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Tampa Bay Rants And Raves



Our year-end retrospective


This week, our favorite edition of each year, a look back at the items that shaped the year – and what a year it was!


Great Tampa Bay, politics and stuff:


1. From earlier this month: Sorry Joe, the train has left the station. You campaigned on your plan to end the Coronavirus; meanwhile the Trump administration has fast tracked not one, but two effective vaccines. You’ll be able to get your shot before you take office.

2. From January: Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf has been hit with $17.5 million in penalties by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for the company’s egregious scamming of its customers. Get back to us when the former CEO and the other players do some jail time. And why is this company even still in business?

3. It’s beginning to look like the asset/debit balance sheet on Gasparilla is leaning more and more to the debit side. Fun is fun, but when drunks beat up kids and generally endanger the public, it’s probably time to reign in things more than a little.

4. Number of the Week: 93% - the percentage of traffic stops in the state of Kansas that are out of state plates. My, my, the United States has its own larger version of Waldo, Florida.

5. (From February) Happy trails and best wishes to Deborah Clark who will step down as Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections at the end of next month. In contrast to contemporaries on Florida’s east coast, her office has been quietly efficient in her two decades of leadership.

6. Come on Duke Energy, dispense with the phony line item Asset Securitization Charge and truthfully say “we really botched our nuclear energy program and we’re charging you a few bucks a month into infinity to make up for it”.

7. Joltin’ Joe Biden takes on Amazon, saying they don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Amazon responds with their $15 billion tax bill from 2019 and pointing out they pay those taxes under tax laws which, for the most part, were developed while Biden was either in the Senate or VP. Try taking on a hungry grizzly bear next time, Joe.

8. (From late March)Watching our Pinellas County Commission attempt to deal with a Safer at Home resolution revealed some very strong commissioners, particularly David Eggers and Karen Seel and a few who, frankly, are an embarrassment. You owe to yourself to watch/attend when possible your particular jurisdiction’s public meetings rather than just blindly voting for a name every November.

9. (From April) The 5:05 Newsletter is at it again with this absolute gem: There should be a reality show where 16 congressmen are forced to take jobs in the private sector.

10. (From April) Quote(s) of the Week (both from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor): March 29 - “This is the highest level of unpreparedness from the federal government that I have ever seen in any type of an emergency.” April 15 - “That’s not my style. Frankly, I think it’s just a waste of time to be critical of others.” With a herculean amount of restraint, we offer no comment to the above quotes.

11. “Florida’s Best Newspaper” could find little to like about the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic recovery efforts – except, of course, the $8.5 million they pocketed to keep their struggling newspaper afloat.

12. Idle thought: a great many bad things in the world can be avoided by simply obeying our laws.

13. (From May) Number of the week: 72% - percentage of U.S. citizens who believe the information in the nation’s major news media to be false or deliberately misleading. We suspect the number is higher here in the Tampa Bay area.

14. (From June) Ah, do you get the feeling Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wants to run for governor in 2022? The commissioner, whose only agriculture experience is pushing for marijuana usage, criticizes our governor at every turn.

15. A friendly request to our national and state legislative leaders, work to resolve the coronavirus issue, don’t politicize it (gee, that worked out well, didn’t it?)

16. (From July) Quote of the week: “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along” - the words of Rodney King during equally disturbing times in the spring of 1992. It has been twisted to “can’t we all get along” over the years but either way, it should be the mantra of our nation right now.

17. Idle thought: it’s so easy to have all the answers when you are on the other side of the dais or executive’s desk.

18. From September: you can understand the ire of a couple in California who lost their home in the wildfires. They are not allowed back into their property to see what can be salvaged, but VP candidate Kamala Harris and the state’s Democratic Governor were allowed to trespass on the poor couple’s property for a photo op. Just sickening.

19. (From November) - . Quote of the week: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not – Joe Biden. Sir, if only we believed you.

20. (Also from November) Republicans are still grumbling about some suspect vote counts in Philly and elsewhere. But, to their credit, not a single Target store has been torched.


Sports, media and other stuff:


1. Longtime Hollywood actor Kurt Russell says that celebrities and entertainers should perhaps stay out of politics and do what they do best: Entertain the people who pay them to do so. We tip our cap to Mr. Russell, one of few celebrities who seem to get it.

