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Mizell given fond farewell

Friends and peers gather to honor - and poke fun at - Times columnist Hubert Mizell.

[Times photos: Dirk Shadd]
Hubert Mizell laughs and Bob Costas applauds approvingly as FSU's Bobby Bowden takes jabs at the guest of honor.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Longtime St. Petersburg Times columnist Hubert Mizell was honored -- and skewered -- Monday at The Vinoy by colleagues and luminaries from the sports world.

The roast for Mizell, 62, who retired last week from the Times after 27 years -- save a Sunday column he will write for three years from his home near Charlottesville, Va. -- was hosted by Bob Costas.

photo
Bucs coach Tony Dungy draws laughs by noting not-so-accurate Mizell predictions about Bucs football.
On the dais were Tony Dungy, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Bowden, retired Tampa Tribune columnist Tom McEwen and Sporting News columnist Dave Kindred. Roasting via videotape were Bob Knight, Dick Vitale, George Steinbrenner, Chris Berman and Peter Kessler of the Golf Channel.

Darts, quips and anecdotes were mixed with heartfelt respect for Mizell, who was named the nation's best sports columnist in 1981 by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

"I think Hubert was one of the people who put the St. Petersburg Times on the map nationally," Times editor and president Paul Tash said. "It was a terrific tribute."

Mizell's ample physique was the most popular target for the roasters, with Costas setting the tone with his opening remark.

"A man who has been to sportswriting what Raymond Burr was to pole vaulting," Costas said. Vitale, on videotape from Tropicana Field, later added, "I know one thing. He'd make my All-Widebody team, baby."

Steinbrenner was the first roaster. He pretended to be unfamiliar with Mizell, fumbling his name a few times, and said financial reasons kept him away.

"If I could have afforded it, I'd have been there," Steinbrenner said. "Things are a little tough since we signed (star shortstop Derek) Jeter."

Bowden and Kindred commented on Mizell's retirement location.

"When he leaves St. Pete and goes to Charlottesville (the location of Florida State's ACC rival Virginia), it'll raise the IQ of both towns," Bowden said.

Kindred, who lives near Charlottesville, said it should be an easy adjustment for Mizell:

"I told Hubert, "We have humidity. We have mosquitoes. We have no major league baseball.' "

Dungy read some Mizell columns containing predictions.

From after a poor game by then-Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer: "No team can ever win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback."

From 1996, when there was speculation the franchise might relocate:"Take it from me, the Bucs are gone."

From two days before the Bucs hired Dungy: "How are the Tampa Bay people supposed to get excited if the Bucs hire Tony Dungy?"

Said Dungy: "Obviously, this is a man who has lived in the community and knows the pulse."

Mizell's golf game took a few blows. Bowden said he recently played with Mizell, and, after hitting a ball into the water, asked if he could borrow Mizell's ball retriever.

"He said he didn't have it. He was having it re-gripped," Bowden said.

The effervescent and loquacious Vitale, who Costas said he once didn't talk to for two years because "I didn't think it would be right to interrupt him," said Mizell is a fickle golfer:

"The guy shoots in the 70s. If it gets any warmer, he can't play."

Spurrier said he asked Norm Carlson, the sports information director at Florida and longtime acquaintance of Mizell's, if he was coming.

"He said, "Hell, no, he should have retired 20 years ago,' " Spurrier said. "I enjoyed Tony Dungy's remarks. Now I know why I never read what Hubert writes."

Humor aside, everyone had warm things to say about Mizell.

"He comes up to Tallahassee my first year there (as coach) and does a big interview with me," Bowden said ."And it was one of my favorite write-ups ever. I've still got it at home. There are some that are special to me, and it was."

McEwen, the last roaster before Mizell closed the proceeding, recalled a friendly adversary.

"They talk about cliche-friendly competitors, but the fact is we were," McEwen said. "His story most of the time would be a better read, in my judgment. But I'd (get done) first.

"At the Super Bowl, for the last time, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "See ya.' "

Mizell thanked his son, Kevin, and his wife, Marcy, and said he was humbled by the event.

"I feel so honored, I'm overwhelmed by what's happened here the past few days," Mizell said. "I think one of the great things in the world is to hear your obituary and then walk away from it."

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