RONDE RETIRES,NBA FATIGUE, BASEBILLS, UNBROKEN & WAWA FEVER

May 8, 2013

They call it the Ring of Honor in sporting circles and each franchise has its own definition. Some salute only players, some throw in coaches and once in a while even lowly broadcasters get a piece of real estate inside a professional stadium. Its quite an honor which often spurs debate especially when it comes to the pecking order and especially when it comes to the newer franchises who don’t possess the longer histories.

In Jacksonville, they have already made room for Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor which makes me feel very old since I covered both in their hey day. One day Evan Longoria and his grandkids will watch the Rays drop his banner which hopefully will be inside a park in downtown Tampa and not downtown Charlotte!  Yes honoring the greatest in a team’s history makes all of us feel a part of it and is the first bit of postal service to open up in this week’s Naborhood mailbox among other items…..

THE BARBER SHOP: Buc fans took quite the trip down memory lane this week highlighted by two members of its only Super Bowl team. Two former teammates who possess two polar opposite personalities. Tampa Bay announced soon to be Hall of Famer Warren Sapp will be the next addition to its ring of honor. Along with the QB Killa, you have Ronde Barber announcing his retirement. Barber has been with the Bucs since the Clinton administration. I have never made it a secret that Sapp is the most classless guy I ever covered but Barber was quite the contrast, a true professional till he said goodbye at age 38.

He was a 3rd round pick whom by all accounts turned in a horrific rookie training camp and disappointing first season in the NFL, where he only played in one game. At the time he was “the other Barber” where brother Tiki owned the higher draft pick and the higher profile in the Big Apple. When all is said and done it will be Ronde one day in the Hall of Fame though–likely not on the 1st ballot but after a 16 year career where he played in more consecutive games than an other cornerback, tallied 47 interceptions, 28 sacks and the biggest play in franchise history. Enough said.

I will remember Ronde though for the way he handled himself off the field. Whether when I worked for the Lightning and he would stop  me in the stands during a game or catching him on a flight in the offseason—he was always approachable and full of class. Its good to see a nice guy finish on his own terms. Enjoy retirement my friend, you certainly deserve it.

BEST BUCS EVER ??: No question Barber will be in the Bucs Ring of Honor one day. No question Warren Sapp  deserves to be on it next fall and while the Glazers say the decisions are not based on a sequential order in team history–so far they have had a few glaring omissions. I like Jimmie Giles, Paul Gruber and love the legacy of John McKay but none of those guys crack my top 5 Bucs of all time—

(5) DOUG WILLIAMS: His whole career is an impressive body of work but always leaves you thinking, what could have been? What if then Bucs Owner Hugh Culverhouse wasn’t cheap and didn’t let him escape to the USFL? How good could his Bucs run have been? Even with that said it was enough for me to put him in my top 5. No other Bucs QB has been in as many playoff games and after he turned around a franchise by leading them to three appearances in four years–once he left this team  in 1983, the Buccos didn’t sniff the playoffs until 1997?! Recently, the former Tampa Bay assistant GM left the team on bad terms—time to get over it and get Williams’ name up on the Ring of Honor–its sticks out worse than Bucco Bruce.

(4) RONDE BARBER: Barber was the perfect fit in Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense. He wasn’t the biggest or best athlete but he was a playmaker. A smart, instinctive irritant of opposing offenses, Ronde is to Philly what Bucky Dent was to Boston as his 92 yard pick six clinched the Bucs 27-10 win over the Eagles in the 2003 NFC Championship game and paved the way for the team’s 1st Super Bowl title.

(3) LEE ROY SELMON: No doubt the classiest man to ever put on a Buccaneer uniform, Lee Roy was the team’s 1st in almost every catagory. 1st ever draft pick, 1st ever Pro Bowler and 1st ever Hall of Famer. He totaled 78 1/2 sacks and did his damage with hardly the star studded sporting cast. Away from football, he was a Tampa Icon with an Expressway ,and a popular restaurant chain in his name–everybody loved Lee Roy. His former coach John McKay said, “Whenever I need to feel good, I think about Lee Roy.”

(2) WARREN SAPP: He was loud, rude but Sapp was dominating and damn good. The 1st ballot Hall of Famer gave the Bucs needed swagger and was the vocal leader of one of the best defenses in NFL History. He turned in 96.5 career sacks and one of the best all time TD dances in team history (remember Beyonce vs Falcons??) He could have owned the Tampa Bay area, like Lee Roy but Sapp didn’t care—he lived life on his own terms but between the lines redefined the defensive tackle position.

