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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2003

Until a few recent Sundays, it has been all too easy to find the gray clouds surrounding the silver linings of our local professional sports teams.

In regards to the Rays, we'd often pick up the editorials and learn about dissatisfaction concerning the price of beer, parking arrangements, Raymond's behavior and occasionally the quality of play on the field. I'd like to take the opportunity to publicize something positive brought about by the Rays organization and a few, specific individuals. On a day in which the Rays probably anticipated 200 Little League participants in their skills training camp, only 25 young ballplayers showed. Despite this, the instructors enthusiastically worked one-on-one with the boys. My sincerest thanks go to Billy Hatcher, Jason Tyner, Brent Abernathy, Travis Harper, Lance Carter and Chris Bosio.

Certainly one wouldn't be surprised if these big-leaguers made a quick appearance and exited, but these gentlemen not only helped some youngsters with their skills, but more than likely created some lifelong memories. Thanks.
-- Stephen Miller, Treasure Island

Tuesday, I was a proud sports fan. The Gators had won 14 in a row and had finally achieved a No. 1 ranking in both college basketball polls. They were going up against Kentucky, probably the toughest opponent on their schedule.

The Lightning was coming off a four-game winning streak and was going against Washington, which was three points ahead of Tampa Bay in the division.

Both games had the possibility of greatness. Both teams had a chance to prove that they were worthy. That they were champions.

Wednesday, I hung my head in shame.

I've never seen a hockey team play as badly as the Lightning did (Woe with a Capitals' W). And while I didn't watch the Gators game, after reading the paper (Gators flop from the top) it seems that I should be glad that I didn't. Both teams fell flat on their faces. Both teams couldn't take the pressure, and both teams collapsed, 5-1 and 70-55.

Kentucky forward Chuck Hayes said it best when he said, "We were kind of surprised. We thought they had more firepower." I think that says it all for both teams.
-- Craig Pettitt, Via e-mail

As a Clearwater taxpayer, I feel good about helping the Phillies sign Jim Thome. After all, they only signed him for $27.5-millon more than he was offered by Cleveland. Had the Phillies paid what they should have for the new Clearwater Sports Complex, they would not have been able to pay Mr. Thome $87.5-million. All Clearwater taxpayers should feel warm and fuzzy inside about this, as I do.
-- Harold Vick, Clearwater

I would suggest, Mr. Mizell, that the Williams sisters have gotten as much respect from the tennis world as they've given (Williams sisters have not gotten their due respect, Sunday).

If you watched Venus' debut years ago when she barreled into Irena Spirlea and nearly knocked her down, or Serena's sneer of contempt to the fans that were cheering her opponents at the Lipton and other tournaments, if you had seen these and oh so many other moments of arrogance, then you would understand why the "mavens of tennis" will be very pleased when the Williams sisters move on.
-- Sallie Elmore, Largo

Being a patriotic person, it irks me that players do not place their right hand over their heart when the national anthem is played. Furthermore, aren't there any singers who can sing the national anthem as it was written, not adding their own notes? Let's teach the next generation that we do love the USA.
-- Doris Fauth, South Pasadena

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