Bob Sparks - 7/59 - SaintPetersBlog

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

Wizards start strong, hold on to beat Magic

The Orlando Magic worked hard and made some key plays in the middle portion of the game on Friday night, but the Washington Wizards did them one better. After jumping out to a 19-point lead, Washington was able to hand on and hand the Magic a 94-91 loss at the Amway Center.

Nine minutes into the game, Orlando was down 26-7 and risked being run out of their own building. The Wizards, who had not played since Monday, were imposing their will on both ends of the court.

By halftime, the Magic had the lead down to 10 and displayed a greater sense of urgency. Coach Frank Vogel was critical of his team’s early effort, singling out point guard Elfrid Payton for “walking the ball up the court.” In the first half.

Vogel indicated Payton responded to the “coaching” he received, as did the rest of the team. A strong start to the second half sent the Magic into the fourth quarter trailing only 72-68.

Orlando made it all the way back and actually led 80-76 with 6:22 remaining. However, Wizards’ all-star guard John Wall made some big plays in the final two minutes that helped his team pull out the victory.

“He’s an elite offensive player,” said Vogel. “It is tough to keep him out of the lane and he can find people in the corner for open threes.”

Wall had 26 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Otto Porter added 19 and former Florida Gator Bradley Beal had 14.

Perhaps the energy needed to come back from such a deficit left the Magic low on fuel coming down the stretch. While D.J. Augustin made two key shots in the closing minutes, his teammates were mostly off the mark.

“We can’t get down early in the game by not doing what we’ve been preaching and not doing what we’re supposed to do,” said Vogel. “That’s what the first quarter looked like and I’m disappointed in our guys for that; it got us down. To their credit, we battled back and gave us a chance.”

He punctuated his disappointment with a concluding “We can’t get down 19.”

Nikola Vucevic had a huge game for Orlando with 17 points and 17 rebounds. Unfortunately, he did not touch the ball very often down the stretch. After a rough patch, it was Vucevic’s second straight strong game.

Serge Ibaka had 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocks while Payton had 15. The Magic shot it better than they have in recent games, finishing at 44 percent.

The good shooting was partially offset by 19 turnovers.

The victory was Washington’s first on the road this season after five straight losses. They are now 5-9 on the season.

Orlando suffered its third straight loss and slipped to 6-10 on the season. They will try to get back on the winnings side on Sunday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks, who beat the Magic 93-89 in Milwaukee on Monday.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Magic suffer disappointing loss to Suns

The Phoenix Suns have not won many games, especially on the road. On Wednesday night, however, they improved on both percentages when they beat the Orlando Magic 92-87 at the Amway Center.

Phoenix won for only the fifth time in 16 games and improved their road record to 3-8. They were also playing their sixth consecutive road game, disposing of the thought the Suns might have been out of gas for this one.

In the end, they had plenty of fuel.

Orlando seemed to be in catch up mode for much of the game. After the Suns took a 12-point lead in the second quarter, the Magic fought back to trail by only 44-42 at half time.

After an even third quarter, the Suns took an 85-78 lead with 2:11 remaining. While the Magic made one last run to get within 88-85, Phoenix had enough left in the tank to hold on for the win.

If there was any good news, it was the strong play of Nikola Vucevic, who looked like the player the Magic are accustomed to seeing on a regular basis. He had a strong double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Evan Fournier, Orlando’s most consistent player this year, had 25 points to lead the Magic.

It was not a great night for other starters. Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green combined for only eight points. Bismack Biyombo collected seven rebounds off the bench, but was scoreless. None of the three were on the court as the Magic made their last push.

Offense continues to be a problem. Through the first 14 games, Orlando has scored 100 points only four times.

Shooting has been the main culprit and Wednesday night provided yet another example. The Magic shot only 36 percent from the field and only 28 percent from three-point range.

“We didn’t have a great flow and we had several possessions where we created a good shot,but didn’t knock it down,” said Magic Coach Frank Vogel.

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Phoenix had held only one team under 100 points. The Magic’s effort marks the fewest points against the Suns this season.

Defensively, the Magic held Phoenix to their lowest point total of the season. The Suns average 110 points per game, but Wednesday’s game was only the third time they had not scored 100 and marked their lowest output of the year.

