A Day Of Firsts For Franco

Major League Baseball’s #1 rated prospect the 18 yr old SS from the Dominican Republic Wander Franco has his first start and hit in Spring Training today against the defending World Series Champs Washington Nationals.

The Rays are anticipating a lot from Franco, at a young age he has already made All Star appearances in the Minors. With 4 at bats Franco 1/4 with one run and one strike out. I will say he was the lead off hitter going against one of the best pitchers in baseball Steven Strasburg.

The Tampa Bay Rays have always had to be a step ahead when it comes to scouting players and drafting well. Unlike the Yankees, Red Sox’s and Dodgers, the Rays don’t have the luxury of breaking the bank on big time free agents. The Rays make their bread on scouting and developing talent, usually coming out of trades on the better side. Pitcher Brandon McKay, and 2B Xavier Edwards along with Franco are a few of the bright spots being groomed not only for now but also the future. I am hoping Ray’s manager Kevin Cash works Franco into the lineups more this Spring Training, I will be at the teams March 18th game against the Philadelphia Phillies so maybe I can get a glimpse at the phenom with my own eyes. Time will only tell the impact Franco will have on the club, but with a Wild Card birth last year exceptions are high for this season.

No Spring Flowers For The Defenders.

It’s week 4 in the XFL, and yet again the Tampa Bay Vipers are in headlines again with another QB controversy. Earlier at a press conference this week Coach Marc Trestman announced that fan favorite QB Quinton Flowers has left the team due to “personal reasons”, naming Taylor Cornelius the starter. Rumors been going around that Flowers actually asked the team for his release due to his lack of playing time and usage in the offense.

As a die hard fan of the Vipers I will always put the team first despite my love for the hometown QB. It sucks that his status is up in the air but now as fans we must encourage the players that are on the field. I will try to keep my booing of Taylor Cornelius to a minimum. Maybe after a week of actually getting first team reps he will be more accurate with his receivers. A QB’s ability to have a rhythm with his receivers and backs is the key to a successful offense. We have the receiving and talent at RB with two of our backs ranking in the top 5 in rushing yards with De’Veon Smith racking up 174 yards and Jacques Patrick with 123 yards.

With our XFL East rival DC Defenders coming into the Viper’s Pit this Sunday the time to strike is now with a must win feel surrounding the game. The team must avoid an 0-4 start. A win vs DC will put the team back on the right track giving us a chance to still get the final play off spot in the East. DC is coming off a 39-9 loss to the LA Wildcats a winless team prior to the game.

I would hate to see a shift in the fan base due to the departure of Flowers. Yes we still have Murray but I have little faith in him based on his week one performance and injury ridden season. With the addition of S.J. Green into the offense this week I hope Coach Trestman can get a huge spark in momentum bringing the team our first win in franchises history. If not the season is pretty much lost and we will be looking for a new QB and new HC once offseason hits.

Rays Fans Stand For Baseball.

With the looming rumors of a split season in Montreal. Rays faithful came out in full force, selling out the initial 1,000 run of the new standing room only Ball Park Pass. The new Ball Park Pass is one of the three new packages the Rays are using to bring more fans to the trop. This Ball Park Pass allows fans to go to any game all season for only $36 dollars a month. The best perks included in the pass are tickets for Opening Day and all of the Yankees and Red Sox’s games. After the success on the initial run of the pass, the team has set up a waiting list for hopeful fans.

I am definitely sold on the Flex Pack plan, allowing fans to go to 5 games in a selected month. I will definitely be going to the Trop like it’s church during baseball season. Between the giveaways, which I am a sucker for, and the always fun throwback nights, the flex pack was a no brainer. It kinda sucks that Yankees and Red Sox’s games aren’t included in the pack, but with single game tickets at a decent price I would pay for a solo game.

The final plan available is the “Rays Win Pack” allowing fans the chance to get a free game if the team wins all four of the games you attend as a part of the package. The seat choices on this package are pretty nice, but I rather just know I am going to a 5th game rather than bet they will win four straight. With that being said the team is on pace to have a great season so if your feeling lucky this is the package for you.

I had no better feeling last year than watching the Rays fill Tropicana Field during their playoff run. It is important for fans to support the team now so that Major League Baseball has no choice but to end the rumors of a split schedule or relocation. It would really sadden me if a team I’ve followed since childhood would leave. If we can fill the stadium for a playoff game on a Tuesday. There is no reason why us as fans can’t do our part and just show up for games, especially with the team doing their part on the field.

When The Smoke Clears.

This season for the “Son’s of Pirates” and Rowdies faithful might be different, per St.Petersburg Fire Marshal Michael Domante smoke is now banned from all Rowdies games.

A long time tradition in European soccer, the setting off of smoke bombs representing your clubs colors is the best way to send home the supporters and the team after a victory. Seeing the teams Yellow and Green smoke fill up Al Lang Stadium sends chills down your spine. It not only signals a club victory, but also brings us together.

