less we forget, the LA Rams, the defending Super Bowl winner, won’t even come close to making the playoffs this year.

* There are now 42 bowl games: way too many. As a result, participating teams, such as Florida, don’t even need a winning record to qualify.

* “A talent-acquisition business”: How University of Florida football coach Billy Napier has bluntly described the reality of college football.

* Tampa’s Reliaquest Bowl: At least Outback sounded like a bowl game. But so far, no signs of a “1-800-ASK GARY Bowl.”

* Firing college coaches for “cause.” Not just for scandals; isn’t losing sufficient cause in a sports world where everything, including NCAA football, is monetized?

* The Tampa Bay Lightning, the exemplar for professional sports franchises from community involvement to winning games and Stanley Cups, has now surpassed 300 consecutive sell outs at Amalie Arena.

* It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve or Christmas Day without a complete slate of NFL games.

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