“We’re doing what we need to do on the defensive end,” said Vogel. “We just have to make some shots and find a better offensive rhythm.”

The Magic host the Washington Wizards on Friday night in the second game of a three-game home stand.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Critic hits Leon County’s Scott Maddox right where he lives

Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman and statewide office candidate Scott Maddox is involved in another political fight this Thanksgiving season. Though elected to another term on the Tallahassee City Commission, he was blocked from taking the oath of office earlier this week.

Maddox, who served as FDP Chairman from 2003-2006, is facing a legal challenge to his official residency. The question going back and forth through the Leon County courts and the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) is whether Maddox officially lives within the city limits of Tallahassee, a fundamental requirement of the city’s charter.

Similar complaints about residency crop up around the state from time to time, usually among candidates whose district lines were re-drawn putting them outside their district. Nothing usually comes of these other than news stories, but Maddox is facing a persistent local critic in Dr. Erwin Jackson.

Jackson filed suit in the Second Judicial Circuit in September claiming Maddox is ineligible to serve because he actually lives outside the city limits. According to the filing document, Maddox, an attorney, lists his residence as a rented office building in downtown Tallahassee.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit brought by Erwin Jackson on his third attempt to discredit me,” said Maddox, who was the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2010. “This one will be thrown out like all of the others have been.”

The City of Tallahassee intervened and asked that they, Maddox’s colleagues, have the final say in determining his eligibility. Judge Charles Dodson agreed.

Jackson went to the DCA, where a three-judge panel unanimously reversed Dodson, saying “the proper forum for Jackson’s post-election contest is in the circuit court.”

The three-judge panel consisted of Charlie Crist appointee Lori Rowe, a former Executive Deputy Attorney General; Rick Scott appointee Scott Makar, a former Florida Solicitor General; and another Scott appointee, Susan Kelsey, an experienced appellate lawyer.

Dodson did not appear to take the reversal well. The DCA order to Dodson to hold a hearing used the term “immediate” before the word hearing.

He took them literally. Dodson held a hearing almost immediately and ruled in favor of Maddox. Jackson and his legal team were outraged by the fact they had little time to prepare.

This is “a miscarriage of justice,” Jackson said. “An appeal will be immediately forthcoming.”

Again, the DCA overruled Dodson, this time with a bit of a hand slap. The judges said the lower court “abused its discretion” in the way it handled the hearing.

Monday was swearing in day for the Commission and Dodson gave the go-ahead for Maddox to take the oath of office pending the residency review. The DCA stepped in by again overruling Dodson and blocking Maddox from taking the oath of office “pending further order from this Court.”

Jackson is also seeking the removal of Dodson from the case. To be reversed three times on the same case, called a hat trick in hockey, is not a good thing.

The parties are now arguing the date on which a public official is eligible. Jackson argues legal residence means Election Day, which in this case was August. The Maddox team argues November 21, or swearing in day.

To a non-lawyer observer, like this writer, that would seem to acknowledge there could be a problem if you are arguing “when” as well as “if.”

To be fair, Jackson is a relentless critic of city government. Sometimes they deserve the scrutiny, like the recent proposal to raise property taxes by 27 percent.

Maddox, to his great credit, was an opponent of the outrageous property tax plan and argued against other increases. He sounded like a conservative.

At the same time, it is understandable for elected officials to become frustrated, especially if they truly believe they are doing the right thing.

Maddox remains confident, perhaps with good reason, he will prevail. The residency challenges usually go in the favor of the candidate.

Jackson certainly isn’t going away, whether or not Dodson is relieved of command. He is 100 percent certain he has a case.

Stranger things have happened as this year’s elections demonstrated.

We will know soon.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Newest Magic players begin to find their stride

When the Orlando Magic lost six of their first nine games to start the season, Coach Frank Vogel would hear the usual questions. What’s wrong with the offense? Is there an ongoing problem with intensity?

Another expected question was the one about team chemistry. With three new players and a new coach, is this team coming together?

Let’s answer the last one first. The new players did need some time to come together and get used to their new surroundings and teammates.

The Magic’s marquee trade involved the acquisition of Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo. Through the first nine games, Ibaka was OK, but not the kind of scorer and rim protector he is known to be.

