By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001
Major league? Getting there
Here's the skinny on the Tampa Bay area:
It is a great college football town, even though the main schools of interest are at least two hours away. It has visions that it is a major-league sports town even though two pro teams have been major disappointments on the field and at the gate.
And it wants to be an Olympics town even though the summer heat might be conducive only to sauna competition.
Unseasonably cool conditions aren't exactly what the Chamber of Commerce ordered for the Super Bowl festivities. But that hasn't stopped the area from showing how far it has come since the last time it was host to the big game, in 1991.
Then, Tampa had a terrible NFL team playing to empty seats in a bland stadium. It had a dome without a baseball team and hockey was a sport northerners played.
(Today) the Super Bowl will be played in Raymond James Stadium, a spectacular new facility complete with its own pirate ship. Its main occupants, the Buccaneers, have become so successful, there are 10,000 names on the waiting list for season tickets.
St. Petersburg has the Devil Rays in the American League, and Tampa has the Lightning in the NHL. The hockey team plays its games in the shiny new Ice Palace, just down the street from a relatively new $100-million convention center.
All these developments and more have Tampa Bay so pumped up, the area, which includes the corridor stretching to Orlando, is making a serious bid for the 2012 Olympics. The area wants to be known for more than being a haven to senior citizens and strip clubs.
Not the team that talks the most trash (unfortunately for the Ravens, who have easily beaten the Giants in the pre-game squawk-off with their various pronouncements and guarantees)
Not the team with the fanciest playbook (although that can make a difference at times, as with the Rams a year ago).
The outcome of this game, and most football games for that matter, usually boils down to who is the toughest.
He is who he is. He did what he did to Cleveland. Nothing changes because he is in Tampa. Nothing changes if commissioner Paul Tagliabue hands Modell the Vince Lombardi Trophy (tonight). The name Modell in Cleveland is the name O'Malley in Brooklyn
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News