Are sports leagues rushing their return?

by Gary Shelton on June 28, 2020

in general

Is Tom Brady worth the wait?/@Buccaneers

Sunday, 4 a.m.

You love football. You love the blend of speed and strength, of finesse and flair. You like watching the game-within-a-game of a defensive end trying to beat an offensive tackle, of a running back in the open field against a safety.

But if it were your sport, if you were in charge, if you were the boss of bosses, would you open the training camps?

You love baseball. You love seeing a pitcher work with the bases loaded and a slugger at the plate. You love the guessing game of when to pull one reliever for another. You like the sheer speed of a triple.

But if you ran things, would you be ready to order them to line the field?






Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

That is the question, of course. We all miss sports. We want to see hockey, or golf, or basketball. We want to see a goal, a double, a basket, a blitz, a dunk, a dinger, an end-zone dance. We are all weary of being hermits.

But are you ready to climb into a bleacher seat between strangers? Are you willing to watch sports without thinking of the athletes grabbing each other, breathing on each other, sweating against each other?

it isn't an easy question. There are rich men waiting to get richer -- owners and players alike. There are fans who plan their entire years around going to games.

But is it time?

Really?

The positive cases are spiking ... still. Florida had a record day Saturday, breaking the previous record of Friday. Most of us are masked these days.

Does it feel like it's getting better to you? Just because Roger Goodell says it should be?

Yet, sports has decided it has been idle long enough.

-- Baseball will have its Opening Day on July 24 or 25.

-- NFL teams report to training camp on July 28.

-- NHL teams are going to camp on July 10.

In other words, the leagues seem to be rushing it a bit, don't they? And fans, bored out of their minds, seem to want it to happen. We want to see Tom Brady's first practices. We want to see Andrei Vasilevskiy make another sprawling save. We want to see if Blake Snell can rebound. Our walls get closer all the time. We're running low on patience.

But the worst thing that can happen, as the state of Texas has learned, is to pretend that this disease has gone away only to be reminded of it in the form of a devastating mew test case.

Tom vs. Time: An athlete fights the years

by Gary Shelton on June 21, 2020

in general

The world waits to see what Brady has left./TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Every day, we fight the clock.

Every day, we look for hair that has turned gray, or for another wrinkle, or for another spot on our arms. Time is a sneaky thing, and as they say, it is undefeated. Sometimes, it seems a player goes from being too young to being over the hill in a single afternoon.

Most of the time, however, it is a battle that most Tampa Bay sports fans never have to worry about.

Hey, Tampa Bay teams are young by nature, aren't they? Most of the time, they invest their hope into draftees and other young, promising players. They hype them, and they load too much of the burden for winning upon them, and then they throw them away.






Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

In 1979, the Bucs were good for the first time, reaching the NFC title game. The star of that team, Lee Roy Selmon, was 25. Doug Williams, the quarterback, was 24, There were no jokes about the Early Bird Special.

In 2002, the season in which the Bucs won it all, Warren Sapp was 30. Derrick Brooks was 29. Two years later, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup.Martin St. Louis was 28. Vinny Lecavalier was 23. When the Rays reached the World Series in 2008, James Shields was 26. Evan Longoria and David Price were 22.

Older players, you see, are more expensive. Winning comes at a cost. In most seasons, we have not been a mountain where the wise men reside. We do better with up-and-coming athletes than we do with old-and-settled ones.

So, whatever are we to make of this battle against time that Tom Brady is now waging.

It's odd. The older an athlete gets, the more people pay attention. For a long time, they talked about Brady's accomplishments. Now, they wonder how much strength remains in his arm, and how much Bill Belichick knew when he decided to turn Brady loose. Every day, you hear the questions. Brady has won a lot of Super Bowls, but time has won them all. And critics notice.

Oh, Belichick doesn't bat 1.000. Richard Seymour made two Pro Bowls after Belichick traded him. Jimmy Garappolo made a Super Bowl. Chandler Jones has made two. Logan Mankins was a serviceable guard for two seasons.

So who do you bet on? The calendar, or the resume?

At his age, almost 43, no one is counting on Brady to win another six Super Bowls. But if he can squeeze a couple of playoff seasons out of his body, it will be interesting to see.

And yes, athletes do succeed late in life.

-- Yuichiro Miaura was 80 years old when he climbed Mount Everest in 2013.

-- Diana Nyad was 64 when she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Miami without a shark cage in 2013.

-- Satchel Page threw three scoreless innings for Kansas City in 1965 at the age of 59.

-- Tom Watson was 59 when he came within a stroke of winning the 2008 British Open.

-- Gordie Howe was 52 when he played his last game for Hartford in 1980.

-- Martina Navratilova won the US Open mixed doubles title just shy of her 50th birthday.

-- Julius Boros won the PGA championship in 1968 at the age of 48.

-- George Blanda finished a 26-year NFL career in 1975 at the age of 48, although he was primarily a kicker his last few years.

