Ask Gary: Is retiring St. Louis’ jersey premature?

by Gary Shelton on October 8, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 5 a.m.

Do you think the Lightning are doing the right thing by retiring St. Louis’ number this season? Is it too soon given the fact that a number of fans still hold a grudge about the circumstances of his split with the team? It would be awful to have people booing at the ceremony.

Larry Beller

When I first heard the news, my reaction was the same. It feels a little soon to me. I still remember St. Louis pouting is way out of town. I thought he leveraged his good graces to get out of town. I never quite bought that it was all about the Olympics when he ended up making the team.

But, Larry, I know this. Marty St. Louis was the finest player this team

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ever had. He gave more moments to the fans than any other player ever has. I think it's time we embraced those moments, even if we still don't like the way it ended. Maybe it's time, you know? If they waited another 10 years, some people would still have a grudge.

St. Louis isn't the first Tampa Bay star to end up elsewhere. Warren Sapp did. David Price did. James Shields and Ben Zobrist and Fred McGriff did.

A lot of the current fans of the Lightning might not have seen St. Louis play. They need to connect with the history of their team. They need to know about the dynamic forward with the ability to score when it was clutch. No, he wasn't ours till the bitter end, and that will always be a shame.

But we're a forgiving lot, we Americans. I think it's time we remembered not just the ending, but all the moments that came before it.

Through the first two home games of the 2016 NFL regular season, the Bucs are averaging 8,718 no-shows per game.  For the complete 2015 NFL regular season, the Bucs averaged 7,182 no-shows per game.  Why do so many folks pay for a product that they don’t use?

Scott Myers

Scott, it beats me. I'm a cheap cuss by nature. I would never waste a ticket. If I buy a ticket, I'm going to use it.

On the other hand, I've been to both games, and the Bucs played awful (again), and the weather was absurd, and there were lightning delays both games. In a world where we accept there are going to be up to 10,000 no-shows, I found myself thinking "why would anyone come to this game unless they were as cheap as me?"

To me, that begs this question. Why are people buying tickets to begin with? I mean, sure, maybe your cousin is getting married and you can't pass the tickets off. Maybe your mom is coming in from Iowa. But what are we talking about? One in five ticket buyers not showing up.

In the Dungy years, and early in the Gruden years, I thought this was a terrific fan base. They put up with the heat and the prices and they showed up. But it's been a long time since the Bucs were entertaining enough for the ticket prices. Especially when you can see the game for free at home, and eat out of your own fridge, and use your own bathroom and park for free in your driveway.

Is there really enough money in Tampa Bay so eight thousand people can stay home and still pay? Seems silly to me.

In watching the National League wild card game, I did some double-takes.  There on the NY Mets were ex-TB Rays, Asdrúbal Cabrera, James Loney, Kelly Johnson and René Rivera. At least those guys got a taste of the playoffs.

Howard Powders

Howard, that's just one team, remember? There is Ben Zobrist and David Price and J.P. Howell and Scott Kazmir and Melvin Upton and Dioner Navarro and Ryan Hannigan and Matt Moore and Brandon Guyer and Jose Lobaton, just to name a few.

Baseball is a nomadic sport. Some of these players -- Zobrist, Upton and Price -- simply priced themselves off of the Rays' roster. Some of them -- Navarro and Hannigan -- were interchangeable with the lower third of players in the game. The thing that strikes me are all the catchers the Rays have been through, and it still isn't a strength of theirs. That says something about how rare catching is, doesn't it?

Personally, I like seeing the faces in the playoffs, Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman and the rest. A lot of guys were good to deal with. It isn't their fault they aren't here anymore.

What is the deal with J.R. Sweezy?   What is his condition and when might he play? Why did the Bucs throw millions at a guy that isn't healthy?

Jim Willson

When Sweezy was hurt in the preseason, the Bucs said he would miss five games. That means you should start looking for him after one game if his treatment went well.

Back problems are tough, though. Just like with Houston's J.J. Watt, who is out for the year.

By the time Sweezy is in shape, as much as a half-season will be gone.

So with all the talk about the Bucs' losing culture, it has made me wonder. Dungy and McKay turned around a losing culture pretty quickly.   The organization has a blueprint on how its done.  So why the hell can't we do it? Were Dungy and McKay truly that special?  All those seasons of 9 and 10 wins are looking pretty good now.   I know that most feel that the Dungy firing was necessary to get to the next level. But knowing what we know now. Would you still trade those 9 and 10 win seasons with players that we liked and respected for one Super Bowl followed by a return to mediocrity?

Jim Willson

Jim, I think Dungy was that special. He coached in 13 seasons, and he reached the playoffs in 11 of them. It's funny. During all those years of losing, I thought if the team just got competitive, everyone would be happy. McKay used to give me a hard time about that all the time, because fans just get hungrier and hungrier. The playoffs didn't satisfy anyone.

Rich and I had a long conversation once about the Chiefs and the Rams in the 1990s. The Chiefs were very good almost every year, but they lost in the post season. And the Rams were awful most years, but they won a Super Bowl. So which team would you have. In the moment, most of us would rather have the Super Bowl, because that's the Holy Grail. It's why you play.

I've written this before. But it's easy to argue that Dungy might never have won one in Tampa Bay. His offensive coaches were simply too limited. But he would have kept the playoff streak going longer, I believe, and he would have developed more players, because that's what he did. So would you trade in the one Super Bowl you've won, and the memories that go with it, or would you rather have a very good team for longer?

Personally, I think you want the Super Bowl. It's the only finish that doesn't come with frustration.< But the longer this team keeps losing, the more I am willing to listen to arguments.

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