On the other hand, Charlie Crist is trying to pull off the incredibly difficult trick of running for governor as a Democrat after being a Republican for most of his adult life. That means backing up or "evolving" from previous positions that made him fit comfortably (until recent years) in the Florida GOP, but were anathema in the Democratic Party.
Local media outlets are reporting that former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith is poised to become the next coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a move that is being universally hailed as the right choice by the Glazer brain trust, who now must secure a new general manager to work with their new coach. Smith reportedly had the option of going to Detroit, which has a much more promising quarterback situation with Matthew Stafford (as opposed to the Bucs' Mike Glennon), but instead wanted to come to Tampa, where he coached for five seasons (1996-2000).
There were a number of major personalities whose lives ended in 2013, the last being Nelson Mandela earlier this month.
Margaret Thatcher and Hugo Chavez were also two world leaders who passed on this year. Mrs. Thatcher sadly spent the last decade of her life with dementia. The oh-so controversial Chavez, 58, who loved poking at the U.S (remember when he called George W. Bush the "devil" at the U.N. General Assembly one September back in the mid-aughts?), died of cancer in the spring.
In terms of journalists, no death hit harder than the passing of Michael Hastings at the extremely young age of 33 in a car crash in L.A. He became famous for "The Runaway General," the Rolling Stone piece that ended the career of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the Afghanistan war. As the L.A. Weekly described him, Hastings had "built a reputation as a fearless disrupter of the cozy ways of Washington, gleefully calling bullshit on government hacks and colleagues alike. He was loved and admired, hated and feared."
Helen Thomas also died this past year at the age of 92. The longtime White House reporter for the Associated Press ended her career in somewhat ignominious condition, after she "retired " from the Hearst Newspaper Syndicate in 2010 after a video caught her blasting the Israeli government.
Former British talk show host David Frost also died this past year. Thanks to playwright Peter Morgan, his career got a second wind a few years ago with the play and subsequent film "Frost/Nixon," the story about how he was able to secure the first interview with Richard Nixon after he resigned from office in 1974.
We also lost one of the greatest American film critics this year when Roger Ebert died at the age of 70 after a long bout with cancer of thyroid and salivary gland. He had already had one of the greatest careers of any reporter/critic when back in 2006 he lost part of his lower jaw and with it the ability to speak or eat. Instead of then walking away from the public arena he found a whole new voice on the Internet. He also wrote an amazing memoir about his life, called My LIfe, back in 2011.
The sportscasting world lost one of its all time great NFL play-by-play men when Pat Summerall passed away earlier this year. From my time first watching pro football in the 1970's up until his retirement after the January 2002 Super Bowl, you always knew it was a big game either on CBS or Fox when Summerall was broadcasting it, in his classic spare tones. Nobody ever sounded more authoritative saying, "Second down and one," than Pat.
And lastly we mourn the loss of poet and musician Lou Reed, who past away on the last Sunday in October due to complications from a liver-related ailment at the age of 71. Nicknamed the Godfather of Punk, his legacy was cemented decades ago, yet he kept on until he couldn't do it any longer. I was lucky enough to see Reed perform twice (In 1989 during the "New York" tour and again in 1996), and both were memorable shows. He was actually on the bill this past April to perform at the Coachella Festival but only canceled days before when his liver problems compelled him to get a transplant. Like Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese, Lou Reed was a quintessential New Yorker, and he, like the others, will be missed.
Back to the news...On Monday the Tampa Bay Times reported that majorities in both Pinellas (56 percent) and Hillsborough Counties (51 percent) support paying higher taxes to support light-rail. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the paper that he may try to cajole lawmakers into supporting a bill that would allow cities like Tampa to hold referendums on sales taxes (currently only counties can do so). However one Hillsborough area Republican House member doesn't the support the idea.
Happy New Year to you all! See you in 2014.
The NFL's 2013 regular season concluded last night in Dallas, where a Kyle Orton interception ended the Cowboys bid to make the playoffs for the third straight season on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, who will now host the New Orleans Saints next Saturday night in one of the NFC Wild Card Playoffs.
The Saints qualified for the post-season by dismantling your Tampa Bay Buccaneers handily last night, 42-17, and most of the local sports talk this morning revolves around whether head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik should keep their jobs.
Not being much of a Buc fan or observer, I don't really have an opinion on the matter. Actually I think you could make a good argument that Dominik should definitely go, as his five-year tenure has resulted in zero playoff appearances under two different coaches.
Schiano's season began as a nightmare, as the Bucs struggled to an 0-8 start amid all types of controversy surrounding the relationship between the head coach and quarterback Josh Freeman, who ultimately was shipped out to Minnesota (where he did absolutely nothing the rest of the season). Schiano has a two-year record of 11-21, which isn't as bad as Dennis Allen in Oakland, who may or may not be fired after going 8-24 during the same period. Being a Raider enthusiast, I can feel for Buc fans and their frustration.
However I'm also a San Francisco 49ers fan, and how 'bout that last-second victory over Arizona last night? Okay, so it didn't really matter playoff wise, but it showed the Niners resiliency going into the playoffs, where they will be one of the strongest fifth seeds in recent history. At 12-4 they finished second behind the Seattle Seahawks, who still have to be considered the best team in the NFL season as they finished their year with a 13-3 record. In fact I'd say that Seattle and San Francisco are the two best teams going right now . But the Niners have to get through Green Bay and probably Charlotte before they might get the chance to face Seattle again. That's going to be tough sledding.
In the much weaker AFC, New England and Denver are the clear favorites to meet in that conference's Championship game. Peyton Manning ended his season breaking the all-time record for passing yardage (held for only the past two years by Drew Brees) and touchdown passes.
