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'There is nothing here'

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2001


Thousands of media types descend on the Tampa Bay area this week to cover Super Bowl XXXV. At least one of them, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa, is already less than impressed with the host city.

Below are excerpts from his Tuesday piece about Tampa.

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"They should have called it "Coma'. I've been in livelier mortuaries. Solemn high mass in church is like the Caesars Palace next to this place . . .

Staging a Super Bowl in this town is like putting a Disneyland in Minsk. It's not that it's a hellhole. But there is nothing here. Nothing resembling a pulse.

There's one thing I can say for Tampa. It isn't Atlanta, which never again should even be mentioned in the same breath with Roman numerals. No ice storms here.

But, if you plan on visiting Tampa this week and aren't into strip clubs, bring a lot of reading material or video games. . .

This will be the third Super Bowl Tampa has hosted, and it should be the last. Tampa should be out of the rotation. Bad enough Jacksonville is getting a Super Bowl, and Tampa is like Paris next to that place. San Diego should host one of these things every other year, alternating with New Orleans.

Driving in from the airport Sunday night, our van driver said she was a Tampa native. "They roll up the streets here at 6, you know," she said.

What she didn't say was that she meant 6 a.m.

Honestly, I'm sure people have to work somewhere around here, but you never see them. It's like they live underground. I'm serious. You can walk across a downtown street at night blindfolded and wearing dark clothing without concern for your life. . . .

It's as though the place is under continuous bomb threat. . . .

Since 1904, the Tampa Bay area has been the site of a poor man's Mardi Gras known as Gasparella (sic), which celebrates a pirate invasion. . . . The last time I was in Ybor City, the closest thing I saw to a party was a party of four being called at the Columbia restaurant."

-- SUE CARLTON

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