Around the world and back again


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001

He is Hubert Mizell and he has seen it all. Here are some Mizell takes on his career, his road trips, his expense accounts, Tom McEwen, his golf game and more.

RM: The highest point of your career?

HM: It was at the 1972 Munich Olympics. At the time, I was working for the Associated Press and as things evolved with the tragedy, it struck me that this is an event that will be in the history books. It struck me as being a higher calling as a journalist and human being.

RM: Did you really see the hooded gunman?

HM: I did. Through binoculars, across the field, leaning off the balcony. I thought their next stop may be the media building. It gave you cause for concern. It was tough to really comprehend what was going on. I was sent to the Munich airport to cover the departure of the Israeli caskets on an El Al 747. There wasn't anyone to interview. It still gives me chills.

RM: What's your favorite road trip?

HM: I enjoy going to Britain. I've been to half-a-dozen British Opens, and I've been to Wimbledon nine times. I like the people, I like the history, I can tolerate driving on the left side of the road. Things are a little slower. It's a bit of a throwback to a more genteel time. I even find that people working at little stores really can give you directions.

RM: Surely you don't like British food?

HM: All I know is, I have never seen a restaurant anywhere else in the world that had a big sign that said, "British Food." Kidney Pies? No, I'm sorry, I don't want to eat anything that has a kidney still in it.

RM: Most expensive meal on the road?

HM: Not being an alcohol drinker, I have probably kept those more in harness than most people. I can recall paying $100 for a meal in a French restaurant in San Francisco when my buddies Art Spander and Ira Miller went a little wild and ordered four bottles of wine. We split the bill three ways and I got stuck with a big third.

RM: Did you get any grief?

HM: Of course, I didn't turn that in. I broke it up into many parts. You know you can't get away with that kind of stuff here at the St. Pete Times.

RM: Fess up, how do you feel about Tom McEwen?

HM: I really do like him as a person. The way we went about our business was quite different. He had his set of rules; I had mine. But we always got along.

RM: Aren't you jealous that he has a street and a press box named after him?

HM: I admire the fact that he was honored that way. Jealous? No. I keep hoping that maybe they will find a dead end street somewhere in St. Pete and name it for me. Tom was a huge civic presence and was very big in local politics and social circles and that leads to more of those kind of honors.

RM: Where should Hubert Mizell Ave. be located?

HM: I would like it to be in downtown St. Pete and a place where a lot is going on and having some connection with sports.

RM: Ever been asked for an autograph?

HM: Yes. When people come up to me I say, "Are you sure you're not mistaking me for someone else. Tom Cruise and I look a lot alike, you know." But I consider it a great honor. If somebody takes time to ask for my autograph, I think it's great. I've signed maybe 100 in my time.

RM: Best round of golf, where and score?

HM: It was at Turnberry, Scotland. That's one of the venues for the British Open. I'm a bogey golfer. If I shoot in the high 80s, I'm happy. That day, things went especially well and despite a double bogey on the last holes, I shot 81. Made three birdies.

RM: What do you think of the theory that golf is not a sport and doesn't belong on the sports pages.

HM: I figure you don't know anything about golf if you say that. Look at the guys on the PGA tour. They're in great shape these days. It's one of the great mind games and you have to make so many different decisions. That combination of the mental and physical demands make it a tremendous task. Most of the athletes in other games who take up golf believe it's a sport.

RM: Burger King or McDonald's?

HM: I am a Whopper guy. The Big Mac is a little too saucy for me.

RM: Oprah Winfrey or Sally Jessie Raphael?

HM: Definitely Oprah. I'm so impressed with the way she has tailored her program in a time when the airwaves are so full of daytime garbage, and taken a chance on her ratings and fortunes to do some good stuff. I'm tremendously impressed with Oprah Winfrey. All the others have kind of cashed into whatever the call of the time is -- sex, vulgarity or exposing some of the dumbest people on earth. But Oprah isn't buying into that. I admire her for that. Plus, I don't like those red glasses that Sally wears.

RM: Heard you take credit for coming up with the name ThunderDome (for what is now Tropicana Field).

HM: I don't remember that, but there are some things that I first used. I think I was the first guy to call the (old) Bucs mascot Bucco Bruce, if that counts. I think I might've been the first media person to extensively use the term, "Tampa Bay." That was the only umbrella I could use to unify the area. I kept pushing for the teams to be named Tampa Bay. I'm still greatly disappointed when I hear, like I did (recently), that the Orioles beat Tampa. That's just dead wrong. I'm ashamed at ESPN and the others who don't know the difference.

RM: Tell the truth, is it Florida or Florida State?

HM: I went briefly to the University of Florida, didn't do very well, left town and went to work full time. There was a time when I was working for the Gator Bowl Association and I was offered the job of Sports Information Director at FSU. So, I have worked extremely hard to walk that yellow line down the middle of the road.

RM: Tattoos or earrings?

HM: If I had a choice I would pierce my ears because if I decide to take it out (the skin) will grow back. But that tattoo is there forever.

RM: So you're saying you don't particularly like Allen Iverson's body art?

HM: Anybody bothers me who hugely discolors their bodies with tattoos. I can't believe that when they are 80 years old they'll be happy with themselves. I just don't get this deluge of tattoos. I always thought it was something drunken sailors did, not sober athletes.

RM: What's the title of the movie of your life?

HM: Around the World in 80 events.

RM: Starring?

HM: I hope it's not John Goodman. Somebody who is a little better looking and a little slimmer than I.

RM: If Bobby Knight is the General, what's your rank?

HM: I'll pick Admiral. Got to make sure I'm his equal.

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