Sports Shorts

* The Rays, as we know, have been using the Atlanta Braves as a model of sorts for a new baseball stadium. That was underscored in the spring when Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and county CFO Bonnie Wise visited with Braves’ executives in suburban Atlanta. We also know that what Hillsborough County is modeling is financing–not site.

The Braves are Exhibit A for public-private partnership. Cobb County borrowed about two thirds, or nearly $400 million, while the Braves anted up around $230 million. As for site, the Rays and Hillsborough County want an urban-core location, the Braves notably departed Atlanta for Cobb County.

One interesting, even ironic, variable about a potential Channelside-Ybor City area site for the Rays is the lack of public input from Jeff Vinik. He’s the master developer of the Amalie Arena area that has ripple effects all over. It’s all, in effect, part of the same logistical synergy. Perhaps a stadium is more conflict than complement for Water Street Tampa.

* The main issue with HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which can be entertaining as it goes behind the scenes and personalizes professional football, is that it is yet another reminder that the NFL is as much show business as it is football.

* So, Kevin Durant of the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors, says he won’t join teammates in a White House visit. Here’s a way around any awkwardness that can inevitably result from such visitations. The White House should set a precedent right now that it only invites athletes representing their country–such as Olympians–and not over-exposed pro athletes representing their franchises and, in many cases, their marketable brands.

* The Americans retained the Solheim Cup, the biennial competition that pits U.S. women golfers against their European counterparts. Once again, a key American contributor was Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome.

Sports Shorts

* When kicker Roberto Aguayo was cut, his departure (and subsequent waiver signing by the Chicago Bears) left a lot of disappointment and second-guessing in its wake. What the Bucs paid in moving up to draft him with a number two pick last year will linger on. GM Jason Licht will always have a legacy asterisk. But the Bucs weren’t about to throw good money after bad and jeopardize a promising season with a crap-shoot kicking game. And, oh yeah, you know “Hard Knocks” was disappointed too. You knew they had been hoping to milk the kicker competition for a few more melodramatic weeks. But at least they had access to the awkward exit when Dirk Koetter and Licht broke the news to Aguayo.

* More than Vols-Gators. We now know that the University of Tennessee’s visit to Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 16, may not be the only headline-gathering, boisterous-crowd event scheduled that week. That Tuesday, Sept. 12, could possibly feature white supremacist activist Richard Spencer speaking at an on-campus event. Spencer–yes, that Richard Spencer–was in the news last week for his role, and that of his supporters, in the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Spencer would be speaking at an event organized by the National Policy Institute, an organization–not affiliated with UF–that is dedicated to the “heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the U.S. and around the world.”

UF President Kent Fuchs says he finds such a presence on UF’s campus to be “deeply disturbing.” He also explained that legally UF could not discriminate against the NPI in considering its request.

Too bad obvious public safety concerns and common sense can’t carry the day.

Sports Shorts

* Go Bulls: USF begins the 2017 football season ranked in the top 25 in the Coaches Preseason Poll. The Bulls are 21–and, for comparison, ranked higher than the likes of Notre Dame, Texas, Tennessee, (Willie Taggart’s) Oregon, Texas A&M, Nebraska, TCU and Michigan State.

* It’s been 29 years since Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, installed lights. But city regulations still limit the number of night games. No surprise, then, that the Cubs play more day games at home than any other MLB team. And now we find out–at least nationally–that Joe Maddon doesn’t like so many day games. He says it’s a disadvantage to his team. “Constantly having to get up and rush to the ballpark and not having a normal method during the course of the day, it does matter,” says Maddon.

It likely mattered a lot less last year, when Cubs’ pitching was a lot better than this year.

* It’s early August and that means NFL pre-season games are underway. The Bucs open tonight (Friday) at Cincinnati. BTW, the Bengals are 2-point favorites. BTW, this makes absolutely no sense. It’s an exhibition game, played largely by players who will likely not even make their respective teams. Point spreads? Does somebody actually bet on this stuff?

* Spot-on eulogy line by Lou Holtz at a memorial service for former Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian, who won two national championships. “A lot of people can be successful,” said Holtz, but it’s even more significant when “you help other people be successful.” Amen.

Sports Shorts

* It can’t come soon enough: the beginning of the NFL season. Enough of the Bucs storylines that range from who are the real “badasses” to what kind of footage HBO will ultimate feature about DeSean Jackson’s mansion and his Ferrari 488 GTB, which starts at about $250,000.

