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You can take the coach out of Florida but ...

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By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002


You can move away, to Virginia or to Pluto, but there's no fleeing the spunk, irrationality and pulverizing charm of the Florida-Florida State rivalry.

It seemed a natural, productive idea to me, calling 'Noles coach Bobby Bowden two weeks ago for thoughts on old Gators rival Steve Spurrier, who has jumped to NFL challenges.

Reaction would be intriguing.

Between e-mails, cards and scuttlebutt, I got 23 chunks of opinion. Sixteen pluses, including a couple of raves.

Jerry Tate of Pensacola said, "Thanks for a beautifully balanced view." Jeremy Crowe of Gainesville suggested, "As always, you were down the middle on FSU-Florida, and I loved reading what Bowden said about my man Spurrier."

All from 'Noles?

Six people thought the column was a softie, setting up Bowden to mix a rash of compliments on Spurrier's tactical brilliance with barbs about the new Redskins guy's complaining that FSU plays dirty football.

Same words, different views.

"Be ashamed, Mizell," barked Ken Mallard of Bradenton Beach, "for slanted reporting. Bowden piles on and he's as two-faced as you." But from Sue Sellers of St. Petersburg, the thought was, "What I didn't like was my favorite Florida State coach having so many nice things to say about a Spurrier whom I find so easy to despise."

Was that a con or pro?

Then my pal of 44 years, journalist George Solomon, chatted with Spurrier at a D.C. party thrown by a UF grad, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). The Washington Post sports editor mentioned to the Redskins coach "about visiting the new Mizell home in the Old Dominion," to which Spurrier said, "Why is Hubert talking to Bowden about me and writing that stuff?' "

I forgot how much I loved it.

STABS: Speaking of 'Noles, it seems Deion Sanders, as neon as he might have been as an athlete, is a one-trick bore as a TV commentator, capable of littlebut yapping about himself. ... If a bobblehead doll of Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone were produced, it could be the most accurate portrayal yet, cloning a chap whose noggin rocks incessantly on the Atlanta bench. ... Agree with me or not that NFL Europe's rule awarding four points for field goals of 50 yards or more could be fun among Paul Tagliabue's domestics? ... Sweet to see Jack Hairston, a sportswriting chum since the late '50s from Jacksonville and then Gainesville, as part of a TV ad for Gatorade. ... An especially loud smack at the L.A. baseball heartbeat comes from USA Today writer Jon Saraceno, who rips, "The organization always stood for community and class but, to borrow a phrase a colleague used to describe the decline of the Boston Celtics dynasty, the only thing the Dodgers stand for now is the national anthem." ... Dick Allen, a non-stereotypical baseball slugger, lived with a belief that the "only thing better than a high fastball is a fast highball."

TINSEL: Why did it take NFL bosses so long to recognize it is as ludicrous for Los Angeles to not have a football franchise as it would be to list the world's greatest cities without Paris?

In the high-voltage neighborhood, there are baseball Dodgers and Angels, hockey Kings and Mighty Ducks and basketball Lakers and Clippers, but the NFL tank is on E.

Sure, the Rams wiggled away to St. Louis in a stadium fuss, and the Raiders were always in wet southern California cement with Al Davis as a deal-slinging warlord.

Preventable? Doesn't matter.

For Commissioner Tags and cronies to go without America's second largest market for more than a year was corporate lunacy. Even if public apathy figured into the mess. How long would the NFL allow New York or Chicago to be without a franchise?

Finally, owners appear serious about plugging the incredible vacuum. Whether by relocating one of 32 members or expansion that would unquestionably be a most misfit of an idea.

Whatever the formula, it must happen. Soon.

Even if the team must play temporarily in the beautiful if antiquated Rose Bowl with mobile-home "luxury suites" stripped around the rim or a Coliseum where crowds of 100,000 watched the NFL, USC Trojans and Olympics.

MARSHY: After I had wondered whatever happened to Rodney Marsh, the delightful British oddball who once headlined the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the answer came, along with a kick in the grass for me, in a letter from Carlos J. DeCisneros. ...

"Rodney is alive and well. A very popular Web site for soccer fans (so that excludes you). He wrote an autobiography called Priceless in which he has many nice things to say about Tampa.

"He helps run RAM, which I believe is a sports agent business. He has a TV show in England called Soccer Saturday. Rodney maintains a home in Tampa. He owns the rights to the Rowdies name if somebody wants to start a (new) franchise." Whatever happened to Jerry Koosman?

-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail mmizell02@earthlink.net or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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