-- Jack Nicklans won the 1986 Masters at 46.

-- George Foreman won a heavyweight championship in '94 at age 46.

-- Nolan Ryan threw his last no-hitter in 1991 at age 44. He would pitch until he was 46.

-- Robert Parish won an NBA title with Chicago in 1997.

-- Dara Torres was 41 when she won three silver medals at the 2008 Olympics.

And on it goes. John Goodenough won a Nobel Prize at the age of 96. James Ivory won an Academy Award at 89. In 1998, John Glenn went into space at age 77.

And Tom Brady is still facing the blitz as he nears his 43rd birthday.

It shouldn't surprise us that players such as Brady and Drew Brees are still excelling late in life. For a great quarterback, playing quarterback has become as cerebral as it is physical. Almost every rule change -- throwing it away when out of the pocket, penalizing borderline hits, liberalizing pass protection, restricting defensive backs as they bump downfield -- has favored the quarterback. The days of being done at 35 are over.

In other words, it isn't how old you are. It's how good you are.

Soon, Brady will get a chance to show us all.

Once again, the world discusses Kaepernick

by Gary Shelton on June 14, 2020

in general

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Al Sharpton is talking about Colin Kaepernick. He wants him to get his job back.

Pete Carroll is talking about Kaepernick. He said some teams have called him to gauge interest.

Doug Williams is talking about Kaepernick, if only to explain why the Redskins haven't been talking about Kaepernick.

And so it goes. Considering that he's a guy who the NFL threw away four years ago, there remains a lot of conversation about Kaepernick, who has become so much more as a symbol than he ever was as a star.






Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

Hue Jackson is talking about Kaepernick, saying that he wanted to sign him just before he went 0-16 with the Browns.

The Titans aren't talking about Kaepernick, except maybe privately. They've been linked by ESPN as a possible landing spot.

Terrell Owens is talking about Kaepernick. Kaepernick has not responded, but one imagines it would be to say: "Don't help, Terrell. Okay?"

And so the never-ending conversation continues. It has been four seasons, an entire NFL career, since the 49ers released Kaepernick. Hundreds of players have lost their jobs since then, and the calendar keeps turning.

But Kaepernick has become a symbol of all that is wrong with the privilege of the NFL. Writers throw around the word "blacklisted" as if it were a proven fact more the supposition. Kaepernick took a knee -- perhaps you heard about it -- and to some, that is the only issue that matters. Never mind that others who took a knee continue to play in the league. There are celebrities who speak as if signing Kaepernick means an instant Super Bowl victory for whichever team is courageous enough to get his name on the dotted line, even though he's never won a Super Bowl (he did play in one).

But is it that simple? Do such things as success, or a lack of it, and pay, and opportunity weigh in, too. Even in hindsight, it is possible to argue whichever way you like in the case of Kaepernick. Even now, you can paint him as a victim or a villain.

On a personal note, I could give a flying pancake about the outcry over Kaepernick's protest. We are a nation built on protests, and many of us grew up in the 60s, and we saw our on-campus movements in college. If Kaepernick wants to excersize his rights as an American, if he wants to wear controversial socks, well, more power to him. We are immersed in protests lately, and much of it is productive. The lesson is there.

As a quarterback, however, Kaepernick had a lot of flaws. A lot of people have lost sight of those.

In his six seasons with the 49ers, Kaepernick had a losing record (28-30). So let's not assume that he's got a short cut to the Super Bowl. Frankly, he was kind of a one-year wonder. He won 12 games in 2013, and went to the Super Bowl but that was his only year when he won double-digit games. He fell to eight wins in 2014, two in 2015 and one in 2016.

You know who else were short-lived successes? Josh Freeman. Vince Young. Tim Tebow.

In his last season, I watched Kaepernick play against a thoroughly underachieving Bucs' team. He completed fewer than half of his passes, had a rating of 56.4 and seemed completely ineffectual. If an NFL team wanted to sign Kaepernick, it doesn't want to be seeing tapes of that game.

Should Kaepernick have immediately gone on the backup circuit, the way a lot of quarterbacks do? Maybe. But was he willing? I've still never seen Kaepernick discuss the money he wanted. I've never seen him take the Jameis Winston tact of going somewhere as a backup and working his way back into a job.

Either way, it seems like yesterday's argument. If a team signs Kaepernick now, and he doesn't succeed, his supporters will blame the time he has lost and the opportunity he has received. Nobody wins unless Kaepernick, somehow, leads his team to win.

The thing is, it has pretty much worked out for both sides. Kaepernick has become an icon, a symbol of the way a man can be forced out of league if he presses the wrong buttons, a representative of fighting the good fight. The league has gone on and continues to print money.

Would it have been better if Kaepernick had gotten a tryout here or there and been sent on his way, like Freeman? If he had, the odds are that he would be just another former player now.

