03/29/17 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — This is new for him, too.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper is in his 17th season as a hockey coach. He has never missed the playoffs. Not once.
Most of the time, it hasn't been close. No race to get in. Lots of wins. At one point, Cooper was winning minor-league hockey championships every other year. It didn't slow much when Cooper hit the NHL: three playoff appearances in his three full Lightning seasons, including a run to the Stanley Cup final and another to the Eastern Conference final in the past two seasons. All Cooper has done is win....
TAMPA — It takes all kinds.
The Lightning's back-from-the-grave parade was back at Amalie Arena on Monday night. And as has been recent custom, it went beyond its best players being its best players, a must at this time of year.
Monday, that meant a breakaway goal from center Yanni Gourde (pronounced, "Did that guy just win the game?'') to end a frenzied overtime and punctuate a riveting 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Lightning came from 4-1 down in the second period to pull within a point of Boston for the final wild card....
03/27/17 The Heater
TAMPA — For Yankees relief pitcher and Tampa resident Tyler Clippard, just playing in the World Baseball Classic was a dream come true. Last Wednesday, it got dreamier. Clippard and his teammates became gold medalists. He raced from the bullpen at Dodger Stadium to join the celebratory pile after the United States beat Puerto Rico for its first WBC title.
"That's the unfortunate thing to being a bullpen guy — you're always late to the pile," Clippard said with a grin....
03/24/17 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE — He was in eighth grade and his grandmother was dying. Arlene Snell told her grandson that she believed he could be a pitcher in the major leagues.
"And I told her I would get there," Blake Snell said.
He made a pledge.
And he kept it.
Last season, he made his major-league debut — at Yankee Stadium. Big crowd. Five innings, two hits, one run. Quite the arrival. Snell finished his rookie season with a 6-8 record, a 3.54 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 89 innings....
Hey, has anybody seen that clown who said the Lightning was dead and buried?
Let me know when you see him.
I'll shut up now.
Give it up for the Lightning. And give up trying to figure it out.
It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a 6-3 win at Boston on Thursday night.
Put a toe tag on the team, and they start tap dancing.
Just like that, with a win in a city where they never win, the Lightning is three points back of the eighth-place...
03/24/17 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE —- Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg made a spring training appearance Thursday before his club played the Yankees.
All of Tampa Bay (well, some of it, anyway) awaits the day when Sternberg is smiling for cameras, wearing a construction hard hat and holding a shovel, surrounded by politicians and civic leaders to start at the big dig: the groundbreaking for a new Rays stadium....
TAMPA — Congratulate me.
I'm pretty sure Wednesday was the fifth new USF men's basketball coach news conference I have attended.
Seth Greenberg, Robert McCullum, Stan Heath, Orlando Antigua and now Brian Gregory.
The boxed set.
Shouldn't I get a prize?
A set of steak knives?
A winning program?
Brian Gregory was introduced Wednesday at the Sun Dome. Like the men before him, he said the right things. He said them quite well, in fact. He comes from the Tom Izzo coaching tree, as good a tree as there is....
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....