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Think Florida is hot now? Just wait for football season

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001

It's July, so I've got the summer football twitch. Are you with me? I'm itching for NFL camps to open. Ravenous for the college season. Are we still two sweaty months from September?

By far, it is America's game.

Barry Bonds grunts for homers, Shaquille O'Neal reigns, Pete Sampras strains to win a zilteenth Wimbledon, Tiger Woods crams for the British Open and Ray Bourque holds the Stanley Cup high, but even they know what sport is No. 1.

Bucs? Gators? Hurricanes? Expectations are mountainous for Florida teams with 2001 rule-the-republic propensities. Is this the year FSU, king of the NCAA '90s, becomes bronze medalist among the mighty Florida Three? A power nonetheless.

How sweet the peninsula.

Coming soon, a predictions onslaught from newspapers, mags and broadcast wags. Most of us, by January, will prove to be ghastly erroneous, as Bucs coach Tony Dungy keeps reminding me. That won't stop us.

Hey, who's Tony picking?

Tampa Bay will go as far as its offensive line allows. Baltimore won Super Bowl XXXV because of the world's best-ever defense. Dungy's bunch could challenge the Ravens' stop-em superiority with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and a new force, Simeon Rice.

With a moderately healthy/efficient OL, the Bucs offense could improve 20 percent with a fresh mix of quarterback Brad Johnson, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and runners Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott. When does camp begin?

Among collegians, you can bet the consensus No. 1 pick nationally will be the Florida Gators. Steve Spurrier's stout recruiting from a couple years ago is about to pay off.

Tennessee and FSU, regular toughies on UF's schedule, must come to Gainesville.

Butch Davis left for big NFL money and last place with the Cleveland Browns, but the Miami Hurricanes he deserted will be top-four in most preseason polls, along with the Gators, Nebraska and Texas.

My twitch is escalating.

* * *

HOOKS: Is it the first time a politically incorrect pitcher (John Rocker) left one team with a politically incorrect nickname (Braves) to join another (Indians)? ... Predictable, nonsensical quirk in fans picking baseball All-Stars: Luis Gonzalez, mega gentleman from Tampa, on a 70-homer pace, sits fourth in voting among NL outfielders. ... Now that PGA Tour television has given us Cup Cam, a bottom-up view from golf's glory hole, what's ahead? Maybe an Ear Cam for the next Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield bite fight. ... Speaking of golf, did you hear about Chris Crabtree, an Indiana amateur who played 504 holes in one day, the equivalent of 28 rounds, averaging 34.9 minutes per 18 holes and 74.5 strokes? Hey, if I played 504 holes before dark, I'd record just one stroke: the one that left me comatose and toes-up.

* * *

UPPERCUTS: New Yorkers still are trying to figure why the Mets, needy for outfield power, let Bubba Trammell get away. Some followers of the Rays have wondered the same thing for 11 months. ... Michael Jordan's wife, Juanita, gave him a surprise birthday party and Bill Clinton showed up. Defunct prez, he's so lonely. ... Air's old Chicago mate, Dennis Rodman, who has been tattooed in many ways, claims "Isiah Thomas is the toughest guy I've seen in my life." ... Is he trying a new twist, turning humble, or does Barry Bonds believe it when he says, "Not a chance" he'll match Mark McGwire's record of 70 homers? "I'm just not that powerful a hitter." ... H.E. Barrineau of Beverly Hills, reacting to a recent whatever happened? on former Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, says the former South Carolina hero returned to his old school to work in the P.E. department.

* * *

READER'S SHOUT: Ken Polak of Clearwater writes, "Your inappropriate remarks regarding (Philadelphia) crowd nastiness prompts me to remind you that infamous boo birds started with the Bronx Cheer, which, in case your geography needs reminding, is New York City."

Nobody is saying Philly has an exclusive, but to suggest the more vocal precincts at Eagles, Sixers, Phillies or Flyers games are anything shy of blast-furnace fierce, well, that's like Mama Capone claiming her son, Alphonse, is just a good boy who's misunderstood.

Whatever happened to John Carlos?

- To contact Hubert Mizell, e-mail or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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