I feel there is an easy solution to the smoke issue at Al Lang Stadium. Possibly a chosen member of the club could be designated as “the smoker” or the one in charge of releasing the smoke.

Another solution could be that one firefighter could be in charge of releasing the smoke bombs thus being able to contain the smoke.

For now I feel it is best for supporters to lay low and cooperate with the Fire Dept until a solution is made. Whatever the outcome is I hope the Fire Dept and supporters can find some middle ground, keeping everyone safe but still allowing a Ralph’s Mob and Rowdies soccer tradition to continue.

Enter The Viper’s Pit.

Once the XFL announced Tampa would be one of the inaugural franchises in the revival league, fans from all across the Bay Area jumped on board hisssing and putting on for Viper Life and Fang Gang.

Around the league and message boards, the fan turn of the home opener was sort of up in the air. Despite the 0-3 start for the team, the Fang Gang seems optimistic on the future of the season with 7 games remaining the team still has a lot to prove. The gang came out for the team filling the pit with about 18,000 fans, 3rd in league attendance just behind the Seattle Dragons and our Eastern Conference rival those damn St.Louis Battlehawks who sold out the lower bowl level of the “Battle Dome”.

The Fang Gang comes in all shapes and sizes all for the love of our Tampa Bay Vipers. Some fans pay homage to Dwight Goodman’s “Globo Gym Cobras”, while others like the Vipers Gorilla and Skully rep the gang in their own way. This cast of characters has definitely set the Fang Gang aside from other fan bases in the league.

As the season continues I a tradition I would like the Fang Gang adopt is the “Swinging Of The Snake”. In soccer fans, traditionally wave scarves to show their love and support for their teams. I was thinking everyone should bring a plushie snake to swing whenever the time to strike is right. Just imagine a sea of swinging snakes throughout Ray Jay. Starting next week I know the Jit Camp Chapter of the Fang Gang in Section 135 will definitely be #swingyoursnake and putting on for the #fanggang.

For The Love Of Film

The announcement of the new Green Light Cinema Art house theater located at 221 2nd Ave. N, Saint Petersburg, finally gives St.Petersburg Cinephiles a place to call their own.

From my early days of being a cinephile I dreamed of a sanctuary that would play foreign and indie films for a local audience to see on the big screen. It seemed the only way to catch more obscure flicks was the limited Gallery section of AMC Sundial and the beloved Tampa Theatre. Films like recent OSCAR and Palm D’or winner Parasite are left to the waste side for big blockbusters and that “Cats” films we all wanted. Green Light Cinema is the perfect landing spot for these films still giving locals a chance to see them on the big screen in a lush 100 seat digital theater surrounded by fellow cinephiles.

The curation process is essential to a great art house theater. I could see Green Light possibly working in smaller monthly curated festivals featuring films similar in theme or director. The possibility of trilogies getting full big screen runs locally is a dream come true. Never did I think it would be possible for me to see Abbas Kiarostami’s “Koker Trilogy” or the entire “ Apu Trilogy” from Satyajit Ray. My most wanted showings would be an Fellini film for his Centennial birth day, or that late Fassbinder retrospective everyone is waiting for.

My favorite part about the community getting a new art house theater is it will finally put the St.Pete Cinephile community front and center. Yes we all know about the art, glass, and brewery communities popping up in St.Pete, but now is the time for cinephiles to get their due. I cannot wait to become a member of the theater and watch it as well as the cinephile community grown for years to come.

The Newest Addition To The Hydra Offense.

S.J. Green might be the spark the Vipers offense needs to claim its first win in team history. Did not play last week in the home opener loss, due to being traded from the Seattle Dragons for linebacker Korey Toomer a few days before the home opener. Coach Marc Trestman had Green on his 2017 CFL Grey Cup winning Toronto Argonauts, giving him a familiar face in a so far clunky offense.

Viper fans should welcome Green with open arms due to his USF ties. Green is a 3 time Grey Cup champion and a 10x CFL All Star. I know CFL isn’t like the cream of the crop but since Trestman is familiar with his play I am hopeful he can fit into our already stacked receiving core. Between Dan “Tha Threat” Williams, Reece Horn, Jalen Tolliver, there should be no reason why we can’t keep the points coming, attacking the other teams defense like a 5 headed snake.

If Aaron Murray isn’t healthy enough to get the start I feel it is best for fan and team moral for Quinton Flowers to get the start. With Nick Truesdell acting as his big security blanket and Horn acting as sort of a bail out slot receiver, Flowers can stay in the pocket without fear allowing him to make a play with his legs or throwing a 30 yard bomb to Williams or Green. Flowers ability to shake defenses allows our power backs Jacques Patrick and fan favorite De’Veon Smith to make big plays in the run game.

With a week of practice under his belt I am sure S.J. Green will fit smoothly into the offense regardless of which QB is at the helm. His accomplishments in other leagues and relationship with Trestman should be that final spark the Vipers are looking for on offense to finally sink their teeth into victory.

