Gary Shelton - 6/188 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Rowdies’ Bill Edwards delivers application to MLS bosses

The Tampa Bay Rowdies aren’t wasting any time in their pursuit of a bid to Major League Soccer.

A delegation headed by Rowdies’ owner Bill Edwards delivered the team’s expansion application to MLS headquarters on Monday. Edwards met with Mark Abbott, MLS President and Deputy Commissioner, for around 30 minutes and delivered the unique interactive expansion application, which included a modern rendition of “A Kick in the Grass.”

Major League Soccer was very impressed by our unique way of delivering our application,” said Edwards. “We’ve worked very hard on all fronts to cover every aspect of the application that was sent to us by MLS just over a month ago. This is a very important step in the process and I believe our application will set us apart as the top potential expansion market.”

The Rowdies’ MLS expansion application was designed to represent the Tampa Bay area and honor the club’s rich history.

 The application included details and renderings of the privately funded renovation and expansion plans to Al Lang Stadium and the proposed ownership group led by Edwards. Extensive examples of community support were included in the application, highlighted by more than 200 letters of support from politicians, local celebrities, fans and more.

The Rowdies announced their #MLS2StPete campaign in December 2016, only to be named as one of the eleven candidates in the running for a Major League Soccer franchise less than two weeks later.

The Rowdies’ ticket sales are designed to help show MLS its fan support. For information on how to become a 2017 Season Ticket Member, call  (727) 222-2000.

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One man’s ranking of the greatest teams of the Super Bowl era

Why, the world has never seen a run like the New England Patriots, has it?

It’s never seen a coach quite like Bill Belichick. Or a quarterback quite like Tom Brady? Or championships spat out by the photo copier? Has it?

Well, yes. It has.

Throughout the history of the Super Bowl, there have been a lot of impressive eras. The Packers. The Dolphins. The Steelers. The 49ers. The Cowboys. And so forth.

The impressive part of the Patriots is that they have put their run together in the age of free agency, when players can always bolt in pursuit of a bigger paycheck. The Patriots also have had to face a larger playoff pool, which means more chances to get beat.

Then there is the way you keep score. Are the Patriots, who are 4-2 under Belichick, more impressive than the Joe Montana’s 49ers or Chuck Noll’s Steelers, both of whom were 4-0? How about Vince Lombardi’s Packers, who were 2-0 in the Super Bowl, but who had won three of the previous five NFC title games?

Here we go then, ranking the runs of the Super Bowl era:

1. San Francisco 49ers (1981-1990 seasons): They had one of the best coaches in Bill Walsh. They had arguably the best quarterback in Montana. They had without argument the best wide receiver in Jerry Rice. And they won their four (over nine seasons) Super Bowls by a combined 76 points. If you count the Steve Young game after the 1994 season, the 49ers have won five Super Bowls.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-1979): The Steelers won four in six years with a dominating defense. Pittsburgh had to hold off Dallas twice in their run, but undefeated is undefeated. (The Steelers also won two games behind Ben Roethlisberger, reflected below).

3. New England Patriots (2001-2014): The Patriots have won four games, too, but they’ve lost two. If you’re counting losing Super Bowls, heck, don’t the Bills and Vikings qualify? Of course not. Successful runs are successful runs. The Pats’ four wins have come by a combined total of only 13 points. More impressive? At one point, the Patriots won three titles in four seasons.

4. Green Bay Packers (1966-1967): The Packers were packed with Hall of Famers. They won the first two Super Bowls by a combined 44 points. Their legacy, however, includes three other NFL title games in five years before the Super Bowl was started.

5. Dallas Cowboys (1992-1995): The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four seasons behind the triplets of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Jimmy Johnson fashioned the Cowboys, and they won the third title under Barry Switzer.

6. Washington Redskins (1982-1991): Washington won three Super Bowls in 10-years. The Redskins had three different quarterbacks in their run, which was led by a good defense and a fine offensive line.

7. Miami Dolphins (1972-1973): The Dophins, with a bruising running game and the No-Name Defense, actually went to three Super Bowls in a row. Miami also has the only modern day unbeaten team, as the ’72 team went 17-0 against a weak schedule.

8. Denver Broncos (1997-1999): John Elway spent the early part of his career losing title games, but once he got together with Terrell Davis, that all changed. The Broncos won two in a row, beating Green Bay and Atlanta.

9. New York Giants (2007-2011): The Giants and Eli Manning twice upset the vaunted New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, including once when the Pats were 18-0. For Belichick, these are the Super Bowls that got away.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2005-2008): No, they won’t make anyone forget about Noll’s teams, but the Steelers won two in four years, beating Seattle and Arizona. Combined, the Steelers have six Super Bowl titles.