2. Bill Cowher’s election to the NFL Hall of Fame says as much about the Pittsburgh Steeler ownership as Cowher himself. The newly minted Hall of Famer is only the second of three coaches in the past 51 years of Steeler history. And you might as well clear wall space in Canton for his successor, Mike Tomlin, now in his 14th season with the Steelers. The Rooney family certainly knows how to run a franchise.

3. Since MLB chieftain Rob Manfred seems to think it should be no problem for players to maintain households in two cities 1500 miles part, we suggest that the MLB office split its year between New York and Oklahoma City – approximately the same distance apart as Tampa and Montreal.

4. Idle thought: The black cloud over the Houston Astros probably will not go away until Jim Crane divests himself of the team. There is probably no smaller group in sports than those who believe he didn’t know what was going on.

5. If you’re a football fan, you have to be happy for Andy Reid, one of the sport’s truly nice people who grabbed pro football’s ultimate prize in Super Bowl 54.

6. (From April): Thanks to the NFL for throwing sports fans a bone by holding their draft on schedule this week – specifically the 23rd through the 25th. We’re guessing viewership ratings for the event will be at an all-time high (and they were).

7. From May - As we labor through coronavirus, another lighter note from the 5:05 Newsletter: "I've washed my hands so many times that I can read the answers to a math test I took in 1966."

8. (Also from May) If we had any respect for Rays pitcher Blake Snell, it went out with the garbage after hearing him whine about getting about half his salary (approximately $3.5 million) – while people in Florida are hoping they finally get an unemployment check.

9. A third item from May - Tale of two lefthanders: while the narcissistic Snell complains about his multi-million dollar salary. David Price is quietly writing $1000 checks to each of the Dodgers minor leaguers who will not have a season – or payday. That is over 200 young players – good for the ex-Ray!

10. From June - we bow to the marketing geniuses at Ford and Quaker Oats. Ford is returning the Bronco to its product line on O.J. Simpson’s birthday while Quaker Oats has decided to eliminate the branding of its Aunt Jemima pancake line after 130 years. Who thinks up these things?

11. (Also from June) From the sometimes accurate 5:05 Newsletter: “In Chicago, 60 people died last month from COVID19 related gunshot wounds. This means they will have to vote by mail in November.” Additional note: 5:05 Newsletter to move its offices as bars are forced to close.

12. Idle thought with thanks to a Facebook friend – One moment you’re 20 in the 70s, now you’re 70 in the 20s.

13. (From October) Joe Buck certainly hasn’t won many friends over the past several weeks. He was roundly criticized for his LA bias in both the NLCS and World Series broadcasts. And then he and his NFL tag team partner Troy Aikman seemed to find fault with the Ray-Jay flyover during the Bucs-Packers game calling it a waste of taxpayer money. Had Buck and Troy Boy done their homework, they would know flyovers are regular training exercises – no different than flying over an empty Gulf of Mexico and add not a penny to military budgets. Buck really needs to go.

14. Wow! The liberal spin doctors are not going to like this one. Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert is demanding the Democratic Party change its name given the history of the party on slavery and bigotry. Seems the shoe doesn’t fit quite as well when on the other foot.

15. Media note from the 5:05 Newsletter: One big difference between the U.S. and North Korea is that North Korea forces its people to listen to endless propaganda; while in the U.S., we pay a monthly cable bill to listen to it.

16. Both Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch again have managerial jobs after being suspended and fired for cheating. On that basis, Joe Jackson and Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame.

17. Idle question - what percentage of remarks attributed to Mark Twain and Yogi Berra did they actually say?

18. “Book him Danno.” This week marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hawaii Five Oh’s Jack Lord.

19. Topping the charts the last week of the year fifty years ago (1970) were George Harrison’s first solo single, My Sweet Lord; at number two was the 5th Dimension’s version of Bacharach-David’s One Less Bell to Answer and at number three, down from the top position a week earlier, was Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ The Tears of a Clown.

20. (And the best of the year) The 5:05 Newsletter pretty much sums up this election season: "In my lifetime, we have gone from Dwight Eisenhower to Donald Trump and we have gone from John F. Kennedy to Joe Biden. If this is evolution, I believe that in a few more years we will be voting for plants."


Our Last Song Together


(Editor’s note: We have changed this year-end segment slightly. It now focuses only on local people of note, although our weekly issues will still record the passing of folks on the national and world fronts. If you’re relatively new to these pages, the title of this segment was inspired by the poignant Neil Sedaka song interpreted so well by the late Glenn Yarbrough.)     

His yearly football bets with lumberman and Gator Carroll Nall were legendary. Realtor, entrepreneur and civic leader Bobby Byrd, a ‘Nole through and through, died in late December at age 79.

