St. Petersburg Times Online: Business
 Devil Rays Forums
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather




printer version

A wrestler, a prince of Monaco and a wine tasting

Tampa columnisthooper
Click here

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

Keith Simmons, a 6-foot-1, 266-pound Brandon High wrestler and football player, was physically bigger than the man who stood before him. But not bigger in status.

Not yet, anyway.

On Friday, Simmons traveled to Big Cypress Swamp Reservation to meet Prince Albert of Monaco (for the record, it's Crown Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre of Monaco). An American Indian, Simmons was honored along with five other Seminoles who won medals at this summer's North American Indian Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The prince reportedly met representatives of the tribe during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and agreed he would visit when he got a chance. Keith's father, also named Keith Simmons, said it was difficult to get a picture of the prince because of the crowd and entourage surrounding him.

Simmons won the gold in the heavyweight wrestling division, pinning three of his four opponents in less than a minute, but he took away more than a medal.

"It was very different just being around so many Indians," said Simmons, whose mother Mayra is an American Indian. "We all wrestled, but we also all had the same family values and stuff like that. We've all gone through the same things. It was like being a big family."

Some day, Simmons may be head of the Seminole family. He aspires to join the tribe council and perhaps be chief.

"I would like to bring my tribe greater success," he said.

* * *

There seems to be a growing number of restaurants -- Armani and Profusion, just to name two -- looking to lure diners with fancy wine tastings. So are a host of charitable organizations. The reaction of those of us who typically dine at Checkers is "too stuffy for me."

But after an evening of wining and dining at Profusion, I discovered you don't have to utter the words "wine tasting" with your nose in the air. Honest.

We had a connoisseur, Alan Matthys of National Distributing, guide us through an evening of Kenwood Vineyard wines. I have to admit some of his phrases went right over my head. He kept saying things like buttery, grassy, fruity, etc., and I nodded my head like I was hanging on every word. I was really waiting for him to be quiet so I could grub on my five-course, $65 meal.

Yeah, that's a little steep, but with each course, you get a different wine. Plus, when I freed my mind, I realized I could come away with enough knowledge to impress my other non-wine drinking friends the next time we dine out -- assuming we go to a place that serves wine, instead of Golden Corral.

Imagine: the waiter asks if I want a sauvignon blanc or a pinot noir, and I actually know the difference.

* * *

My only training comes from a six-month stint at a Chik-Fil-A during college, but on Friday I'll be the celebrity bartender at Big City Tavern. Come out from 5-7 p.m. and lend some support to the Guardian ad Litem program, which will receive the tips.

I'll be joined by WFLA radio host Jacks Harris, Daytime host Brian Fasulo, WFLA reporter Jackie Barron and Mix 100.7's Marti Ryan.

* * *

I'm torn about Lou Piniella coming to the Devil Rays. Not only does he have Hall of Fame credentials as a manager, but he is one of our own. The marriage of natives with our team is one of the aspects that initially fueled desire for a baseball club.

But while Piniella brings much prestige, how much of a difference can he make in wins and losses? Unless management infuses the team with needed talent at key positions, it could be another long year.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or .

Back to Tampa area news

Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111

Times columns today

Ernest Hooper
  • A wrestler, a prince of Monaco and a wine tasting

  • Mary Jo Melone
  • Foster kids threatened by group's childishness

  • Robert Trigaux
  • How hard would war strike Florida?

  • Helen Huntley
  • On money

  • Jan Glidewell
  • A life of struggle, a night of joy

  • Bill Maxwell
  • Mayor is heck of a drinking buddy

  • Martin Dyckman
  • The Golden Age of the Florida Legislature

  • Philip Gailey
  • The governor's race comes down to whom you trust

  • Robyn E. Blumner
  • How can U.S. force others to follow rules when it doesn't

  • Hubert Mizell
  • NFL dreams still haunt former Gator kicker

  • John Romano
  • Bowden faces two barriers: age and losing

  • From the Times Metro desks
  • Taking cues from medieval life

  • North of Tampa
  • Kelly Road might get new apartment complex
  • Neighborhood notebook
  • What sets candidates apart? Priorities
  • Students have their say on election issues
  • Day at the park a debacle when ceiling buckles
  • Schools roundup
  • Schools must raise cash to raise flag
  • Teen earns recognition as top golfer
  • Bay Cup spotlights local harriers
  • Boundaries for Heritage still evolving
  • Improved Northdale Golf Club reopens Monday
  • Teen earns recognition as top golfer
  • Gate issue blocks developer's request
  • Westchase candidates run on similar platforms
  • Man-made plans intrude on 'spectacular view'
  • City approves petition for private roads
  • Carrollwood rabbi finds a friend in Washington
  • Open & shut
  • Lutz shop owner Gaudin wants less government
  • Hagan becomes front-runner in three-way race
  • Dyser's past is filled with high points and low
  • Second brother dies after bicycle accident
  • Guavaween characters gambol in Ybor City
  • Prolific robber eludes capture, despite photos
  • Bush goes door-to-door in Pinellas
  • Mail policy stirs confusion over school intent forms