Suddenly, Tampa Bay has become Title Bay

by Gary Shelton on January 27, 2021

in general

Hedman led the Bolts to a title../JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

It has happened so fast, so decisively. One day, Tampa Bay was meek. The next, they had inherited the earth.

Suddenly, we are Title Bay, Florida.

Think of all the miserable days looking upward through the standings. Think the horrible owners. Think of bad coaching. Think of the blown draft picks. Think of the miserable players.

And then think about the swagger of the present tense.

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Suddenly, everyone's a winner. It doesn't matter what jersey you wear, you can puff out the chest a bit.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup. The Bucs are going to the Super Bowl. The Rays went to the World Series. Heck, even the Rowdies reached the USL championship series before it was canceled.

Winnersville. That's us.

Yes, you say. We have won before. Back when the old folks were spry, the Bucs won another Super Bowl, and the Lightning won another Stanley Cup and the Rays reached another World Series. We've seen confetti before.

But those days took nine tab five years, between early 2003 and late 2008. It felt great, and a lot of bumper stickers were born, but it wasn't like this.

This time, it has taken 119 days since the Bolts won the Cup. Four months, and everyone walks with a strut. Four months, and it feels as if it will last forever.

Oh, we know better. Success stops by, and then it moves along.

But this has been our time.

Oh, there are other cities. Los Angeles has had a nice fall, with titles in baseball and basketball. But, heck, how many teams does L.A. have?

Here, we're talking about Victor Hedman and Tom Brady and Randy Arozarena. We're talking about Mike Evans and Brayden Point and Mike Brousseau. We're talking about Charlie Morton and Lavonte David and Andrei Vasilevskiy. We're talking about Jon Cooper and Bruce Arians and Kevin Cash.

All at once.

Yes, it's been a tough year. But have there ever been so many moments to a calendar? The Lightning beat the Bruins, and they got revenge agains the Blue Jackets, and they beat the Stars. The Bucs beat the Saints and the Packers. The Rays beat the Yankees and the Astros.

Again, Tampa Bay teams aren't good all the time. We can remember the days of Hugh Culverhouse and Vince Naimoli and Kokusai Green. We heard a Lightning owner (Art Williams) call his team pansies. We heard a Rays' general manager (Chuck Lamar) say that he had been successful everywhere but the major league level. We hard Bus' owner Hugh Culverhouse talk about being left at the altar. We can remember when each of our three major franchises were considered the worst in North American sports.

Yes, it's been a trial. Tampa Bay fans have put up with a lot of last places and a lot of squander promise.

But that's why these days are so good. We can tell a Booker Reese story now and laugh. We can shake our heads about Vinny Castilla. The days of Marc Denis don't sting anymore. Right now, our teams all look talented, smart, resilient, destined.

Look, it's okay to want more. It would be nice for our franchise to make this a regular occurrence. The last time the Bucs won the Super Bowl, the first time the Lightning won the Cup, the first time the Rays went to the World Series, success lasted about five minutes. Then the teams got lost again.

Maybe this time, winning will last a little longer. But even if it doesn't, we'll have the last few months.

Some advice: Make the feeling last a lifetime.

10 Days that changed Tampa Bay

  1. Sept. 28 -- Lightning wins the Stanley Cup with a 4-2 win over Dallas.

2. Oct. 7 -- Rays beat the Yankees on a late home run by Mike Brousseau.

3. Jan 24 -- Bucs win the NFC title game with a 31-26 win over Green Bay.

4. Jan. 17 -- Bucs beat the Saints, who had swept them in the regular season.

5. Aug. 11 -- Lightning beats the Columbus Blue Jackets in five overtimes.

5. Aug. 31 -- Lighting closes out its series against President's Cup-wining Bruins, 3-2.

6. Oct. 17 -- Rays close out their series agains the Houston Astros, 4-2.

7. Sept. 25 -- Lightning win third straight game against Dallas to go up 3-1 in series.

8. Aug. 19 -- Lightning closes out series against Columbus, 5-4.

9. Aug. 11 -- Rays close out Toronto in two games, 8-2.

10. Jan. 9 -- Rays win first playoff game in 13 years, beating Washington 31-26.

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