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Move to Orlando seems to have bailed out annual Pro Bowl

Did the move to Orlando save the NFL Pro Bowl?

Maybe.

The Pro Bowl was more competitive than in most seasons, and it was played in a sold-out stadium. The AFC won 20-13 after an interception by Washington’s Kirk Cousins late in the game.

Tampa Bay Bucs’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had four tackles, two of them solo, and one of the NFC’s seven sacks. Everson Griffen had three sacks, and former Buc Michael Bennett had two.

But the NFC could score only one touchdown on the night. Perhaps that is because none of the three quarterbacks could complete a pass to Tampa Bay star Mike Evans.

The AFC scored twice in the first half on touchdown passes from Alex Smith and Andy Dalton. Drew Brees hit Doug Baldwin for the NFC’s only score.

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49ers pick former Tampa Bay star John Lynch as general manager

It’s been quite the year for former Tampa Bay Buc great John Lynch.

He entered the team’s Ring of Honor, his second such designation. (He had already joined the Broncos’ Ring of Honor). He is a finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Sunday, he was named as the new general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

Lynch, 45, agreed to go through the interview process only if it was kept private. Lynch, who last played in 2008, has never had any front office position in the NFL. He has, however, worked a broadcaster, meeting with coaches and executives around the league as part of his job.

As a player, Lynch made nine Pro Bowls for Tampa Bay and Denver. As a safety, much of his job was evaluating the play. Now, he’ll do the same thing for a living.

Former player Matt Millen tried to leave broadcasting to become a general manager with Detroit and failed miserably, including a 0-16 season.

Lynch never played for the 49ers, although he is a graduate of Stanford.

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Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov has two goals, two assists for Atlantic

Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t on the winning team in Sunday’s NHL all-star game, but they still made an impression.

Forward Nikita Kucherov scored twice and defenseman Victor Hedman scored once in the Atlantic Division’s 10-6 loss to the Metro division Sunday afternoon.

Kucherov scored the second and fifth goals for the Atlantic, and he had assists on two other goals, including one by Hedman that tied the game at 2-2. Kucherov’s second goal brought the Atlantic back to within 6-5 in the loss.

The Metro beat the Pacific 4-3 in the final on a goal by Wayne Simonds, who was named the MVP.

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Rowdies set to open their first USL season against Orlando B

Could there be a new war on I-4?

And if so, will they fight this one with their feet?

The Tampa Bay Rowdies announced its home opener for 2017 against Orlando B on March 25.  It will be the Rowdies’ first USL match. The match will highlight what could be a rivalry in the coming seasons if indeed the Rowdies are allowed to join the MLS.

The United Soccer League (USL), the largest second division professional soccer league in the world, today announced the home openers for the 2017 regular season, with a 13-game slate set to feature on the 2017 USL Kickoff Weekend on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26.

The Rowdies are entering their second full season under coach Stuart Campbell, who took over in the middle of 2015 season.

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Rowdies defender Damion Lowe set to play matches for Jamaica

New Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Damion Lowe will spend some of the next month defending his country.

Lowe will play for Jamaica’s national team twice in February, including a friendly match against the U.S. Men’s National Team.

This will be Lowe’s third call up to the senior national team, after making his debut in October 2016 against Guyana and later starting against Suriname in November.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to once again represent Jamaica,” said Lowe. “Both matches will be very competitive and will help us prepare for the important year ahead. I’m very excited to join my teammates in camp and am looking forward to the first match against the U.S.”

The Reggae Boyz will take on the U.S. Men’s National Team on Friday, February 3 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn. That match will kick off at 7 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on FS1 and UniMas.

Lowe will return to Tampa Bay after the match against the U.S., but will rejoin Jamaica’s squad a few weeks later when they take on Honduras on Thursday, Feb. 16, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.

The friendlies will help Jamaica prepare for the Scotiabank CFC Men’s Caribbean Cup semifinals in June and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.

Lowe, 23, has spent three seasons with the Seattle Sounders, the MLS champion. Last year, he spent the season on loan to Minnesota.

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Another penalty in overtime dooms the Lightning in loss to Panthers

The hollow feeling was familiar. Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning had let an opportunity slip away.

Once again, the game went into overtime. Once again, Tyler Johnson – the hero of the upset of the Chicago Blackhawks – was called for a penalty. Once again, the opponent quickly scored to win a 2-1 game. It was, in other words, just like the team’s loss on Jan. 17 to Anaheim.

This time, the loss was to the Florida Panthers, who got a goal 1:49 into overtime from former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault for the win.