Bismack Biyombo was heralded as a tireless worker, who will defend and rebound with intensity as well as score a few points. He has met and exceeded expectations since coming over from Toronto.

D.J. Augustin was known as a smart player with a reputation for a good shooting touch in several NBA stops. He too has met expectations to this point.

When the Magic went to Oklahoma City Nov. 14, they stood at 3-6 and were on a three-game losing streak. But on this night, they upset the Thunder 119-117 with Ibaka breaking the hearts of his former fans with the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

While his production in Orlando had been measured with his consistently strong presence in Oklahoma City, he never played a game quite like the one he did for the Magic that night. He poured in 31 points, had nine rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That seemed to be a turning point, because over the last five games he has been outstanding. He is averaging 17.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and two blocked shots. Ibaka’s scoring average has risen to 14.4 points.

Biyombo has picked up his scoring pace, averaging nine points over the last five games, including 13-point performances in his last two. He has averaged nine rebounds and nearly two blocks per game over the same span. Biyombo’s scoring average has risen to 5.7 points, but he was never expected to be a big scorer, focusing instead on keeping the other team from scoring.

“Bismack Biyombo is a great player and he’s showing it,” said Vogel. “He’s just a defensive force.”

Augustin has been consistent throughout the first 14 games, averaging 9.4 points.

The success of these new Magicians is beginning to show on the scoreboard. After that 3-6 start, Orlando has won three of their last five games. Vogel is not concerned with their 6-8 record.

“We’re actually not looking at the standings right now,” said Vogel. “We are focused on gelling and improving while getting wins.”

Vogel was complimentary of the entire team’s defensive and rebounding effort. As the newer members continue to gel, other starters like Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton are needed to keep up their contributions from the guard position.

At least two additional opportunities for improvement exist. Nikola Vucevic is expected to regain his outside shooting touch, which will make a big difference.

Also, former top draft choice Mario Hezonja is not even in the playing rotation. He is too talented to not even be able to earn his way onto the floor. If he can regain his confidence, he can add another component coming off the bench.

The Magic seek to continue their improvement on Wednesday night when the Phoenix Suns come to Amway Center.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple double leads Bucks over Magic

In a back-and-forth game, the Milwaukee Bucks came away with a 93-89 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night in Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with a triple double as Milwaukee overcame a fourth quarter deficit to earn the victory.

Antetokounmpo had 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for the Bucks while Jabari Parker chipped in 22 points for the victors. Serge Ibaka led Orlando with 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Bismack Biyombo contributed a double double off the bench for the Magic.

The Magic got off to a quick start, leading 16-2 in the first period. Milwaukee had a big second quarter to take a five-point lead at halftime.

Orlando came out quickly in the third quarter, outscoring the Bucks 30-20 to take a 74-69 lead into the final period. Their 24-15 advantage in the final quarter was good enough to secure the win.

Milwaukee’s pressure defense looks to create turnovers and they were successful on Monday. Orlando turned the ball over 24 times, leading to some easy baskets. Milwaukee committed only 13.

Evan Fournier had 18 points for the Magic and Biyombo had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic had another cold shooting night, making only four of 12 shots for eight points. He had 11 rebounds.

The Magic (6-8) return home to host the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at the Amway Center.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Dolphins wake up in fourth quarter to beat Rams

For those who missed the first three quarters of Sunday’s game between the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Rams, good for you. That especially goes for the Dolphins’ fans.

But if you missed the last half of the fourth quarter, you missed something that has never happened before. Miami, who had done nothing in the first half of the game, marched to two touchdowns in the closing minutes to erase a 10-0 deficit and pull out a 14-10 victory.

In the 50-year history of the Dolphins, they had been shut out in the first three quarters 31 times. Their record in those games was 0-31.

They are now 1-31.

Miami was the poster child of offensive futility for most of the game. They had six three-and-outs on offense.

Among their first 10 possessions were nine punts and an interception. Midway through the fourth quarter, Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill had 57 yards passing.

With 6:38 remaining, Miami took over on their own 23. A little more than two minutes later, Tannehill hit Jarvis Landry with a 10-yard scoring pass to cut the deficit to 10-7. After a three-and-out by Los Angeles, the Dolphins took over with 2:11 left on the clock and 75 yards away from the goal line.

No problem.

