The Boys of Summer
This is a dead time of the year for gridiron fans. A free agency signing here, a salary cap cut there, but pretty much not a lot happening to keep your interest alive. The draft is still over a month away and when you don't have a first-round pick, doesn't hold much interest anyway for Buc fans. So what is there to keep you going as the dog days of summer approach?

Ice. Like the stuff the Lightning play on. These are heady days to be a sports fan in Tampa. The Sporting News always ranks all American cities in terms of their claim to be the top sports town in the nation and right now, Tampa/St.Pete is looking a pretty good favourite for the top spot. The Bucs have their SuperBowl championship in the bag, and now the Tampa Bay Lightning are on their way to the NHL post-season for only the second time in their 11-year history. Most mornings now start with a look to see how Lacavalier, Andrechuyk, Richards, Khabibulin, St.Louis and the rest have done in their latest game. April is sure to be a pretty hot month at the Ice Palace.

Not so the baseball Devil Rays. The economics of major league baseball mean that over half the teams in the game have no chance of making the post-season and the Devil Rays are one of them. They have a great manager now in Lou Pinella who has come home after years with the Mariners, but they have no real talent and no pitching. Perhaps I should end my two-year retirement and get back on the mound again. My 47 wins in the British League would equal their current projected starting rotation's win tally in the majors.

NASN started showing Arena League football recently and I decided to give "The War on the Floor" a go. Kept my attention for all of.... five minutes. Scores of 70-60 might look pretty exciting in First Down but the novelty of the game wears off pretty quickly. And when the commentator is talking excitedly about a "star player" having been with the Cowboys a few years ago for a season, then you know the words "barrel" and "scraping" spring to mind.

So what is there do keep your interest going over the next few months as the weather turns warmer? I can't really suggest golf here as I'm out on the course in all weathers at all times of the year, but March to me is always a time to start reading some of my favourite baseball books in anticipation of the forthcoming season. Away from the Bucs, I don't have a favourite team in any other sport and hence can quite easily get into a game and leave it again whether it be baseball or hockey. I've tried to like basketball and Kevin Cadle has often tried to interest me in the nuances of his No.1 sport, but it just doesn't do it for me.

So if you're not a mound man, a gym rat, a puck fan or a links-lover, what is left? Ahh now that is an easy one to answer this March unlike any other. You go to your collection of video tapes, and you pick out Tampa v San Francisco, followed by the Bucs at the Eagles, and then top it off with a little game from the end of January in San Diego. It's like watching a James Bond film really. You know the good guys are going to win, the know the plot and you know you'll enjoy everything you watch with a happy ending to top it all off. Ahh, the boys of summer are here.

Paul Stewart, April 2003