Tampa Mayor’s “bet” is a no-win Situation
Michael Spooneybarger/ TBO.com
Oh what a difference a year can make. Less than a year ago we saw the Tampa Bay region go ballistic and creatively “on fire” with the possibilities of the Tampa Bay Rays. But just as quick, even the local poltical movers and shakers have forgotten the Rays like an old coat. And one local town Mayor even forgot where she lived for a moment and made an ill fated bet with another regional Mayor over the 2009 World Series.
I have been holding onto my rambling thoughts about this past local event for quite some time. I really wanted the World Series to be over,and hoped that the St. Petersburg City elections might make me somehow forget all about this event. But it did not, and even now I am steaming under the collar that two local Mayors decided to place and wager bets on the outcome of the World Series.
I am sorry Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, but I am targeting you here. I understand your affection and pride in the pure fact that the New York Yankees principal owner has a home in your city. And I also understand your pride that several members of the Yankees also call Tampa their Winter residences. And I am well aware of expenses from the city coffers to make the lush and green surrounding of George Steinbrenner Field a true masterpiece. But don’t you think making a simple wager with the Mayor of Clearwater, who is a publicity mongler over the World Series might just anger local Tampa Bay Rays fans?
How soon some people forget the turmoil this could cause because the Yankee fanbase that come into this region for their yearly series with the Rays already hold their numerous championships in their 100+ seasons as a team over our heads every chance they get. Now they can throw the pure fact that a local elected official doesn’t even have faith in the team. Do you think after your wager this is going to get any better since the Yankees did indeed came home with the title?
Are you or your staff currently in the planning stages of a small parade here in the Spring to also honor them and further anger Rays fans? It might seem like a small almost invisible notion to your collective spin doctors and politcal advisers, but it is one Rays fans will not forget for a long, long time. And we know you have bigger fish to fry that just being the political guru of the second biggest Hispanic community in Florida.
I understand that both Clearwater and Tampa are the Spring Training homes of both the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. But they also are the seasonal homes to teams in the Florida State League teams of which your hometown Tampa Yankees played the Charlotte Stone Crabs for the league title earlier this season, and you did not make any wagers on that title series. Now I could see a small celebration for them, and maybe even the same wager, but then they are not the media darlings outside of their own region like the Phillies and Yankees right now.
And that is where my biggest gripe come to a frothy head. You have a local team going for a possible championship, and even if it is only a Class-A franchise of the big club, you did not even acknowledge them during their triumphant playoff run and championship victory. That is the team you should have put your wagers on, the one that deserves the press and the acknowledement from the city of Tampa, and the ones their local fans come to see play during their short season.
But to me,a Rays Season Ticketholder,that whole “wager” episode was a slap in my face. And maybe you are glad I am not a resident of Tampa, so I do not have a single voting option. But the political machine in this region has been preaching regional love and togetherness surrounding the Rays for years.
But there have been obstacles in the way. Some say a small group of Tampa-based fans have a “bridge phobia” and that it is a fan base pocket in this area that is missing like a Bermuda Triangle in the middle of this Tampa Bay region. And they have missed out on a lot of great Rays baseball. Sure there are tons of Tampa-based Fans who brave the elements and the traffic to attend games, but to have one of their elected officials show more concern for a huge rival opponent of the Rays is a big slap in the face of the Rays Republic.
Sure your seemingly innocent wager of proposing that if the Yankees were to lose this years World Series, You and your entire Tampa leadership team would attend a game at BrightHouse Field in the Spring of 2010 wearing Phillies gear and bring a pleathora of Cuban sandwiches and deviled crabs to the game for Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and his staff to devour was a great gesture. And one that would have been met with no reprecussions at all if it was located far away from this Tampa Bay Rays fan umbrella. But it was done right within the heart of the franchises fanbase, and that is a shame.
But you could have made the same local bet with the Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda Mayors over the FSL Championship and not caused even a ripple in the bay over the wager. Such a wager would have then been about civic pride and support for the Tampa Yankee squad as they played the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
You were right out on the field there front and center with St. Petersburg’s Mayoir Rick Baker on Opening Day in 2009 saluting and praising the Rays. I know the Rays season did not turn out quite the way the fans and the community wished it had, but you did turn your back on this local MLB team for a moment, and with their biggest threat and divisional foe.
This episode or misstep might not even cause any damper on your political aspirations to run for a future Senate slot, or even a higher post. Sure there are a lot of transplanted New Yorkers’ in this region who now have your name in their brains, and that might be a great political move for the future. But the native Floridians like myself like to usually live in the”Moment”, and in this case, you might have actually lost the bet. Sure the Yankees won the World Series,and Hibbard and his Clearwater crew will have to don pinstripes and serve you and your staff grouper sandwiches and conch fritters this spring, but did it come with a small price?
I actually think you have a great abundance of “moxy” in you Madam Mayor, and I admire that trait in a politician. But what I can not honor and sit silently by is to see an elected officials proclaim a bet for a team that plays in the same division as her “so-called Favorite” Tampa Bay Rays. We all know politics can make for strange bedfellows, and I am not implying anything here, just stating fact. But in this bet you lost Madam Mayor.
And I truly loved your witty quote in the St. Petersburg Times on October 27,2009 when asked about the wager: ” I never pass up a good winnable bet.” You did not have to pay up on your end of the bet because the New Yorkers pulled it out, but y
ou lost something I value more than a few sandwiches and shellfish appetizers. The thing you might have lost from some of your local fans, like me is respect. And that you can not get back with a zingy Mango salsa or a spicy Floridian seafood sauce.
Enjoy the seafood Madam Mayor.