May 15, 2020
By: Martin Fennelly
Not to scare Tom Brady, or deter him from trying to build on it, but Tampa Bay has not done half bad when it comes to creating eternal sports memories. We are leaning on those heavily, all by our lonesome, as we wait for fresh ones.
They can’t get here fast enough.
This occurred to me the other day when I found myself watching the national cornhole championships. Competitors wore masks. As far as I’m concerned, anyone whoever showed up to play cornhole on TV should wear a mask to conceal their identity.
Then there is the line Rays pitcher Blake Snell is trying to toe a delicate line, badly, in saying he won’t take a pay cut to play an abbreviated mid-pandemic season. It was inevitable that someone would raise a concern about safety. Snell, a good enough kid, knew that he could come off as greedy, and we won’t disappoint him by saying he didn’t. You really can be smart and dumb at the same time. Way to go, Blake!!
Sports is going to return, and just in the nick of time.
In the meantime, let’s be thankful for what we already have.
We have Oct. 22, 2008, Game 1 of the World Series, when Joe Maddon and the Miracles, those upstart Rays, took the field against the Philadelphia Phillies. It really happened.
We have June 7, 2004, the night that hell froze over and the Tampa Bay Lightning paraded the Stanley Cup around their ice in their building after beating the Calgary Flames in Game 7.
We have Jan. 26, 2003, when the Bucs, once a universal laughingstock, became kings of the world after beating the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. And so it shall always be.
We have Rays pinch-hitter Dan Johnson stunning the Red Sox at Fenway Park with a home run that propelled the Rays to victory. We have Akinori Iwamura stepping on second base for the force to beat Boston and win ALCS Game 7 and send the Rays to that 2008 Series.
We have The Lightning going into Madison Square Garden in the middle of New York City and beating the Rangers in Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.
And we have the three moments that top them all.
We have Marty St. Louis, capping an MVP season by scoring in Game 6 overtime at Calgary to keep hope alive.
We have the Lightning’s record-tying 62 wins in 2018-19, abrupt playoff ending or no.
We have 162, the electrifying final game of the 2011 baseball regular season, Evan Longoria racing to the plate after homering to cap a comeback to beat the Yankees, bury the Red Sox and send the Rays to the playoffs. Has there ever been a sound like that?
We have the sound of silence: Ronde Barber running the night, returning an interception to seal the win over the Eagles in the final game at Veterans Stadium, shutting up all the doubters, and all of Philadelphia, the greatest moment in Bucs and probably Tampa Bay sports history.
We have all that.
So, we are chock full of memories if you close your eyes. Not a bad thing to do until we open them and there are new ones to behold.
Maybe we’ll have Tom Brady and the Bucs ending the playoff drought, all the way to a Super Bowl right here in Tampa.
Maybe we’ll have the Lightning finally breaking on through to the other side, pushing past last season’s monumental first-round collapse and emerging from the weeds to perhaps win this season’s Stanley Cup tournament, led by Nikita Kucherov, who makes amends for past failures, and Steve Stamkos, who does the same.
And maybe, just maybe, the never-say-never Rays will win the World Series to cap a short, mad-capped baseball season. A Rays reliever starts every Series game. Blake Snell closes it out and is voted MVP. After, the city of Montreal shrugs, smiles, and understands when the Rays decide to stay in Tampa Bay after all.
Tampa Bay, at last, is pronounced sports capital of the world.
Hey, we can dream, can’t we?
It’s May and nothing’s doing.
Memories and imaginations are running wild.
The rest of you can get back to the cornhole finals.