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Column

The bad and teh ugly of Tampa Bay sports

Worst market in the country? That's what the Sporting News says.

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published June 4, 2006

Worst sports market in the country? Tampa Bay. That's what the Sporting News calls us. Out of 388 markets, Tampa Bay is ranked 388th, behind such sports meccas as Yakima, Wash., Winooski, Vt., and Pocatello, Idaho. While we disagree (c'mon, we could mop the floor with Long Pond, Pa., couldn't we?), we do have a pretty sorry history in our 30 years as a pro sports market. Toss out the Super Bowl and a Stanley Cup and there isn't much to hang on billboards out by the airport. In fact, we have some of the most bumbling, stumbling moments in all of sports. With that in mind, we offer up the worst of Tampa Bay sports.

KOOKY OWNER

Bucs: Hugh Culverhouse.

Rays: Vince Naimoli.

Lightning: Art Williams.

BIGGEST BUST

Bucs: Charles McRae.

Rays: Josh Hamilton.

Lightning: Mario Larocque.

STAR THAT GOT AWAY

Bucs: Steve Young.

Rays: Bobby Abreu.

Lightning: Paul Mara.

PLAYER WHO EPITOMIZES FUTILITY

Bucs: Bill Capece.

Rays: Wilson Alverez.

Lightning: David Littman.

OFF THE SCRAP HEAP

Bucs: Trade No. 1 pick in 1984 for QB Jack Thompson, who goes a a scintillating 2-14 as a starter.

Rays: Sign Roberto Alomar, who promptly retires before season starts.

Lightning: Playing an exhibition game against some rinky-dink team from Austria, it recognizes one of the defensemen: former NHL washout Kjell Samuelsson, who is immediately signed and ends up playing 46 games.

FUNNIEST INTENTIONAL QUOTE

Bucs: Coach John McKay on what he thought of team's execution: "I'm in favor of it."

Rays: Manager Lou Piniella on possible new team slogan: "Devil Rays Baseball ... My God!"

Lightning: GM Phil Esposito on how he convinced Japanese investors: "I said hockey and they thought I said sake."

FUNNIEST UNINTENTIONAL QUOTE

Bucs: Coach Sam Wyche, bragging to the media after Game 6 of the '95 season: "As you write your ugly headlines, just don't misprint 4-dash-2." Team goes 3-dash-7 after that.

Rays: GM Chuck LaMar: "The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major-league level."

Lightning: Coach Jacques Demers storms out of news conference with this message for the disrespectful reporters: "You can go to hell. ... Uh, not all of you, just some of you."

MOST SURREAL MOMENT

Bucs: When announcing he couldn't sign No. 1 pick Bo Jackson, Culverhouse quotes ... Dionne Warwick? "Keep smiling, keep shining, that's what friends are for." To which we respond with ... huh?

Rays: Naimoli kicks a Japanese reporter out of the Trop for using his bathroom. To which we say ... are you kidding? He wasn't. He also kicked out a Mets scout for the same thing.

Lightning: Owner Williams asks goalie Bill Ranford for his "I'm a Stud" T-shirt back after a bad loss because he didn't think Ranford deserved it. To which Ranford said, "Art, I didn't even play tonight."

BRUSHES WITH THE LAW

Bucs: So many that team slogan for a while was "Have gun, will travel."

Rays: Naimoli goes berserk when wife is pulled over by police for running a red light. Officer at scene says, "He dropped a whole bunch of names of City Council members, the chief, upper brass, too."

Lightning: Espo attacks Toronto reporter Bob McKenzie and is threatened with banishment from Canada. The case is dropped when Esposito grudgingly apologizes.

BAD STAT

Bucs: Lost first 26 games in history.

Rays: Finished last in seven of eight seasons.

Lightning: Lost 50 games four consecutive seasons.

WORST STAT

Bucs: Losing record in 14 consecutive seasons (1983-96)

Rays: Closest finish to first was 2000, when they were a mere 18 games behind.

Lightning: Had not one, but two 16-game winless streaks in same season (1997-98).

WORDS THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY

Bucs: "Please welcome our new coach, Richard Williamson."

Rays: "All in favor of Vince running the group say, "Aye.' "

Lightning: "Forget Kariya, let's take Gratton."

[Last modified June 4, 2006, 13:11:28]

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