* OK, the Rays still don’t draw well at the Trop. But at least their crowds are almost always in the five figures. The Miami Marlins, who relocated to cool, new digs a few years ago, struggle to draw 6,000. Good luck, Derek.
* For what it’s worth, HBO and NFL Films picked up a Sports Emmy for “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” The five episodes were occasionally entertaining, sometimes insightful and–by its very nature–intrusive and invasive for the workplace. That’s the reality with having to grant virtually unfettered access to roaming camera crews looking for story lines and over-the-top personalities. No head coach would have volunteered for this. Dirk Koetter is no exception.
* That was quite the telling quote by former Major League manager Davey Johnson about Tampa native Dwight Gooden, the erstwhile New York Mets pitching phenom whose career was seriously impacted by substance-abuse issues. “He could say no,” said Johnson, “but he didn’t know how to back it up.”
* That detailed report by the Condoleezza Rice-chaired Commission on College Basketball didn’t pull any punches in its criticisms and recommended reforms for college hoops. It notably looked into ratcheting corruption that included bribe and kickback schemes involving coaches, agents and apparel companies. “The goal,” underscored the report, “should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league.”
Addressing the rebottling of this genie of corruption and hypocrisy that has so many self-serving, moving parts is beyond formidable. Only two approaches make sense.
First, pay players in marketplace fashion–starting with recruitment and then on a sliding scale based on performance. It is what it is: “Amateurism” is preposterously passé. Attending class would be optional. Those who actually belong on a college campus could actually work toward a degree on a part-time basis. Those for whom this is a 13th-grade, trade school experience can concentrate on basketball without becoming sham “student-athletes” who only further undermine the integrity of higher education.
Second, only admit those who actually deserve to be admitted to a real university. It’s not for everybody. We’re talking SATs and high school or community college GPAs. If you can’t make the cut, let the National Basketball Association follow the role model of Major League Baseball with a viable minor league system. That way the league and its franchises can pay to train their own future employees.
* I love it when Tampa lands a Super Bowl or a Women’s Final Four or a Frozen Four or an NHL All Star game. It’s further validation of what we’ve evolved into, plus it’s a great marketing coup. Next Super Bowl is only three years away.
And now we know that the Tampa Bay Sports Commission is seriously pursuing “Wrestlemania,” sometimes dubbed the Super Bowl of pro wrestling, for 2023, ’24 or ’25. Only one downside: It’s pro wrestling.