Game On…with Rob Kriete – SEPTEMBER 23

Being a true sports fan is about annual heartbreak, mostly. Whether you root for an NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college team, or whatever, I bet your team doesn’t win it all every year.

Championships are extraordinarily difficult to win and slippery to attain for most teams. (Heck, even the spendthrift NY Yankees haven’t won a World Series in over a decade!) Tampa has celebrated two such championships with the Buccaneers winning Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season and the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. Now, in 2020, Tampa Bay has fallen in love with their teams and longing for those elusive championships and avoid the morass of heartbreak.

The Lightning of Tampa Bay has been a dynamic NHL team for years now. Built on speed and scoring, with the tremendously stingy Andrei Andreyevich Vasilevskiy in goal, the Bolts are currently ahead in the Stanley Cup Finals after breaking the tender hearts of Tampa hockey fans last season. Lightning captain, Steven Stamkos, relegated to the bench with injuries, returned for the Bolts, and scored on his first shot in the playoffs! The biggest regret of the season has been the inability to attend games due to the pandemic for Bolts fans. Stanley Cup fever is in the air throughout the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Bay Rays have just clinched winning the American League East while enjoying an incredible MLB season, albeit a 60-game version of a regular season. The Rays are winning at a prolific level and can certainly be the number one seed going into the playoffs, and many pundits, myself included, see them as World Series favorites. A solid pitching staff, strong defense, and fundamentals, along with timely hitting throughout the lineup make the Rays a fun and riveting team to watch. MLB playoff teams will get little rest throughout these new-fangled schedules that will see teams play three, five, and then seven games series, so pitching depth, which the Rays have as good as any team, will be key to winning. Winning the World Series for the first time is absolutely in the offing for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020!

Everyone’s favorite fantasy football team known as the Tampa Bay Bucs also can be the first Super Bowl team to play at home with the “Big Game” scheduled to be played at Raymond James Stadium in February.

Sure, there is a lot of football to be played this season, but glimpses of a dynamic offense and a stronger-than-2019 defense can be seen throughout the first two games. Hall-of-Fame bound quarterback, Tom Brady, cannot be counted out as he leads a team with great receivers, running backs, and tight ends. Eventually, Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, will remember the formula for virtually scoring at will when inside the 15 yard-line, and then lookout! Super Bowl bound or bust seems to be the real slogan for this franchise and town that craves a winning NFL team.

Come April, the Tampa Bay Tornadoes begin their inaugural season of arena football with aspirations of taking that league by storm (pun intended!). Energizing the burgeoning fan base, the Tornadoes plan to attack the arena football league with a great coach, speedy receivers, and a strong defense while playing at the always-classic Tampa Bay Fairgrounds. Of course, there is a wait-and-see element to this new, exciting team. But why can’t the Tornadoes get on board the Tampa Bay Championship train?

It is time to get out “Game On” in Tampa Bay like never before. I will continue to root for the best but protect against the heartbreak that all fans know.

Remember, it is the heartbreak that makes you a real fan. But, not this season, Tampa Bay fans!

Be safe, everyone.