A wide-ranging wish list for the Tampa Bay area


© St. Petersburg Times, originally published Friday, May 18, 2001

This is my final column.

Although for at least three years, beginning June 3, I am to write Sunday commentaries in Times sports. An opportunity highly appreciated, a transition that will ease possibilities of the bends as an old sports writer decompresses after 40 full-bore years in a most honorable, challenging, rewarding profession.

Packing to go, headed for a Virginia valley just across Wintergreen mountain from the Shenandoah, excited about a new life and new weather and new geography, may I leave a little list with you ... things I'd love to see when coming back to visit Florida.

Rays out of turmoil, in contention, playing to packed and happy houses at Tropicana Field.

Bucs in the Super Bowl, with a renowned Tony Dungy, an accomplished Brad Johnson, a fulfilled Keyshawn Johnson, the same old tough John Lynch, plus a Warren Sapp who has opted to deliver in the community with the zeal and personality always evident in his play.

Ybor City a more fun, fuller, safer attraction than ever.

Professional, authoritative, low-trash, high-character, non-juvenile Tampa Bay sports talk. I might have a better chance of putting up a buck and hitting the Lotto.

Wilson Alvarez: 21-6 (2.37).

A wealth of open, bright, wide-ranging community minds that allows optimum growth for an area that has wasted far too much time being divided, provincial and negative about consolidated possibilities.

A sold-out, roaring Ice Palace where the Lightning has become absolute challenger to the Blues, Devils, Pens, Avs and all other Stanley Cup stalkers.

Scalpers at the Trop.

USF football and basketball well into admirable, challenging steps in search of major NCAA conquests, having become so locally magnetic that even the students are massively interested in overpopulating arenas.

A return of wondrous NBA fury in Orlando, surpassing even the Shaq 'n Penny period, blending the skills of McGrady, Hill, Miller and associates into an Orlando pride not connected to theme parks.

BayWalk booming.

National championship college football playoffs a reality, with semifinals played at Raymond James and the Citrus Bowl, one matching the 'Noles and 'Canes, with the Gators and Bulls in the other. Hey, as long as I'm asking, why stretch for anything but the optimum?

Vince Naimoli having some real fun, expending his athletic energies on Notre Dame football.

A busy, engaging downtown St. Petersburg business strip so extensive and successful, it lavishly marries the dome on 16th Street with The Pier and BayWalk.

A completed six-lane, comparatively enjoyable Interstate 4 connection of Tampa and Orlando.

A local TV station, or two or three, doing something revolutionarily retro -- identifying and presenting solid news and timely features, offering commentators with strong credibility, with a No. 1 goal of keeping viewers abreast of subjects that interest the most people, rather than worrying so much about competing for Cutie of the Year.

Fourth Street in St. Petersburg with an Outback, Sam's Club, Barnes & Noble and one less bank.

Bucs practice facility, for which Ray-J bonds provided $12-million, finally getting built. I keep wondering, as Glazers keep refining plans, if there might be a fourth son on the way, necessitating another boss office.

Hal McRae winning.

Women's basketball at USF without the travails, pains, ugliness, racial overtones and institutional embarrassments; amply replaced by athletes trying their hardest and overwhelmingly enjoying the ride.

Bustling, wall-to-wall, big-time success for the always promising downtown Tampa complex that encompasses the bay area's most imposing business area plus Harbour Island, the Ice Palace, cruise port, aquarium and glistening new hotels.

John McKay healthy again.

Seeing my old friends happy, my old newspaper colleagues flourishing, my only kid happy and well off, my old town feeling better about itself than ever, with my old area having become fully and legitimately big league.

Considerable numbers of terrific old neighbors who haven't totally forgotten the Mizell fellow, who for roughly 10,000 days tried to do his best at relaying sports news, analyzing and having a bit of fun along the way.

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