With a suddenly accurate Tannehill spreading the ball around, and the assistance of a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, DeVante Parker caught the nine-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with only 36 seconds remaining.

Miami had 240 yards of total offense for the game, with 152 of those coming in the final two possessions. Tannehill wound up with 172 yards passing and the two touchdowns.

The Rams held Jay Ajayi to only 77 yards rushing, while his Los Angeles counterpart Todd Gurley had only 76. The most active players seemed to be Matt Darr and Johnny Hekker, the punters for both teams. Darr punted 10 times and Hekker kicked it away eight times.

This game started out as something highly forgettable, but turned into something unforgettable. It says a lot about the coaching style of first-year Coach Adam Gase. Sunday’s game seems to prove he has instilled a MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman-style of confidence in his team.

“What, me worry?”

With the way the game played out, Gase was not even sure what, or how, it happened.

“I don’t even know,” he said. “Just nothing was going right for us. We were terrible on offense.”

When it was crunch time, the Dolphins sucked it up and came away with a win. After starting 1-4, the Dolphins have now won five straight games and are squarely in the AFC playoff race.

Next Sunday they host the woeful San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Jags lose another close one as Lions prevail

Once again the Jacksonville Jaguars had a chance to win a game, but once again it was the other team making the plays needed to win. The Detroit Lions scored two non-offensive touchdowns and made a fourth quarter comeback to beat Jacksonville 26-19 at Ford Field on Sunday.

The Jaguars defense showed up to play and they deserved a better fate. Detroit was able to manage only 14 rushing yards all day and they sacked Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford three times.

The defense also had 10 tackles for loss and did not give up a TD pass all day.

So how did the Jags manage to lose this one? It happened a number of ways.

The first culprit was special teams. With the Jaguars leading 3-0 early in the second period, Andre Roberts fielded a Brad Nortman punt at the Detroit 45, and then bobbed and weaved his way into the end zone for the Lions’ go-ahead touchdown.

After a 9-9 halftime tie, the Jaguars had the chance to go ahead on the opening possession of the second half. On the third play, quarterback Blake Bortles was picked off by Rafael Bush, who took it 39 yards for a touchdown to give Detroit a 16-9 lead.

To their credit, the Jaguars hung in, scoring on their next two possessions. Jason Myers kicked a 52-yard field goal followed by a nine-play, 87-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead at 19-16.

For as well as the defense played, they needed one more play to perhaps comes away with a win. But Stafford connected with Eric Ebron on a 61-yard pass play on third and 13 in the fourth quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown, also caught by Ebron.

Marquise Lee gave the Jags a chance by returning the ensuing kickoff to the 44-yard line, but after a three-and-out, their chance at victory slipped away.

“Hard-fought game. Give credit to Detroit,” said Jaguars Coach Gus Bradley. “They made more plays than we did. They made more BIG plays. I thought our guys played hard all four quarters.”

Bortles threw for 202 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Chris Ivory led Jaguars rushers with 39 yards and receivers with 75 yards. Lee and Allen Robinson caught touchdown passes.

The defense also broke a long drought. They had not forced a turnover since the victory over Indianapolis in London, but recovered two Detroit fumbles on the day.

With the loss, Jacksonville has now lost five games in a row to fall to 2-8 on the season. Next week they head to Buffalo to face the Bills, one of the NFL’s leading rushing teams.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Gators vault to 13th in AP Top 25; Seminoles up to 15th

Voters in the Associated Press Top 25 poll were impressed by Florida’s unexpected win at LSU on Saturday. The Gators’ 16-10 victory fueled their surge from the 21st position to No. 13 in this week’s poll.

The Gators climbed over four teams who won on Saturday, including Florida State. The Seminoles moved up from the 17th to the 15th slot following their impressive 45-14 win at Syracuse.

Florida will travel to Tallahassee Saturday to face the Seminoles.

Alabama was again a unanimous selection at the top of the poll. The Crimson Tide earned all 61 first place votes and finished well ahead of second place Ohio State, who barely survived against a downtrodden Michigan State team on Saturday.

Fellow Big 10 member Michigan stayed at No. 3. One of those teams will drop out of the Top 5 after their annual grudge match on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

Clemson and Wisconsin round out the Top 5. Both of those teams should move into the Top 4 with victories on Saturday.