(1) DERRICK BROOKS: As big an ego as Warren Sapp’s, even he will tell you nobody was more instrumental to delivering the team’s about face in the mid 1990″s as Derrick Brooks. The 2002 Defensive player of the year was the heart and soul of the Tampa 2. Arguably the best weak side linebacker in NFL history, nobody at his position played better in space than #55. Off the field he was just as good whether it was taking local kids on field trips to Africa or serving on the Board of Trustees at his alma mater FSU. Many around the country probably don’t know how good his career was which I hopes doesn’t prevent him from being a 1st ballot Hall of Famer but there is no question he deserves to be.

PLAYOFF APATHY: I consider myself a pretty hardcore sports fan, but lately I think I’m losing my edge. I am surely not as big a fan as I used to be this time of year. Having kids changes that, working in sports changes that, but I find myself this time of year not caring as much. Believe it or not, its almost Mid May and I haven’t watched A SECOND of NBA or NHL playoff action. Maybe its because I  don’t have a dog in the fight or maybe its because I’m really not a big fan of either league. Last year, I was intrigued by the Heat and Lebron, a year later, I’m wondering—how many days till football season?

BASE BILLS: I do make time for my favorite sport Major League Baseball where front offices continue to amaze me. Every year they throw money at the big names and rarely does it pay off, especially in the post steroid era. No where is this more evident than in Los Angeles where the Angels have a heart of the order in Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout but besides the lowly Astros, have the worst team in the American League???!!

The Rays MVP Evan Longoria has as many home runs as Hamilton and Pujols COMBINED so far. Speaking of the Rays, the spending effect can also be seen in its own division. The Yankees don’t have its big guns so far in Jeter, Teixeira and Granderson but have been near the top all year with contributions from second tier guys like Travis Hafner, an aging Ichiro and Vernon Wells. In Boston, who says the Sox are rebuilding? They have reloaded with the likes of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava—hardly the bonus babies like Carl Crawford from a year ago.

The morale to the story, load up on pitching prospects and spend your offseason money wisely on serviceable position players. Major League Baseball doesn’t have revenue sharing but its clear you don’t need to break the bank to be a winner, in fact most winners become so by not signing the big stars. Isn’t it more fun to pull for a team that doesn’t buy a pennant and wins with its homegrown guys anyway?

UNBROKEN: Not watching the NBA playoffs has helped me put a dent in my bookcase. My latest recomendation, “Unbroken.” Laura Hillenbrand, the author of SeaBiscuit has churned out another winner. Its the true story of Louis Zamperini. A former Olympian turned WWII hero proves to be the ultimate survivor of plane crashes and Japanese POW camps. Sometimes you feel like your reading fiction but this was a true story and should make for a great movie. A movie that is being written by the Coen Brothers and will be directed by none other than Angelina Jolie–can’t wait to see it. By the way Zamperini is still alive at the tender age of 96, I hope he can make it for opening night.

WAWA FEVER : I don’t know about you but I’ve always had a rule that I can’t eat at any restaurant attached to a gas station? The two just never went hand in hand, well until now. Recently I officially have fell in love with Wawa. Anyone from Pennsylvania or New Jersey needs no introduction. Wawa is a familiar name, with about 600 stores blanketing those states, plus Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and, now, Florida. Yes their is a gas station but inside you have a great little deli. It serves up great coffee and tremendous smoothie options not to mention an unbelievable selection of snacks for yourself or potentially your kiddos.  Tremendous service and  sorry Jared and Jimmy John’s–Wawa’s has you beat for the best sandwich too!  I’ve been three times and can’t wait to take my wife this week.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: You know things have changed in many ways in our country since I grew up and one of the biggest is how well we know our neighbors. Growing up, I used to know many of those living next to me and across the street but these days it just seems to be a whole lot different. While I’m familiar with my current neighbors, I don’t know them nearly as well as the neighbors of my youth.

That’s what makes the recent story in Cleveland even more troubling. Its hard to fathom how a group of men could possibly hold three women hostage for 10 years and the stories to come out of this promise to be troubling for sure. It makes your wonder how well you know those around you as the Cleveland neighborhood claims to have been surprised by what has transpired. It also makes many of us more skeptical of those around us in a climate where many are so unattached to begin with. Its a shame all around.

EXTRA POINT: Have gotten a kick out of some of the warped reactions to the first NBA player to come out in Jason Collins which has been a shock to some but not those who have played the game like Charles Barkley who told Dan Patrick this week when asked if he ever played with a gay player? ” Of course I did, everyone played with a gay teammate.” Its nothing new folks.

UNTIL NEXT BLOG,

MIKE

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