But back to Schiano and the Bucs. There's a rumor that Penn State wants to hire him. Really? Maybe Schiano is one of those coaches who will just do better in college than the pros. But the NFL (as we are told every week) is a quarterbacks league, and the Bucs don't have a viable one at this moment.
Okay, enough NFL talk. How about politics? How about Ted Cruz? The man who was on the shortlist for Time magazine's Person of the Year told ABC's Jonathan Karl yesterday that he has no regrets for leading House Republicans into voting to shut down the government back in October, a fiasco that hurt Republicans for a few weeks, before the Obamacare rollout superseded it in news coverage.
On the Sunday morning political shows yesterday the big talk was about the story of the year, which was Edward Snowden leaking facts about the NSA surveillance program. Yesterday advisers to Snowden argued passionately why he won't be returning back to the U.S. anytime soon.
The two films opened the Tampa Bay area (and nationally) within the past week, and whileAmerican Hustle is definitely the better movie on many levels (including being 45 minutes shorter than Wolf's exhausting three hour-length), The Wolf of Wall Street is a total guilty pleasure, especially for guys.
As friends and family members gather in Tampa Bay and across the country over the next few days to celebrate Christmas, how about a shout out to the approximately 48,000 men and women serving out country in Afghanistan? And how about considering what they're doing there today and when they'll be coming home?
President Obama has declared (and campaigned upon the fact) that he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan a year from now, which the majority of the public agrees with. However, the president wants to leave a certain amount of troops in country after that date - something that didn't happen when we left Iraq two years ago. How many and what will their role be? That's something that Afghanistan's mercurial president - Hamid Karzai, hasn't yet figured out.
Welcome to the Monday before Christmas, the beginning of a two-week dead zone for news. Yours truly is in town for the first time ever this holiday season, and will blog when appropriate, but let's face it folks: With the exception of the unexpected (natural disasters, deaths or good old crime stories), the country sort of shuts down at this time of the year, hence the explosion of Best and Worst lists, reviews of winners and losers, etc.
Which brings us to such a column published yesterday. While I hadn't really thought about it at all, I do have to admit that I was not wowed by Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith's choice of Rick Scott as Winner of the Year in Florida politics on Sunday. Smith also named Marco Rubio his Loser of the Year, which I certainly can concur with.
But getting back to the Scott pick, what was that old George W. Bush line about not holding disadvantaged children to rigorous education standards? Oh yes, the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Only in the case of the governor, whatever bigotry there is about his low expectations, and now appears that "it's working," to use of his favorite sayings.
When you've been in the mid 30's in terms of your approval ratings for much of your tenure as governor, hitting 40 or so is a big deal, and in that respect Scott has made somewhat of a comeback with the public. And whether he's got anything or not to do with it, Florida's unemployment numbers are dropping. Any governor would claim such credit, since they'll definitely get the criticism if that number was going in the opposite direction.
And Scott has been had robust fundraising, which shouldn't be a surprise considering how Florida Republicans have ran the show in Tallahassee for nearly for decades now and want to make sure a Republican stays in that office for at least four more years. Add his personal fortunes (which certainly played a factor in Alex Sink opting not to run against him next year) and a better recent poll against Charlie Crist and you can certainly see where Smith is going with this.
Let's face it: Charlie Crist vs. Rick Scott is going to be a battle between two fifty-something white guys who have tremendous baggage they bring with them to the campaign. Is Crist so flawed that he won't be able to seal the deal next year? We'll all be watching to see how that plays out, though for Democratic leaders, at some point they're going to have to get over their grudge against Crist once they realize that 71-year-old Bill Nelson simply does not want to get into this race, and that not every Democrat is clamoring for him to do so.
In other news: The Tampa Tribune endorsed David Jolly in the GOP CD13 race yesterday, after the Times had previously endorsed Kathleen Peters. On Friday Peters issued a statement calling on Jolly to list all of the clients he's lobbied for in his days in Washington D.C. Team Jolly replied that Peters presumably has an Internet connection and can do so herself.
On the Sunday morning TV circuit: Former Arkansas Governor and media personality Mike Huckabee showed up yesterday on Fox News to talk Duck Dynasty, Obamacare and how he may run for president in 2016.
And friends and foes of NSA leaker Edward Snowden all said yesterday that he should leave Russia and come back and face the legal consequences of his actions here in the U.S.
And then the crack cocaine scene developed, and it became a much more devastating drug because of its cheaper value. All of a sudden lower income people, many black, got turned on and addicted to the drug. Soon Congress came in to deal with the problem, and began imposing mandatory minimum sentences for using and selling crack.
Beginning with the caveat that some of the most lauded films of the year have yet to open in Tampa Bay (American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis), here goes, beginning with my favorite movies:
1) All is Lost director by J.C. Chandor
2) MUD directed by Jeff Nichols
3) 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen
4) Fruitvale Station directed by Ryan Coogler
5) Disconnected by Henry-Alex Rubin
6) In a world...directed by Lake Bell
7) Kill Your Darlings directed by John Krokidas
8) Gravity directed by Alfonso Cuaron
9) Blue is the Warmest Color directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
10) Prisoners directed by Denis Villeneuve
10) What Maisie Knew directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel
That's impossible, you say? I mean, why would Weatherford step down from his extremely powerful position in his last year as House Speaker to do....well, whatever Lieutenant Governors do.
But as Klas speculates, perhaps Governor Rick Scott chooses to wait to select Weatherford in early May, right after the 2014 regular legislative session adjourns, and the House Speaker's political juice begins to ebb.