* With all the medical documentation connecting football, especially at the pro level, and CTE, you have to wonder how long Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones will remain a holdout. He has long rejected a link between football and CTE.

* Classy move by the Chicago Cubs to award Steve Bartman–of 2003 scapegoat infamy–a 2016 World Series ring. Can’t help but think that Joe Maddon had something to do with it.

* Winning a national championship in baseball wasn’t the finale for University of Florida sports success in 2017. UF swimmer Caeleb Dressel just brought home seven gold medals from the world championships in Budapest. He won three in one night. Michael who?

Sports Shorts

* How surprising–and ironic–that the Tampa Bay Lightning has not weighed in on the Confederate monument issue, but the Bucs and Rays have and spoke on behalf of its removal. The Bolts are actually neighbors–and ownership is known as avatars of enlightened new urbanism and all its synergistic, millennial pieces.

Speaking of the monument, Tampa lawyer and Democratic activist Tom Scarritt deserves plaudits for stepping up to offer his fund-raising services to move it. And County Commissioner Sandra Murman deserves a double take for actually wanting the Commission to consider holding a referendum on the issue. We know what can happen with a countywide referendumb that directly impacts the city of Tampa.

* It must have felt eerily like a Tampa Bay home game when the Rays recently played the A’s at the Oakland Coliseum. The opening night crowd: 9,736. The A’s are MLB’s other problematic franchise.

* “I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life, you know.” Just when you thought you had heard it all from O.J. Simpson.

Sports Shorts

* UF just announced its non-conference basketball schedule for the coming season. It includes Stanford, Florida State, Cincinnati, Clemson, Baylor and Incarnate Word. Say what? Although it sounds like a Catholic parish in my old Philadelphia neighborhood, it’s a private Catholic university in San Antonio, Texas, that has been a member of the Division I Southland Conference since 2013. For the record, it was founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

* Remember when “Heavyweight Champion of the World” was a very, very big deal? From Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano to Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson. Iconic status was a given. The current heavyweight champ is Anthony Joshua of England.

* I always root for the USA. But sometimes in soccer it’s a lot less chauvinistic. Case in point: America’s recent 3-2 win over Martinique in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match here at the RayJay. Martinique has a population of less than 400,000, about the same as Tampa’s. It’s like being a relative of Goliath and hoping he kicks that little upstart David’s ass.

Sports Shorts

* Congrats to the University of Florida. The Gators won the College World Series with a two-game sweep of LSU. It’s the ultimate for a program that has been around for more than 100 years. It also means that UF becomes the first SEC school to win national championships in baseball, football and men’s basketball–and the fourth program nationally to do it.

* Speaking of the College World Series, too bad the logistics don’t allow for the best pitchers to necessarily pitch in the finals. Teams have to get through the double-elimination prelims first where they throw their best arms in an all-out effort to advance. That meant, in this case, that UF star pitcher Alex Faedo, a first-round MLB draft pick who led the nation in strikeouts and won the CWS Most Outstanding Player award, didn’t pitch in the finals. It also meant that the Gators pitching depth was incredibly impressive.

* Taking one for the team: That had to be Joe Maddon last week, as he and some members of the Chicago Cubs paid an “unofficial” visit to the Trump White House while in D.C. to play the Nationals. They had all been there five months earlier for a World Series celebration with President Barack Obama.

Maddon said it was out of respect for the Cubs-owning Ricketts family that donated to Trump’s presidential campaign. Indeed, Ameritrade-founder Joe and Marlene Ricketts donated $1 million to a Trump Super PAC, and their son Todd was initially named deputy commerce secretary before stepping aside over financial entanglements. Another member of the family, Todd’s sibling Pete, is the governor of Nebraska and a vocal supporter of Trump.

Just a guess, but I’ll bet Maddon’s Hazelton Integration Project never came up in presidential small talk.

Sports Shorts

* Cautiously encouraging that there is an effort underway to put together a united Korean Olympic team for the 2018 Winter Games. The host city is Pyeongchang, South Korea. The impetus comes from new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who advocates dialogue and reconciliation with North Korea.

The two Koreas have never fielded a united Olympic team. However, they have marched together at opening ceremonies at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

* Speaking of the Olympics, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo will have some innovative, new looks. Changes include mixed-gender events, including a 4-x-400-meter mixed relay in track, plus sport climbing and surfing.