“Obviously, we’re extremely frustrated right now,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Let’s be honest, that was a long road trip. It was so long we sat through two presidents. But for us to point, we pointed in four of the six games, it’s just a little bit frustrating because you sit here and say, ‘It could have been an unreal trip, but it turns into a mediocre trip just because we got six points out of it.’

“Ultimately, we defended extremely well for most of the game. It’s tough when you’re only scoring one a game. Some of the Grade-A’s we have, we’re not finding a way to bury them. We’ve got to bear down and put these in the back of the net. When you get to overtime and take penalties, you’re pretty much almost giving the game away, and we’ve done that twice now and it’s hurt us.”

The Bolts gave up a shorthanded goal to Jussi Jokinen, another former member of the Lightning. Nikita Kucherov tied the game at one on a power play goal, his 19th goal of the year, but the Lightning couldn’t score again.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.

“I haven’t been in this spot before,” Cooper said, “but, ultimately, I’m sure every team that hasn’t made the playoffs at the end of the year looks back and says, ‘We left points here, we left points here, we left points here.’ That’s ultimately how it adds up. Now in saying that, we’ve played fairly well here. We’ve just got to find a way to push ourselves over and get the two points that we feel a lot of these games we’ve deserved. But there’s no moral victories here. We ended up losing. We can’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back and say ‘good effort.’ We need to find a way to win games. But going into the break, pick up three out of four points and hopefully a little bit of momentum for Boston in a few days.”

The Lightning is now 2-17-5 this year when scoring two goals or fewer.

The Bolts have the weekend off for the all-star game (except for Victor Hedman and Kucherov, who are playing) before returning to play Tuesday night against Boston.

Earlier Thursday, the Lightning traded Nikita Nesterov to Montreal for defenseman Jonathan Racine and a sixth-round draft pick.

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For Evan Longoria, losing teammates has to be getting old

If the trade of Logan Forsythe by the Tampa Bay Rays was tough for you to see, imagine it through the eyes of Evan Longoria.

He is  31, and his chances are fading away. His team keeps trading todays for tomorrows, and the payroll remains low, and the team’s place is in the cellar. And now, a trusted comrade is bound for Los Angeles, following the departure of so many others. David Price and Ben Zobrist and James Shields and Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton and the rest of them.

And so you have to wonder: Are the Rays running out of time? Is Longoria?

Perhaps that is why it didn’t sit well with Longo when the team turned loose of Forsythe to obtain the Dodgers’ Jose De Leon.

“I’m surprised and upset at losing a player, clubhouse presence and friend like Logan,” Longoria told the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s a rare player.”

For the Rays, it’s the only way to keep afloat. The farm system hasn’t done well, and there is no money for the top free agents. So the only way the Rays can survive is to trade veterans, and their high paychecks, for younger players.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always a good solution for the players, who watch teammates leave.

And Longo. The guy in the third row?

He knows just how you feel.

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Can anyone stop the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady combination?

It boils down to two men. And only two men. Everyone is is a guest star.

The New England Patriots, as close to a dynasty as the modern free agent rules will allow, have endured because of change. There is Bill Belichick. There is Tom Brady.

And there are a bunch of guys named Ned.

This is one of finest two-man shows since Simon and Garfunkel, since Abbott and Costello, since Martin and Lewis. Belichick and Brady will play in their seventh Super Bowls next week.

Through it all, the one constant has been change. This isn’t like the old Steelers’ dynasty or the old Packers, who pretty much role a set lineup to victory.

Remember Charlie Weis? He was the old offensive coordinator, and everyone – especially Charlie – would tell you how vital he was. And then Weis left the Patriots, and he didn’t seem so bright. He went through Notre Dame and Kansas, but he was never the same.

Remember Scott Pioli? Pioli was the architect, right? Except that when he went to Kansas City, success didn’t follow. Pioli didn’t last.

There were Romeo Crennell and Josh McDaniels (who came back). There were Wes Welker and Richard Seymour. Tedy Bruschi and Randy Moss. Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork.

This year, there was Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins.

This is a dynasty with a revolving door. No coach has ever turned loose of as many good players as Belichick, who can be a ruthless leader. But he keeps winning alive.

Of course, in today’s game, a team can go a long way with a superior coach and a superior quarterback. As a team, the Patriots do not dazzle you with a long list of Hall of Famers. They ride very good players – Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, LeGarrette Blount – but who besides Belichick and Brady seems destined for the Hall of Fame. (Tight end Rob Gronkowski is injured.

Yeah, you can win with just a coach and a quarterback.

As long as they’re Belichick and Brady.

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