Missing Rings: The Early 80s Buccaneers.

After reaching the NFC Championship game in the 1979 and again making a playoff run in the 1982 playoffs, the Buccaneers potentially left some titles on the table.

After three straight seasons the Bucs were able to pick up some key pieces that eventually would bring Coach John McKay to fruition. Although he would receive flack for taking Ricky Bell RB out of USC over Tony Dorsett, I still feel injuries and his illness hampered Bell’s success later in his career. During the 79 season Bell was able to pass the 1,000 yard mark which says a lot for what Tampa Bay was at the time. If Bell would have stayed healthy who knows how he could have impacted the Bucs offense going into the early eighties.

Doug Williams fell into the teams lap in the first round of the 78 Draft, even leading the team to a 5-11 record, which I’ll state again was pretty solid for a team that almost didn’t win a game for two straight seasons. After putting the organization on his back, the Buccaneers ownership had Williams under a contract for $120,000 which at the time was less than several back ups. Williams asked the Culverhouse ownership to bump him up to $600,000 which was solid at the time especially after bringing the fledgling franchise to the playoffs twice. Culverhouse was only willing to offer Williams $400,000, resulting in Williams leaving the team for the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws. Five years later Williams would lead the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl, the Bucs however would go on to have 12 consecutive seasons with 10 or more losses.

You would think if the team was so bad why didn’t they draft any good players? Under the Culverhouse regime the Bucs had one of the lowest salaries in the league which hindered free agents from joining the team, thus not helping an aging Lee Roy Selmon on defense resulted in the teams decline. The mishandling of Bo Jackson prior to drafting him was a franchise crushing blow for the team, and something I don’t think the Bucs have recovered from until recently. The trading of future Super Bowl winning QB Steve Young in favor of mediocre Vinny Testaverde was also a blunder for the team.

It was not until the death of Hugh Culverhouse in 1994 and Sam Wyche coming on board as coach that the tide would turn for the franchise after drafting John Lynch in 93 and both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. All three would later become the cornerstones of Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense that ultimately would bring championship gold to Tampa Bay.

Tampa 2 Is In The Krewe

Monte Kiffin has been selected has the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring Of Honor. He will be joining coaches John McKay, Jon Gruden, and Tony Dungy as well has some of his former defensive standout players that executed his innovative “Tampa Cover 2” defense.

In 1996 Monte Kiffin became the Buccaneers defensive coordinator along side Tony Dungy. The “Tampa Cover 2” defense is a 4-3 defensive alignment except the middle linebacker reads the QB with the hopes of an interception. With hall of fame players like Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, and Warren Sapp, this scheme was picture perfecting making the Buccaneers one of the most successful defenses during his tenure capturing a Super Bowl championship with Jon Gruden running the offense.

When you think Tampa Bay Buccaneers you instantly think of our great defense during the super bowl run which is mainly due to coach Kiffin and his scheme. Despite coming up short all those years with Dungy at the helm the one constant was Kiffin and the defense and Bucs fans can’t wait to immortalize him in Raymond James.

Rough Loss In The Snake Pit

Although the Vipers where not able to pull out the win against the Houston Roughnecks at home, the team finally broke their red zone curse.

From the start the over 17,000 Vipers Pit fan base that came out to support the team in the home opener. After the 0-2 start fans seemed energized and ready to strike. Taylor Cornelius felt the “We want Flowers” chants instantly and was switched out by the 3rd drive in favor of the former USF QB. Flowers isn’t the greatest passer in the world but he still has enough play making ability to stay in the pocket. His running ability keeps the defense on their toes, opposed to Cornelius who they don’t take seriously as a passer. Flowers scored the first offensive touchdown in team history with a seven yard run. However Cornelius was able to throw a touchdown pass to one of my favs Dan “The Threat” Williams one of the league leaders in receiving.

Despite the 34-27 loss this team looks better each week and are on the cusp of a win. Getting over their red zone curse took a weight off the team and fans. Other than a few plays the defense played well and was able to contain two of the leagues top players Houston QB P.J. Walker and WR Cam Philips for most of the game. I feel it would be best to start Flowers this week keeping the offense more, even if Murray is able to start. With the addition of CFL All Star S.J. Green and the return of No.1 pick Nick Truesdell hopefully we can pick up our first win at home against the DC Defenders this Sunday.

From a fan aspect it was a successful home opener. The team did little to hype up the event, at least not as much as teams like Seattle and St.Louis, but one of the highlights of my year was taking a picture in the giant snake mouth. Instantly I knew it was profile pic worthy. The amount of snake rattlers and hssssing sounds that filled Raymond James maybe next proud to be a Vipers fan. Win or lose I will always love and support the team, even though it’s week 4 and we still don’t have a solid QB. It wouldn’t be a Tampa Bay sports team without a few bonehead plays and an 0-3 record to start the inaugural season.