* The Rays are understandably disappointed and frustrated that projected starting shortstop Matt Duffy has, due to (a left heel) injury, not been able to play at all in 2017. Recall that Duffy, formerly of the San Francisco Giants, was traded for starting pitcher Matt Moore last year. For added context, however, keep in mind the season that Moore is having for the Giants: a 3-8 record with a 6.04 ERA. Seems like an eon ago–not four years–that he was an All-Star and finished 17-4. Arguably, Moore hasn’t been the same since Tommy John surgery in 2014.

* Not that we needed Warren Sapp’s reminder, but there should no longer be a justification for pre-high school tackle football. Period.

* Congrats, Dave Andreychuk, NHL Hall of Famer. Finally.

Sports Shorts

* Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred continues to sound upbeat when it comes to the Rays stadium saga. “Hats off to the governments in St. Pete and Tampa,” said Manfred. “They have given Stu Sternberg, the owner of the Rays, the ability to look on either side of the causeway to find the site that’s best for the team.”

We’ll take the optimistic tone, although it’s now old news. Meaningful progress beyond looking around Tampa Bay would be a real “hats off” occasion.

* Speedy new Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson is not your basic game breaker. He’s also a producer of the many-years-in-the-making biopic “All Eyez on Me” about the late Tupac Shakur. Los Angeles native Shakur was a rapper, hip-hop artist and activist whose songs typically revolved around violence and racism.

Jackson, who also was born in Los Angeles, acknowledged in a Tampa Bay Times interview his identification with Shakur. Not discussed with Jackson: The movie is actually narrated by Shakur from prison–where he had been serving time for a sexual assault conviction. Hardly a footnote.

Sports Shorts

* OK, we’re only approaching mid-June, but, still, who would have thought the Rays would have a better record than the Cubs? Likely not Kevin Cash–or Joe Maddon.

* If the Rays wind up being July “sellers,” the two names being bandied about the most: closer Alex Colome and starting pitcher Alex Cobb. Especially the latter. Cobb is less than five months from free agency.

* The Tampa Bay Times noted that Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins recently hosted the Rays, was worth emulating when it comes to stadium design and synergy priorities for the Rays. Target, pointed out the Times, is on a relatively small footprint and is surrounded by bar/restaurant activity. One key component, however, was omitted. Target Field has a transit stop. Huge factor.

*American men’s tennis is nowhere internationally these days. But that’s hardly the case for post-Tiger Woods, American golfers. American Dustin Johnson is ranked first in the world, and four other Americans are in the top 15.

* The Lightning reported season ticket sales passing the 14,500 mark. For perspective, in 2010 it was 4,000.

* I look in on college baseball’s Super Regionals to see how the Florida schools are doing and who will be advancing to the College World Series in Omaha. One other reason is to see a sport–worthy of its ESPN coverage–with its share of schools that are hardly sports powers. While this year’s Super Regionals included the familiar likes of Florida, Florida State and LSU, it also included the less-familiar likes of Sam Houston State, Davidson and Missouri State.

That’s more likely to happen in a non-revenue sport, and it’s good for college baseball.

* The only “perfect game” I ever saw in total, in live time, was the 1964 one tossed by the Philadelphia Phillies Jim Bunning. Sunday, June 21, Fathers Day. We all watched it on TV. It’s what we did as a Philadelphia family after mass at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church and a late scrapple-and-egg breakfast.

Bunning, 85, died recently and the memory of that game came cascading back.

Bunning had 10 strikeouts and threw only 87 pitches. He was all business and looked the part. He didn’t tug at his cap to affect a hip angle or need to tuck in a necklace or overly massage the ball or fondle the resin bag or amble about the mound or work on an intimidating stare. The 6-0 win over the Mets at Shea Stadium took 2:19. The day was still young.

Later that night, Bunning was on the Ed Sullivan Show. There he looked more like the guy who would eventually become the only Baseball Hall of Fame player to have served in Congress. Representing Kentucky–in very conservative, non-Philly fashion–Bunning served six terms in the House and two in the Senate.

Bunning also had a killer quote in his farewell address to the Senate in 2010. “I have also thought that being able to throw a curveball,” he acknowledged, “never was a bad skill for a politician to have.”