As it is, he remains a hot-button topic, and a league continues to dangle a job as if it is his for the taking. A lot of game days have come and gone since Kaepernick has been gone. Does a team really want to invite the circus to town by signing him, by enduring the headlines wondering when he might start, and why he isn't already?

Oh, yeah. And there's the Super Bowl?

Could he win two in his first season back?

Has anyone lost more than Tampa Bay’s fans?

by Gary Shelton on May 31, 2020

in general

Would Morton be as good as last season?/JEFFREY KING

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Everywhere, there is hope.

The baseball season was supposed to be in its infancy. The hockey season is supposed to be in the middle of the playoffs. The football season has reloaded.

And still, we wait.

But who has lost more momentum than Tampa Bay?






Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

Oh, there are options. In Los Angeles, they were watching the Lakers, and they were anticipating the Dodgers, and they are hoping the window hasn't closed on the Rams. In Kansas City, they hope there will be a difference to the way the Chiefs defend a title. In Green Bay, they are hoping Aaron Rodgers has more to do before he's shoved out the door. In New York, they've tried to buy another pennant. In Houston, they'll try to short-cut their way to one.

But here? Here, there was a restart of hope. There was intrigue. There was star power.

And still, we wait.

No, Tampa Bay is not the sun in the sports universe. It's been a long time since a title, hasn't it. But each team had a reason to hope, a reason to dream. Each team could make you imagine the possibilities.

By now, we should know if the Lightning was going to lay another egg in the playoffs as they did a year ago. That was a collapse for the ages, a President's Cup-winning team that was swept from the playoffs. But Steven Stamkos should be back by now, and he joins a star-laden lineup that should, on paper, be able to make a run at the Cup. But they saw their last 12 regular season games canceled, and they wait on a new 24-team playoff format.

By now, the Rays would be 61 games into their season, and we should have glimpses to see if this team can match last season's promise. We should have a hint if Blake Snell is going to be special or a one-year wonder. We should be able to see if Willie Adames continues to grow, and if Austin Meadows becomes a star.

By now, we should have some images of Tom Brady on a Bucs' practice field. Those initial practices in OTAs were going to be the most hyped quarterback play in the history of ever for this team, and every pass that Brady threw over 10 yards was going to feel like a victory. You can argue about how much Jameis Winston was responsible for the losing, but you can't argue that his turnovers didn't contribute. And so Brady should have taken those first steps to show he still has juice in his arm. As for the rest of the Bucs, they have to prove they have put the proper pieces around him.

By now, the conversation might have worked its way to USF football. No, the Bulls don't matter as much to as many fans. But new coach Jeff Scott makes the team interesting again. Who's the new quarterback? What are the new expectations? It's a nice little addition to the sports menu.

Look, we have lost enough. No Masters. No Final Four. No Olympics. No Opening Day. None of it.

But those things have been lost everywhere.

Here, alone, it seems worse.

Who was more important: Brady or Belichick?

May 24, 2020 general

Was it Jimmy, or was it Jerry? Was it Joe Cool, or was it Bill? Was it Tony, or was it Jon? As a nation, we seem to hate this notion of shared glory. Save it for Starsky and Hutch. We look at success from this way and that, from over and under, and the […]

Read the full article →

Rank the biggest Bucs’ bust of them all

May 21, 2020 general

The NFL draft is less than a month old, and still, you are looking for new adjectives for the world “wonderful.” Also, “terrific.” And “game-changing.” Around here, that’s the way it goes. After the latest NFL draft, the Bucs’ front office slaps itself on the back, and the critics drool, and the fans prepare for […]

Read the full article →

Random thoughts: Did Bucs lose to keep on losing?

May 17, 2020 general

Sean Payton, the Saints’ coach, says he thinks the Bucs’ intentionally lost to his team in 2014 to ensure the draft pick of Jameis Winston. I believe it, too. Of course, after 28 wins in five years, what further punishment would you give them? — The thing is, I’ve been told by someone who was […]

Read the full article →

Bucs have had their share of disappointments

May 14, 2020 general

Was Jameis Winston a bust? He threw a lot of interceptions. He fumbled a lot. He lost too often. He could be such a comedy of errors that the Bucs washed their hands of him. But was he a bust? Was he in the grand measure another Jamarcus Russell or Andre Ware? Was he as […]

Read the full article →

What equals success for the Tampa Bay Bucs?

May 10, 2020 general

Sunday, 4 a.m. You loved their free agent period. You liked their draft. You look at their schedule and, despite some tough games, you are not overwhelmed. Now is the time you have to decide. What, in your mind, constitutes a disappointment for the Tampa Bay Bucs? Content beyond this point is for members only. […]

Read the full article →

Analyzing the upcoming Bucs’ schedule

May 8, 2020 general

Friday, 4 a.m. It starts with the Geezer Bowl, with last year’s man-to-blame on the sidelines watching. Along the way, there are five prime time games. There is a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Jon Gruden is waiting. And can you wait to see it? The schedule for the Tampa Bay Bucs was released […]

Read the full article →