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Mizell's mailbag

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2000


What will draw fans for Lightning, Rays?

When does it get really desperate for the Devil Rays? My college major was economics, but anybody with elementary math skills can discern that, with today's ridiculous player salaries, Tampa Bay's franchise is being submerged in red ink with average attendance of fewer than 20,000.

As much as I love living here, the narrow-mindedness of my home area is startling and perplexing. We should not be mentioned in the same major-league breath with Boston, Philly, Detroit or Chicago.

Only the Bucs are overcoming Tampa Bay's low-flying sports mentality. Pro football has unique appeal. But baseball and hockey are wonderful sports. Listening to the pitiful sports-talk radio and hearing my shallow neighbors talk, I'm not sure our area will ever reach successful, wide-ranging status.

Even with the Rays' bad luck with injuries, dooming them again to last place in the AL East, and even though some of my Tampa friends can't get over the ballpark not being built in their precious Hillsborough, we still should be drawing 25,000 to 30,000 spectators a game.

We fought so long and hard for big-league baseball. We invested big to build the dome. Are we so small time that both MLB and NHL are doomed here?
-- Kevin Stein, Palm Harbor

Me too, Kevin. I'd like to see what the D-Rays would draw with even a semi-contender. But, for now, it was beyond confusing, with Pedro Martinez pitching for Boston, to see fewer than 18,000 patrons, leaving 26,000 seats empty. Your points are astute. I still want to think that winning Bolts and winning Rays seasons would bring huge crowds. Right now, I'm not sure. We remain far too shallow in community savvy.
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I agree with you that the so-called Dream Team concept is a joke. I think it came about because the Russians had enough shots at the end of (an Olympic championship) game to make sure the U.S. didn't win gold.

It's nice to win but only if it's a fair shake. No way any other country can compete with our NBA squad. I still will watch, though we already know the outcome.
-- Clyde Reynolds, e-mail

I was in the Munich arena for that infamous 1972 triple-chance game. Also in the Seoul house for the 1988 failure by John Thompson's bunch. Deep down, I did wish our NBA pros could take on the Soviets. It happened. I enjoyed Barcelona. We proved our point. Enough! Back to the non-NBA blokes.
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I'm still shocked at Tony Dungy's decision to break up the Sapp-Culpepper tandem. Brad has handled the situation with a lot of class, as always. (Anthony) McFarland has not demonstrated he is on the same level.

I feel a little funny, being a die-hard Seminoles fan writing an e-mail about the talents of a former Gator. Brad earned the right to keep playing for the Bucs. He definitely is missed. My prediction has been downgraded to 8-8.
-- Cliff Stallings, e-mail

I'm a Culpepper guy, but I do not think his departure will cost the Bucs three or four wins. Today should be fun, with Brad's Bears coming to Tampa. I'm still saying 11-5 for the Bucs. McFarland needs more time. I'd sooner have Brad for now, but the Dungy call was more long-range. Defense will not be the reason if Tampa Bay shortfalls this season. Offense needs a 30 percent bump-up. Plus, the demand for huge special-teams upgrades has become painfully evident.
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I've tried. I've given Dennis Miller several chances to convince me. But now I know for sure, it was a huge ABC mistake to put him in the Monday night booth. I'm with you and ill-prepared jocks are a bad thing, but there must be a better element to team with Al Michaels and Dan Fouts, who I think are outstanding.
-- Katherine Kennelly, Ellenton

We agree. Miller is a brilliant, creative comedian. I'm a big fan. But he is not a football expert or a journalist, so the experiment is a dud. Dennis seems to know, becoming more and more sheepish about doing his schtick amid Al's play by play and Dan's analysis. Network aces are still searching for Cosell-like impact. But there was only one Howard. It's like trying to find a new Edison or Rockwell. But, please, even if means Miller sticking around for a while, give us no Sterling Sharpe arrogance.
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