Sam Wyche, the colorful head coach of the Buccaneers from 1992 through 1995, passed away in January at age 74. He also coached the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance and had successful stints in broadcasting and politics as well.

(From March) We were saddened to read of the passing of former St. Petersburg city official Rick Dodge, a truly nice man. Rick led the quest for a major league franchise for St. Pete first by relocation, then expansion.

Back when the 6:00 anchorman was like part of the family, Channel 8’s Arch Deal was a welcome guest in the living room each evening. The veteran anchor died tragically in mid-March at age 88.

The more you got to know former Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein, the more you appreciated him. Sid passed away in March at age 78.

(From March) We note the passing of long time media figure, Earl Emmons at age 85. Earl held many positions at The Tampa Tribune over the years and we enjoyed sharing a microphone with this most interesting man broadcasting prep sports in the late sixties and early seventies.

The man who was married to our only sibling for 62 years died Easter Week, just a few short months after the passing of the love of his life. Joe was never a brother-in-law, but the big brother we never had.

Zev Buffman who oversaw the expansion of Ruth Eckerd Hall, and tirelessly pushed for the controversial Coachman Park amphitheater project, died in April at age 89.

If there were a Mt. Rushmore of Tampa Bay restauranteurs, some of the names would include Gonzmart (Columbia), Heilman (Beachcomber), Siple and Laxer (Bern’s). The matriarch of Bern’s Steak House, Gert Laxer, passed away in late April at age 93.

In May, Clearwater lost one half of a couple who did so much good for the city over the years. Marian Justice, wife of educator Bill Justice, passed away at age 99.

(From June) Thousands and thousands – the number of people, including your humble blogger and saintly wife, whose lives were touched by Bill Justice. The former coach, educator and city commissioner passed away last week at age 98 – just weeks after the passing of his wife, Marian (see above).

(From July) He was one of the area’s leading foot specialists for years in addition to a community volunteer in Rotary, the Boy Scouts and other organizations. Dr. Scott Hale passed away at age 91. He and his charitable efforts will be missed.

For years Harry and Janie Cline were a force in making Clearwater a better place to live in so many aspects. Janie passed away in July at age 77.

(From August) Pinellas County’s first Public Defender, Robert Jagger, died last week at age 92. If you followed his 35-year career, you know Pinellas County got their money’s worth and much more from this devoted man of the law.

Also in August, the Nall family lost its matriarch. Barbara Nall, who died at age 87, was one of the sweetest, kindest human beings in this world. For over two decades, she was a fixture at Kennedy Middle School. Our condolences go to her husband of 65 years, Carroll, and their sons Andy and Scott.

Bill Heller, the man behind the considerable growth of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, passed away in September at age 85. The USF Education Building is named in his honor.

You tend to forget that Ray Perkins was an outstanding pass receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the NFL’s Baltimore Colts. The former Bucs head coach passed away in December at age 79.

Noted Pinellas County contractor and civic volunteer, Frank Kunnen passed away last week at age 88.

Even if you lived in Clearwater all your life, you learned something about the place where you live every time you talked with Mike Sanders, Clearwater’s honorary historian. To this day, his book Clearwater: A Pictorial History sits on our coffee table. Mike passed away earlier this month at age 74.


Finally, Five Rants, Five Raves


(A new year-end feature saluting five people or things for outstanding achievements and, likewise, five bozos for, well, being bozos.)


1. Donald Trump for not gracefully bowing to the obvious and conceding the election in a timely manner.

2. The University of South Florida for moving to drop their College of Education – the largest feeder of teachers to Tampa Bay area schools - with no public input.

3. Florida voters for blindly passing a $15 per hour wage amendment that will eventually bite them very hard in their wallets while taking away thousands of jobs.

4. Idiots scattered across the nation calling for the defunding of police. (Who ya gonna call?)

5. Joe Biden for, given his advanced age, not picking a stronger running mate and possible successor. But then he probably didn’t think he’d win either.


1. Our medical professionals for their tireless efforts during the 2020 pandemic.

2. The Trump Administration’s fast track of multiple vaccines.

3. Our local charities for working double overtime this year to provide for so many more people in need.

4. The 5:05 Newsletter for “coming out of retirement” to provide at least some levity during a very troubled year.

5. The Stanley Cup Champion Lightning.

UP NEXT: Pennies; More crayons needed; Georgia on our mind



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