With Penn State coming in the eighth position, the Big 10 has four teams in the Top 10. Louisville fell out of the Top 10 after their 36-10 thrashing at the hands of Houston. The Cougars returned to the Top 25, coming in at No. 18.

LSU fell nine spots to No. 25 after their home loss to the Gators. Tennessee returned to the Top 25 at the 23rd position. Poll voters thought their 63-37 win over lowly Missouri was enough.

Besides Alabama, the only remaining unbeaten team is the 11-0 Western Michigan Broncos of the Mid-American Conference, who is ranked at No. 14.

The SEC placed six teams in the Top 25 while the Big 10 and the Pac 12 had five. The ACC and Big 12 had three teams each in the Top 25, while the American, Mountain West, and Mid-American Conference had one each.

The AP Top 25 poll can be found here.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

FIU’s flawless second half leads to big win over Marshall

Saturday’s game between the Florida International Panthers and the Marshall Thundering Herd started off as a turnover fest, but it did not end that way. The Panthers used a highly proficient offense in the second half to pull away from Marshall and roll to a 31-14 victory in Miami.

After taking the opening kickoff and marching 82 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead, quarterback Maurice Alexander threw interceptions in back-to-back possessions. Alexander was playing in place of the injured Alex McGough.

Marshall quarterback Chase Litton also threw two first half interceptions sandwiched around a 17-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Byrd that tied the score at 7-7. Late in the first half, Christian Alexander came in at quarterback for FIU and led them on an 82-yard scoring drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Branisel.

The Panthers would score on every possession for the remainder of the game. Focusing on the running game, FIU’s three second half possessions resulted in a field goal and two touchdowns while the defense allowed just one touchdown.

Both Anthony Jones and Alex Gardner rushed for more than 100 yards. Jones had 121 yards and a touchdown while Gardner had 119 yards and two touchdowns. Maurice Alexander, who returned in the third quarter, finished with 204 yards and two touchdowns.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak. The Panthers improved to 4-7 overall and 4-3 and Conference USA.

Saturday’s win capped an exciting week for FIU. Earlier they hired former Miami Hurricanes Coach Butch Davis to be their new head coach. He will replace Ron Turner, who was fired on September 25 after an 0-4 start.

Interim Coach Ron Cooper improved to 4-3 since he took over. He will coach his final game for FIU next Saturday when they finish the season on the road at Old Dominion.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Magic, D.J.Augustin use big fourth quarter to get by Mavericks

D.J. Augustin made his presence felt at the Amway Center on Saturday night. The veteran guard from Texas came up big in the fourth quarter as the Orlando Magic beat the Dallas Mavericks 97-87.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Magic trailed the Mavericks 69-66. Over the final 12 minutes, Orlando outscored their opponents from Texas, 31-18.

Augustin played a huge role in the victory. In addition to his 18 points, he dished out six assists to account for 30 points. Ten of his points came in the fourth quarter as Dallas persistently hung with Orlando.

He made two critical three-pointers within a minute of each other midway through the fourth quarter. The first one put Orlando ahead and the second one extended the lead.

Those shots represented the turning point in the game.

“Coach (Frank Vogel) wants me to shoot when I’m open, just be aggressive,” said Augustin. “Coach does a great job giving everyone on the team confidence.”

Augustin certainly had some help from his teammates. Serge Ibaka was a force on both ends, scoring 15 points with 9 rebounds and three blocked shots. Nikola Vucevic had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Bismack Biyombo was a major force on the court. He had his first double-figure game, scoring 13 points, but he helped altered shots that he didn’t block, but wound up blocking three. He also had 10 rebounds.

The Mavericks stayed in the game with three-point shooting, making 13 in 29 attempts. They needed the long-distance connections because they were missing two key players.

Guard Deron Williams missed his second straight game as did future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Jonathan Gibson, in only his second NBA game, tried to make up for the loss of playmakers by pouring in 26 points off the bench.

It marked the second straight game Orlando missed seeing an All-Star from a Western Conference team. New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis missed Wednesday’s loss to the Magic.

After losing three straight, the Magic have now won three of four to improve their record to 6-7. They will try to get to .500 on Monday night when they travel to Milwaukee to face the Bucks.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons